Tuesday Column by VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
This week, precisely on March 8, Nigeria joined rest of the world to mark this year’s international women’s day. This is a date set aside by the United Nations world body to ostensibly focus attention on the role of women in national and I dare add, international development. I say international development because the world is now a global village, we now realise our interconnectedness, that what happens in one country reverberates and influences what happens in some other parts. An example is the Arab spring. It started in one country and then literally engulfed other countries in north Africa; a spontaneous mass protest bringing down governments despite the government’s military might. Another example is the raging coronavirus, the lesson thereof being that no nation can afford to totally ignore happenings in other lands for none is an island unto itself. Our world may yet learn a lesson beckoning to it over centuries, namely that only in cooperation rather than unilateralism can a solution be discovered to a universal problem with each bringing its unique perspective/contribution to the table. However, the greatest lesson for humanity would come when we can do away with the germ of distrust; when humanity can see everyone as being imbued with same talents and having same origin, the outward differences having come about from our natural habitat – the climate, vegetation, weather, etc., etc….
Let us return to the main topic – women, against the background of celebration of women’s day. A day is aside to reflect on importance of women because they were essentially viewed as being marginalized, discriminated against in many fields. At beginning the goal was for women to be respected as individual entities in their own rights, enjoying same rights as men, that is, to do away with the general notion that women are inferior beings that can be treated like a rag and disposed of into a trash can according to the whims and caprices of the man. Thus, we began to have slogans like ‘women’s rights are human rights’. Women then began to enjoy the right to education, right to vote and be voted for as well as reproductive rights; in brief the right to have a say and to choose. Hitherto, women were to be seen not heard, regarded more or less as inanimate objects without a mind of their own or feeling and which can be treated disdainfully like a long of wood, pushed and shoved hither and thither.
Although not all countries in the world enjoy these rights in toto as there are some that still discriminate against women and implement some harmful traditional practices against them as in parts of Africa. Nevertheless, these are gradually decreasing and there is much awareness now about the need to empower women. The women advocacy movement has moved from the era of feminism, women’s rights to the new era of gender equality and sexism. Now the talk and advocacy is on gender equality, to have equal number of men and women in positions of authority and decision-making. It started with adoption of the Beijin conference affirmative action wherein countries were urged to ensure that 35 percent of members in spheres of authority, etc., are women the ultimate aim being to have some 50 per cent of women in all spheres of decision-making in the shortest possible time. Some 25 years after declaration of the affirmative action, this is yet to be achieved in many, many countries in the world, although relatively more women are entering into public life.
While I agree that the role of women in national development, indeed development of the world itself cannot be overemphasized, I disagree with the notion of gender equality in the true sense of the word. Women can influence the world wherever they are, they do not have to be president, speaker or hold other positions of authority in public life to be able to do this. All they need is true knowledge of their sacred duty in creation and to be able to fulfil this task no matter where fate places them. A woman’s working which is quiet in nature transcends boundaries, space and time. Women are often referred to and indeed regarded as the weaker sex. This is wrong, for between men and women there is no ‘weaker’ or ‘stronger’ sex as such. The difference between both sexes is in their activities/working as ordained by Nature. While the woman engages in fine, negative kinds of activities, the man’s is positive, coarse kinds. And their physical make-up corresponds to their type of activities – men with their more or less muscular build and women with a supple physique, etc.
In addition, woman has implanted in her something which the man lacks, let us call it a thread of substantiality which makes her better able to receive impressions from Above, the source of all knowledge and power that we make use of here on earth in diverse ways. Thus, it can be said that a woman is nearer God and Nature. Indeed, that one and only Power that streams down from the throne of the Almighty God into the universe, first strikes the woman who is then expected to pass it on to the man for his activities. Besides, in the gradations of Creation from higher (lighter) realms down to this gross (coarse) material earth, the woman has to be the first in each realm to make way for the others to follow or enter.
Notwithstanding the seemingly are passive nature of a woman’s activities or calling, it is far reaching and is in fact the leading one. Technicians recognize that the negative (female) is the leading one in making electrical connection, etc. Overall women are inherently gifted to lead, but their leading is not one to be thrown about in a loud obstructive manner; rather it manifests in silent, quiet working. They can be likened to the power behind the throne here on earth (men being the ones on the throne.) And they can lead all those on the throne that is, those men in authority, in decision making positions who are their husbands, uncles, nephews, cousins, fathers to govern/lead aright if they themselves stand aright as genuine women that truly fulfill their God-given tasks. Women need not be in positions of authority to contribute maximally to the world’s development.