Dear friend, would you mind going on a journey with me?
I promise you this journey is two-faced. Like the sides of a coin, it has the shiny side and the gloom history we try to forget.
Oh, look, our ride is here. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
You might have guessed it right, this is a story about Women.
This is the story about the change women have made for themselves, other women, and the whole world. They are change-makers, warriors, and mothers. They make more than half of the entire world’s population. Yet, I believe this conversation will be difficult for some of you to hear.
I was born to make a difference with my purpose. I am a woman, and I’m here to tell you our story.
This story is intimate. It’s a story that is my reality. It’s what we experience and have little power to fight back. I am Nigerian. It is only fitting I tell you the truth about my nation.
In Nigeria, a woman’s role is defined by both religion and ethnicity. She is a mother, or a wife, or a sister. I know what you’re thinking. There’s nothing wrong with that. Allow me to tell you what is wrong with defining women only by their anatomical structures and physiology.
43% of girls in certain parts of Nigeria are married off before they reach adulthood. Before they are capable of providing optimal care and support for a family or child. These girls require nurturing from their families, but they are made to start their own between the ages of 12-17.
If you thought child marriages are the worst, then you haven’t heard of the gory details of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
It is a common practice in Nigeria and other African countries.
FGM is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia.
They say it’s a practice to stop women from becoming promiscuous and prevent broken homes. Yet, I find that our girls and women are the ones being raped and sexually harassed unprovoked by sexual predators in our society.
Our little girls are forced to grow up with physical and emotional traumas.
27% of our women are Female Genital Mutilation victims.
In April 2014, 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, were kidnapped by a terrorist group called Boko Haram.
It was a sad moment in Nigeria. The Nigerian army rescued a number of these girls, but about 112 are still missing.
The girls who had been rescued were raped, one of the girls got pregnant. Other girls were trafficked for sex and child labour.
Every day, we listen to reports and stories of child labour around us. Even in our homes, some of us are culprits hiding behind closed doors.
These girls are sexually abused, beaten to death, burnt with hot objects, cut with blades, and verbally abused.
There is a lack of quality Education in my nation. Most especially sex education. It is a sensitive conversation for parents to have with their children.
Whenever a young girl asks about what sex is. She is shunned and taught shame.
Renowned writer and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her essay, “…Why do we teach our daughters’ shame?”
Why don’t we teach our sons and men to control their sexual desires and urges?
I have a question, do you not think women do not have sexual desires? Do you think they do not get aroused?
Let me answer that for you.
So when you say men can’t control their sexual urges, you say they are no different from the lower animals they feats on for nutrition.
There is a belief that a woman can’t lead. 20 out of 359 candidates in the Lower House are women, and 7 out of 109 candidates in the Upper House are women.
7.3% of women serve in the Nigerian Senate, and 3.1% of women in the House of Representatives.
There is a gender gap in my nation, and it’s up to us to continue the change other women fought for.
Amina J. Mohammed
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dr. Stella Adadevoh
These women and so many more defied the narrative that women are weak and can’t create a difference. They brought change and inspired younger women and girls to aspire and never give up on their dreams.
You are more than what society defines you to be. You are passionate about a cause, you love without conditions, you nurture with pride. You dream of impossible changes only you can make.
International Women’s Day is a celebration for every woman. Those who stitched the space of the gender gap and gave us a chance to see our dreams are possible. Today is a celebration of every woman and girl around me.
These women created a reputation and difference in Education, Entertainment, Business, Advocacy, Fashion, Literature, Arts, Science, Technology, Politics, Sports, and Innovations.
Dear friend, I tell you a woman is not only a mother or a sister or a wife. A woman is everything she dreams she wants to become.
It’s our turn to create a society that defines women not by their biology or gender but by their strengths, skills, experiences, qualifications, passion, determination, perseverance, and love.
Thank you for joining our women’s history ride.