• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

To be so honoured as a woman

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Vlisco, the international fabric manufacturers, has nominated me as a female role model to mark this year’s International Women’s Day and subsequently become Vlisco Ambassador of the Year if I have the greatest number of votes as a woman who inspires. I am deeply honoured to have been so nominated among other formidable women like Joke Silva, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Amina Azubair and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. For me, it is a call to more service, to give, to inspire persons young and old, men and women, as I have always tried to do over the years. To have been so recognised is a great honour.

To vote for me, you have to go to the site: beyourdream.vlisco.com. I believe it’s a salute to my work. Do your bit then and celebrate women as Vlisco has done and vote and get others to do same. Voting closes on March 18, so get your computers and begin to vote.

Last week, as the world celebrated International Women’s Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate women and audit their concerns, I thought about Nigerian women. Year in year out, I go to many events by organisations and international bodies where I feel the pulse of how far we have come in politics, education and wellbeing. I have noted with horror the slide into an all-time low of maternal mortality in Nigeria where women are dying needlessly from childbirth in the 21st century. I have heard depressing stories of death sentences already passed on women in rural areas because they have no access to rural health centres when they are in labour. The nearest health centre will be kilometres away and without transportation to get her quickly to the hospital, the woman dies at home just because she dared to get pregnant.

The escalating tales of violence against women worldwide is worrying – rape, incest and the beating and killing of women, no matter the colour or race. What is it with some men that make them prey on women? Is the world doing enough to protect our women? Are families sensitive to a girl who repeatedly complains about being sexually molested by a family member?

I have been at a meeting where Nigerian women politicians engaged police top hierarchy about tales of exclusion in the political arena. Destruction of campaign material, false accusation to get them put away during primaries, violent attacks on their persons and supporters, and worse, death threats. In addition, political parties act like they don’t understand that a platform should be equal. No one even pays attention to affirmative action.

What about education? Young girls are constantly in disadvantaged positions. If a parent falls ill, the girl cuts school to look after them while the boy continues to go to school. At a gathering on girl’s education conducted by Action Aid International two years ago, I met a young girl, about 15 years old, who was working as a housemaid in Abuja. Her story was as sad as it was hurting. She spoke no English and told her story in Hausa. In a tear-filled, broken voice, she said she had been working as a house girl for two years and her father collects her salary which he uses to send her brother to school. It was a betrayal, a heart-rending rendition. We all sat benumbed as she told us she wanted to go to school, she wanted to be a doctor.

Some girls don’t go to school because they have combined toilets for boys and girls. Some parents don’t want their daughters to go because of sexual molestation. Some girls drop out of school because of poverty. They begin street trading to support their families or go to work. This is our report card as the world turns and changes and modernises. A nation that keeps half of its population from rising cannot run very far. This is not to remove from the progress that has been made in the risen percentage of women in government, the increasing number of girls in schools in some states and the human rights milestones by women’s groups.

Nigerian women are brilliant with so much to give but opportunities and platforms are slim and sometimes non-existent. There are thousands of qualified women who never have a chance to showcase their talent, to impart their skills because the system is stultifying and often elevates mediocrity.

Women can make a difference in the home if they are educated. An educated woman is more likely to push for education for her children, manage the home better and become entrepreneurial to support her family. An educated woman superintends over a healthy family and makes better choices. There is still so much work to be done. The time is now.

Don’t forget to vote for the woman that inspires you at: beyourdream.vlisco.com. Here is calling on my fans to vote before March 18 and cause your friends to vote as well. SPREAD THE WORD.