March 8, 2016

Happy International Women's Day

Image courtesy of tribe
The purple ribbon
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many parts of the world today, focusing on women’s achievements in history, recognizing the social struggles women continue to face in our modern society with the hope to change the general perception of women.

It’s only in the last century that women attained equal rights lawfully in most civilized societies—the right to employment, the right to vote, to equal taxes, the right to their own property, their marital and reproductive rights. In many ways there are leaps and bounds made in the fight for gender equality, thanks to the feminist movement, while in some ways it seems stifled, much is yet to be done. A woman still earns 75 cents compared to a man’s dollar in wages for the same employment with the same job requirements, is subject to sexual discrimination in the workplace. Gender equality is still a distant dream in many societies where a woman is denied an education, the right to her own body, suffer genital mutilation, traded in marriage by the time she’s twelve; her voice is silenced and she’s expected to remain in subservience to a man, who believes her sole purpose of being is to reproduce. In such societies woman has two choices, obey tradition or be killed. Women continue subject to violence and discrimination. 35% of women all around the world have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime according to WHO (that's 1 in 3 women).

The prevalence today continues in the face of perceived inequality and lack of education. We all know too well, the atrocities committed by the militant group Boko Haram, kidnapping 276 young girls right out of school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, making them cooks, sex slaves, even killing them. Ever wonder why they kidnapped only girls? Boko Haram, meaning “western education is evil.” To groups like this one, girls are not to receive a formal education. Known atrocities like this have caused some brave young women to continue to fight against oppression at a risk to their lives. We salute the activists such as Nobel price winner Malala Yousafzai—a brave 15 year old Pakistani who survived 3 gun shots by militants for advocating her rights to an education; Miriam Makeba (Mama Africa), Funmilayo Ransome Kuti—the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car and the mother of the famous political activist and musician Fela Ransome Kuti and Winnie Mandela for her activism against apartheid. Despite the precedence set by these and many brave women in our history, much is yet to be achieved in the matter of gender equality.

Are you a feminist?
In a discussion once, a well distinguished man asked, "are you a feminist?" He must have overheard a debate I was involved in nearby with a handful of men and women of African decent discussing gender roles in a modern day African society. He must have noticed how passionate I felt about the topic, eyes wide open, overt gestures, voice echoing through the banquet hall as I insisted that boys and girls must learn how to cook and clean just the same and there's no such thing as only girls belonged to the kitchen, like we were taught growing up. I paused and pondered over that question, looked up at him, smiled. "Matter of fact I am, we all should be feminists."

I wear my purple ribbon today with a badge of honor—for being a woman.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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