‘I am the first child of my parents. I have a younger brother at home. If the first child were a son, my parents might be happy and would be confident as their future is assured by having a son. But I am a daughter. I complete all the household tasks, go to school, again do the household activities in the evening, and at night, I helped my mummy in the kitchen. Despite all the activities I do, my parents do not give values or recognition to me, they only have praises for my brother, as he is the son.’

The International Women’s Day started in America in 1909, when the Socialist Party of America took to the street to honor garment workers who had protested against inhumane working conditions the year before. The following year, the Social International established Women’s Day in Copenhagen. In 1911, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland celebrated the first official International Women’s Day on March 19. And more than one million people have attended rallies focused on suffrage, representation, education and worker’s rights. It wasn’t until March 8, 1975 when the United Nations celebrated it as an official holiday. Since that 1975, the holiday has gained awareness around the globe as a way to recognize and celebrate women for their tremendous the social, economic, political, familial and cultural achievements of women around the globe. While today is all about celebrating women for the meritorious feats, it will also be good to remind us about where we are still failing due to our imposed societal and cultural factors that hinders us from realizing the capacities of every woman and achieving gender equity.

From being an efficient homemaker, a politician, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a change maker and many others, women have affirmed that their gender is worth it and they can prove it. In the entertainment industry, we celebrate the list of Priyanka Chopra Jones, Funke Akindele, Mo Abudu, Susmita Sen and many others. There was also Shakunla Devi, an Indian woman who holds 1982 Guinness Books of World Record for solving insanely large mental mathematical calculations. Neerja Bhanot also sacrificed her life while saving passengers from terrorists on board a hijacked plan as she chose to challenge intimidation. In Business, we have Susan Wojcicki who owns Youtube, House of Tara International and Safra Catz of Oracle among many others who are witnesses to the fact that women are great entrepreneurs too.

We also appraise Laxmi Agarwal: an acid survivor who is a founder of an NGO called Chhanv Foundation that helps victims of acid attacks. In politics, we reward and appraise Michelle Obama, Christine Lagarde Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Theresa May and many others for representing the interest of every woman and breaking the barriers hindering women for striving in political leadership. More so, we have Malala Yousafzai as one of the pioneers who stood against all odds, she chose to challenge the societal laws and became one of the proponents of female education.

For today, while we commend the tremendous efforts women and girls are making in shaping an equitable world and proving that women can be equitable partners in decision-making processes specially those regarding policy making that affect political, economic and social development, we must also remember those whose circumstances have made their lose their sense of strength or greatness and even those who have lost their lives to the gender tussle.

In 2008, two Taliban girls were on their way to school in Kandahar, Afganistan when Taliban men sprayed them with battery acid causing severe burns to their faces. Many girls are being forced to marriage and many more sent out of schools just because some societies do not see girl children as educators. In the northern part of Nigeria, many girl children are forced to accept that education is not their fortune and many who do have their hopes and vision cut short by early marriage and societal norms where they do not fit in. It is said for every three boys in school, there is only one girl. This means that girl child education and most importantly equal access to education and in education still needs our clarion call. It is therefore important to raise our voce and make deliberate efforts to break this injustice.

According to the United Nations Report, nearly one in five women has experienced a completed or attempted rape during her lifetime. One in three rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old. One in eight female rape victims reported that it occurred before age ten 10).

Today, Wande Ebe is applauded for declaring publicly about her sexual molestation experience and encouraging women not to die in silence. And according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, more than 2,200 rape cases and indecent assault were reported in 2017. Many rape cases are swept under the carpet and those who report them has been silenced and made to accept societal molestation and dejection. Justice has been denied.

To those women who have silently and regrettably suffered rape and dealt with the consequences alone, you are recognized and celebrated. Your pains are seen and we commend your strength. To our societies, we plead that you recognize that many women still bleed in silence and need every social reform that recognize their pains, give them a voice and reduce the gender-based inequalities.

Moving on, it is an unfortunate fact that only three countries in the world have fifty-percent of women participation in parliament. While women are heads of state in only twenty-two nations, one hundred and nineteen 119 countries have never had a woman leader as a Head of State
Therefore, as we celebrate International Women’s Day today in recognition of the different feats women have achieved in our societies, it should be an inspiration to collectively work towards reversal of long-standing inequalities. These should include the likes of unequal division of work at home, access to equal justice, gender pay gap and undervaluation of work done by women and many other deserved opportunities.

In conclusion, to the women who train the younger ones to be better representatives in the societies, you are celebrated. To women who are trailblazers in different industries, you all are appreciated. To our past heroes who have lost their lives and voices in the battle of equal representation and opportunities, you are remembered. Today, I hope that the societies realize the mistakes they have made for setting those condescending social norms. I also pray that we continue to make concerted efforts to create a world where the unnecessary gender comparison, barriers and inequalities will be put to rest.

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