The future is female, or so they say. Today is International Women’s Day—a celebration of women worldwide and a day to honor and promote their advancement in society. There have been various campaigns and hashtags circulating around:
I couldn’t help but sit back away from all the noise and really imagine what today would be like without women…without these four women in particular:
A day without Joy Ezeilo who uses her platform as an Executive Director, Doctor (PhD), Professor, Barrister, former Minister, and former UN Special Rapporteur to fight for the rights of women and children in Enugu, Nigeria, the entire southeast region, and the country as a whole. Her organization Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL) / Tamar Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) has been running a holistic campaign to prevent violence (especially sexual and gender-based violence), break the culture of silence, and provide victims with comprehensive support. Without Joy Ezeilo, there would be more than 600 people suffering from their SGBV trauma in silence in addition to lacking essential psychosocial, medical, and legal assistance.
A day without Jennifer Pearse, a Nigerian Millennial and Social Entrepreneur who saw a need in her community and decided to rise up to impact change. She founded her NGO, Give Back Nigeria, which seeks an enhanced involvement of youth to effect social change in Nigeria. Some of her organization’s community service and education projects include the provision of library space and materials, academic assistance to schoolchildren, and tackling poverty and food insecurity through community feeding projects. Without Jennifer Pearse, hundreds of children at the Ajiran Community Primary School in Lagos, Nigeria would not have access to free medical services and 40 families in a Lagos, Nigeria slum would have gone hungry this past Christmas.
A day without Anika Hobbs, Founder and Lead Curator of Nubian Hueman—the brains behind the annual The Black Love Experience in Washington, DC, USA. Nubian Hueman promotes African-inspired fashion, supports Black-owned businesses, and collaborates with dynamic artists like Shani Crowe and Esosa Edosomwan (from An African City) who use their platforms to address social issues. This year’s Black Love Experience was a night of creation, Black business, love, and healing in the United (though some would argue divided) States’ capitol. Without Anika Hobbs, more than $40,000 wouldn’t have been made from Black businesses (many of which were female-owned) in only one night.
A day without Uche Okpa, without whom I wouldn’t be here today: my aunt. My mom’s eldest sister continues to be a leader and an inspiration to those in her community, and she was a monumental figure in the life of her younger siblings. After successfully completing secondary school around the time of the Nigerian-Biafran war, she continued on to obtain her university degree in Nursing. For many years, she worked as a Nurse at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (old UNTH) in Enugu in addition to doing other side jobs to raise extra income. The recent war had adversely affected the family, and my aunt rose up to the challenging circumstances. Due to her upbringing, access to opportunities, and personal will, as a young single woman she financially sponsored the university education of her six younger siblings—three sisters and three brothers. Thus, my mother was able to attend the University of Ife, now presently the Obafemi Awolowo University, where she not only received her Bachelor’s degree, but also met my dad. My aunt challenged gender stereotypes by not only being economically independent during the 70’s and 80’s, but also serving as the main provider for her dependents. Without Uche Okpa, my other uncles, aunts, and my mother might not be leading their successful careers. Without my aunt, I may not be here today writing this blog post.
The women listed above have been engaging in bold actions to campaign against violence, challenge various forms of inequality in society, promote women’s advancement, and so much more. Let’s all remember throughout today and the remainder of Women’s History Month to continue to use our individual and collective voices to celebrate and promote women while also calling out injustice and working to create spaces where both sexes have an equal opportunity to thrive. Also, let’s not be confined to a day or month. Women’s history exists 12 months, 365 days a year. Commit to taking your own bold steps today. Comment below your own bold steps or other women who are making waves in their community.