I struggled with what to write about for International Women’s Day; not for a lack of topics or content, but rather because of the availability of too many- Too many angles to broach this from, too many stories to tell, and too many ways to tell them.
Do I speak about the women that have surpassed and exceeded all expectations and barriers and proven time and time again that women are not the weaker sex, or do I speak about the ones who still struggle to come to this realization?
Do I write about the struggles women face every day, at work, at school, in various social settings? Should I speak about the ‘little’ gender biases that are predominant in everyday living but go unnoticed, or the blatant gender disparities in Nigerian institutions?
Should I rather focus on the men; the few who are on the right side of the divide- supporting, and fighting side by side with women to challenge gender stereotypes and bias, or the ones who cannot fathom a society where women are treated fairly and not as second class human beings, or the third group (and the group I find worse of all) who are patronizing, supportive of gender equality only to the extent to which it makes them comfortable?
Like I said, there are so many angles to broach this, majority of which I will continue to encourage discourse about, but today I want to focus on what I find to be most important, I want to focus on us;
Young women growing up in Nigeria.
First of all, I would like to salute us, for living, surviving, and for some of us, thriving in this society, in this country, in this place were assumptions are made about our skills, capabilities and aspirations simply because of our gender. It can sometimes be like swimming against a strong, relentless tide but we’re still swimming and for that I am proud.
I recognize that some of us are more fortunate, more privileged than others. When I speak of privilege, I am not referring to money or status, I refer to our backgrounds- what cultures and practices we were brought up on. I am blessed to have been raised by parents who never placed any limitations on me solely because of my gender; I have never felt that I could not do, or could not achieve something because I am female.
There are however some young women who are less fortunate, who were brought up in households where every milestone is just a step towards your ‘husband’s house’; women who are not afforded the opportunity to achieve for their own sole benefit. There are young girls who are uneducated, subjected to various forms of mental, emotional and physical abuse because they are seen as dispensable or second class citizens. There are young women who have been so conditioned to being subservient that the idea of holding any power is a very foreign concept.
Of this group of women, there are some that recognize that there is a problem but have accepted the status quo, there are those that see themselves as completely helpless, there are those that are trying to break out, and there are some that actually support these harmful ideals.
I used to be one of those who recognized that there was a problem but felt that there was nothing I could do about it. How could I, the one person, end violence against women? What could I possibly contribute? I am gradually gaining answers to these questions, but I have also realized that everyone one of us can contribute in the most basic way, by speaking out! There’s no longer any room for silent outrage.
For every young woman who has taken a stance, however small, or spoken up against the unfair treatment of women, you are fighting the good fight and God will surely reward you.
For those that are trying to break through the barriers society, and your mind have created for you, I see you. Draw strength and inspiration from the ones who have gone before you.
For those that are struggling to ‘unlearn’ the things they’ve been wrongly taught, I salute you.
For the women, who constantly put women down, and feed into the lie that ‘women don’t like each other’, I see you as well.
For, the young woman, who feels totally helpless, I see you. Please know that you are not alone. There are many championing your cause and fighting for you.
To the women I’m surrounded with, my mother, my sisters, my friends, my colleagues, I am eternally grateful to God for you. You have shaped the woman that I am, and that I am becoming.
It’s our responsibility to speak up for each other, to celebrate our achievements no matter how small they may seem. The effect of this is greater than you or me, it affects generations to come.
To me, every day is a day to celebrate women, but today I say a special prayer for you.
Happy International Women’s’ Day!
With all my love,
This post is written byToluwalase Ojeshina– Program Officer PWAN and IVLP fellow. She is passionate about ending all forms of discrimination against women, and promoting youth participation in good governance. She can be found on Twitter (@ToluO_), Instagram (@tolu_oj) and herpersonal blog.