Today March 8, 2014 is International Women’s Day. It’s officially the global day that celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Today I join billions of people around the world to commemorate this very special day with the theme: “Inspiring Change.”
As a young girl growing up, I was blissfully unaware of the limits society and culture placed on women. I grew up in a home where I could do anything I liked; in the sense that there was seldom anytime I was told “You can’t do that because you’re a girl.” For instance I had friends who could eat only ‘chicken wing and not thigh’ because they were girls; their brothers always got the prime cuts. That never ever happened in our house. There was an equal distribution of household chores – washing plates, fetching water, sweeping, etc, between my brother and I – there was no ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ chore – all na work!
I frequently did things that were not considered ‘normal’ for girls. I climbed trees, hated the tedious boring activity of playing with dolls or ‘making tea’, I had more fun trailing my older brother around (when he allowed me); ‘rolling tire’ (never quite got the hang of this) and playing ‘police & thief’. It did not feel strange to me that I felt more comfortable wearing my infamous Bruce Lee canvas and shorts rather than wearing those annoying, scratchy Cinderella-type dresses – oh! how I hated those things!
Expectedly, I gave my poor mother countless hours of grief by losing earrings, hair ribbons, necklaces, etc – all in the bid to make me look and behave more girly. But thankfully, my parents understood my need for individuality and encouraged it. My father especially, would buy me and my brother tonnes of books to read, would take both of us to the club to watch him play squash and would allow us watch him service his car every Saturday morning – there was nothing too messy, complex or technical to share with me. My parents encouraged my curiosity and desire to question things (not overly sha; my mum being a Yoruba woman and all), but I definitely did not have those boundaries of, “she doesn’t need to do this or that because she is a girl.” I never had those limitations growing up; I was always recognized as a legitimate individual – not an extension or an appendage of someone else.
I suspect that my childhood has shaped by unwavering and confident sense of self; and of course the desire to question things has increased exponentially with age. I question most things; not because I’m a rabble-rouser; but because I know from experience that true knowledge and understanding only come from asking questions. One must learn the wisdom of asking the right questions; because clarity often follows that. More than anything, I believe that women especially should develop the art of questioning things: again not in belligerence or haughtiness, but simply to expand the capacity for reasoning and knowledge. After all, Warri people often say: “Person wey dey ask question, no fit miss road.”
For those who ascribe tags like ‘Feminist’ ‘Activist’ and the likes to women who dare to question the status quo; remember that the flower which blooms in adversity is the fairest one of them all. And for those who are content not to ask questions, maybe that’s okay too – for there must be those who balance out the ones who challenge the existing state of things.
I look around me, and I’m reminded by the lives of women like Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hillary Clinton, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Toni Morrison, Benazir Bhutto, Arianna Huffington and countless others that my life, especially as a woman, must mean something. It must be guided by purpose, vision and an innate desire to add value, and if I stir things up a little by doing that, then so be it. In another Waffi parlance: “This life, na only one o!” so by all means, it must count for something.
Happy Women’s Day everyone. May we keep inspiring ourselves… and others to change.
Photo Credit: africanbusinessreview.co.za
Onomarie Francesca Uriri is a graduate of English Literature from the University of Lagos; a marketing communications executive by day and a writer for the rest of the time in between. She believes in the power of words, the efficacy of prayer and the goodness of people.She has varied interests in writing, reading, travelling, meeting people and experiencing different cultures.