Adaobi On Sunday: Women Have Come Of Age

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Upstanding women in all frontiers are no longer a debate but a reality. These are the words of Ms Ilyasah Al-Shabazz , author, motivational speaker, and interestingly, the third Daughter of the legendary African-American Freedom Fighter MALCOM X! at the just concluded ROWEAD 2015 Conference held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos, with the theme WOMEN AS CO-PILOTS IN THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF A NATION. She also said, and I quote “When you raise a man you raise a community, but when you raise a woman you raise a nation”

It seems like quite an age since my last post. I am back! Do pardon me for the long absence.

Today, I am moved by the paradigm shift that the topics for debate is not solely on the victimization of women, but that women themselves are insisting that their contributions to the growth of humanity in areas of economics, society and politics must be acknowledged.

Each speaker at the ROWEAD 2015 conference put forward arguments for why women must no longer be seen as weak, petty, unconcerned and docile in matters relating to governance and economic growth. My mind wandered to our current democratic dispensation. I did a quick mental check of the number of female governors – zero. How many women are deputy governors? 3 or so out of 36 executives – e get as e be ooh! How many women are in the houses of parliament – probably less than 30 out of a total of 468. The speakers at the event passionately insisted that it will be counterproductive to neglect a group that has the key to the well being and prosperous growth of humanity. By not giving the girl-child an equal opportunity to develop, the society is short changing itself.

Listening to the speakers, I made mental notes of how best to position the woman to grow into her full potential as a nation builder. First, it is vital to educate women at all levels. Every girl should understand the power that lies within her to achieve as much as she desires in any position she finds herself in.

Secondly, it is important for women to shed the stereotypical idea that they are each other’s worst enemies and begin to help each other, and form their own support system, for example by encouraging mentoring schemes.

Thirdly, as custodians of the human essence THE FAMILY, women must take this role seriously in all its ramifications, and train worthy human beings who will govern and direct the affairs of the society. So it is important women take the utmost care to nurture noble minds from infancy, and create an equal playing ground for both the girl-child and the boy-child, and not raise either to be treated as more superior than the other. Women should insist that the values of truth, and respect for self and others are non-negotiable. It is when these values are instilled in children that a society begets men and women of honor and integrity.

When Ms Ilyasah Al-Shabazz spoke, it was as though she had read my thoughts. She spoke about how women must be seen to take charge of their families, teach their children who they are, and why it is important to have an identity that will form who they become as men and women. She insisted that the role of women towards their families must not be down played by making excuses of having too much to do – it is in the nature of women to multitask, so let them get to the business of doing and not complaining. My friend, sister and Guest Speaker at the ROWEAD 2015 conference Ilyasah became emotional when she recounted how her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, despite witnessing the gruesome murder of her husband Malcom X, didn’t sit and cry all day but raised six daughters, while at the same time getting an education and attending human rights rallies.  As a result of the strength she saw her mother exhibit in taking on life challenges, Ilyasah acknowledges that she has become a strong woman with passion for speaking for youths and women, a story she recounts well in her memoir GROWING UP X!

I hugged myself as I listened to the speakers at the ROWEAD conference, and knew someone in the audience was transformed by the ideas and arguments of the speakers.

For more on Ms ILyasah Al Shabazz and other incredible speakers at the ROWEAD 2015 conference go to www.rowead.org. You may also like ROWEAD on Facebook or follow ROWEAD on twitter.

Till I write again! I love you for reading.

Ada.

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