International Womens’ Day.
By Ettobe David Meres
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. If one looks at the obstacles stacked against them, at the trials women face daily, just being a woman is boldness. By the fact of existence alone, the contributions and strides women have made to humanity are inestimable. We take a bow. So here is a list some of the bold things women have done in the past one year or so.
Happy Women’s Day!
#BeBoldForChange is the theme for the International Women’s Day being celebrated across the world.
If one looks at the stats stacked against them, at the trials they face daily for being female, just being a woman is boldness. By the fact of existence alone, the contributions women have made to humanity are inestimable. And by their everyday acts like having and pursuing dreams, performing ordinary or extraordinary tasks in any human endeavour women challenge and change the status quo of gender inequality.
So here is a list some of the bold things women have done in the past one year or so.
1. Pursuing Dreams
Mercy Mulayi and Habiba Ahmed, both teenagers, overcame centuries of stereotyping what girls can or cannot do.
Mulayi, 19, is a Ugandan trainee pilot at the Kajjansi Flying School in Uganda. In 2016 U.S. based Women Pilots’ Association, Ninety-Nines, offered her a prestigious scholarship to help her achieve her dreams of a becoming a pilot with the Ugandan Defence Air Force.
Ahmed, 16, is from Kaduna in Northern Nigeria. In 2016 she watched the Egyptian female football team (The Pharaohs) beat Zimbabwean team (Mighty Warriors) during the African Women Championship. When Ahmed saw that some of the Pharaohs wore hijab to play, she knew nothing was going to stop her from playing for the Super Falcons someday.
She trains with Kubwa Ladies Academy in Abuja, and once, she scored two goals playing against boys.
2. Speaking Truth to Power
Having been crowned champions of Africa eight times, the Super Falcons of Nigeria is the most decorated football team in the continent. In 2016, after winning the African Women Championship in Cameroon the Falcons returned to Nigeria, where the government ignored them and owed outstanding allowances.
Read: 10 inspirational quotes from women advocating for rights of the girl child
The Falcons took to the streets to protest their situation. In February, Nigerians followed their example and protested against the economic hardships caused by government policies.
3. Protecting Democracy
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 78, is the current president of Liberia and chair of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).
In the past decade, Sirleaf’s has helped stabilise a war-torn Liberia. In January, as chair of ECOWAS, Sirleaf played a key role as mediator in the Gambia’s political impasse. Also, under her leadership, ECOWAS acted bravely to protect the votes of ordinary Gambians.
4. Legacy for Women’s Rights
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, 68, broke the glass ceiling to become the first female chair of the African Union (AU). During her tenure she worked with others to ensure the continental union developed independent sources of finance. She stepped down in 2016, after deciding not to run for a second term.
Under her the AU is said to have championed the rights of women in the continent.
5. Challenging Stereotypes
Naomi Mungai and Ann Njoki, like millions of women in the world, are the bread winners of their families. They earned their living working as bus conductors in the tough, demanding, male-dominated transportation industry in Kenya.
Read: Whose Africa is rising? A feminist perspective
6. Holding the Lamp For Others
Tara Fela-Durotoye is the founder and CEO of makeup company House of Tara. For close to two decades now, she has been inspiring and empowering others by creating jobs and training would be makeup artists.
And oh, she just turned 40 on March 6; see dazzling birthday pictures by the amazing TY Bello here
7. Changing How We See Ourselves
What’s your imagination when you hear Aqua singing, “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world”?
Fatuma Abdullah, the founder and owner of Akiki Distributors, makes certain you imagine a much richer and diverse Barbie world that includes brown and black dolls. Her company manufactures Akiki dolls.
In this She Leads Africa interview, Abdullah said:
“Akiki Dolls is about affirming the African girls’ confidence. Seeing themselves in a positive light translates to a positive self-image and a healthy self-esteem. I want African children to experience and to grow in love with an Afro-centric 5-year-old girl who they can identify with. I chose the name Akiki, which in Swahili means ruby (the precious stone). A stone associated with nobility, high energy, courage and confidence.”
8. Standing Up For Girls
Tanzania has had a Sexual Offences (Special Provision) Act since 1998, which makes the cutting of girls punishable for 5 to 15 years in prison. But the law has found it hard to dislodge the culture of cutting the genitalia of girls.
“Our country has a law banning female circumcision and child marriage” Rhobi Samwelly said “But people are not abiding by those laws”.
So Rhobi Samwelly founded a safe house that has helped protect hundreds of girls running from being cut.
9. The Safest Place in the World
If men are the perpetrators of violence against women, then Umoja, a village in Samburu, Northern Kenya, is the safest place in the world. Men are not allowed to live in this all-female village.
Rebecca Lolosoli and 14 other women are credited with the founding of the village in 1990; first to sell food, then beads, and now it has grown to a place which shelters women and protects them from abuse.
10. Reminding Us of Our Inheritances
Ghanaian-American novelist, Yaa Gyassi, 26, published her debut novel Homecoming (Knopf) to critical acclaim in 2016.
Homecoming, Gyassi has said, is concerned with inheritances. About “What is it like to have the same kind of personality as an ancestor, when you have never met that ancestor?”
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times has said: “It’s impossible not to admire the ambition and scope of “Homegoing,” and thanks to Ms. Gyasi’s instinctive storytelling gifts, the book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down, over the centuries, from mothers to daughters, fathers to sons”.
Gender inequality still exists, and we have not done nearly enough to change that. Let today remind us of the work that ought to be done, since yesterday.