The International Women’s Day 2021 was celebrated Monday the world over. It was first observed in 1911, but the United Nations recognized the day in 1975. The organizers say on their website, “A challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality.”
“Choose to Challenge” is the theme of this year’s celebration, and organizers believe “gender parity in government, workplaces, health care, sports and media coverage is achievable through individual change. They hope this year’s theme “will inspire individuals to challenge biases, question stereotypes and celebrate the achievements of women around the world.” In past years, International Women’s Day was celebrated with festivals, marathons and other events across the world. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, most events will be virtual. They range from a Zoom painting event in Sydney to an online marathon in Singapore.
In Nigeria, the theme has been varied to read “Women In Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World”. The nation’s First Lady Mrs Aisha Buhari said it is “a strong call to appreciate the efforts of women and girls in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on women; disrupted education and careers, loss of jobs, descent into poverty, and proliferation of domestic violence. Many have also died or suffered due to lack of access to basic information on the pandemic. It is, therefore, important not just to continue spreading the message of the COVID-19 protocol, but to remember and support those who have been affected negatively by the pandemic in one way or another.
“Away from COVID-19, women and girls in Nigeria have continued to suffer abductions both in the hands of insurgents and bandits. As a mother, I share the sorrow and agony of the victims and their families. I am also not unaware of the impact that these abductions could have in reverting many successes we have hitherto achieved, especially in terms of girl child education and early marriages. I call on all stakeholders to continue to exert their different levels of influence and bring these abductions to an end and to assure us that girls are safe anywhere they may find themselves. My best wishes to women all over the world for their resilience, hard work, and commitment to the progress of humanity. Happy International Women’s Day.“
On Sunday, the Presidency released a list of 32 “Buhari Women” to be recognized on the occasion of International Women’s Day. It includes seven female ministers.They are; Zainab Ahmed – Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Sadiya Farouq – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development , Pauline Tallen – Minister of Women Affairs; Mariam Katagum – Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; Sharon Ikeazor – Minister of State for Environment; Gbemisola Saraki – Minister of State for Transportation; and Ramatu Aliyu – Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory. Others on the list are Folashade Yemi-Esan – Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; Mariam Uwais – Special Adviser to the President; Jumoke Oduwole – Special Adviser to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, and Secretary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council; Mojisola Adeyeye – Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control; Hadiza Bala-Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority; Abike Dabiri-Erewa – Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission; Chioma Ejikeme – Executive Secretary, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate; Patience Oniha – Director-General, Debt Management Office; and Aisha Dahir-Umar – Director-General, National Pension Commission.
Only a week earlier, Nigeria’s former finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was inaugurated as the first woman and African to head the World Trade Organization (WTO). Besides, the new Joe Biden Presidency in the United States has named a couple of Nigerian Americans to top positions, even at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many nations to look out for their own only. So, in a period as turbulent as this, it is only those who “choose to challenge” can dare to celebrate. We dare to soar above our adversities.