International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women’s Greatness

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African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.

Wangari Maathai

For a long time, the patriarchal nature of societies across different cultures throughout the world gave men an undue advantage over women. The society generally considered men a superior sex to women and for this reason, women were denied opportunities and privileges that remained a preserve of men. For a long time women could not inherit family property, in America, even black men got the privilege to vote before white women. Many girls in Africa missed the opportunity to attend school at the expense of their male siblings because it was considered a waste of time to take a girl child to school when her primary role would be child rearing and taking care of her man.

Many continued to undermine the role of women throughout the world and many women remained helpless, wings clipped, unable to soar to the heights of their potential because they were born in a society where they were generally seen but not heard.

The irony in all this is that while men were hell bent on demeaning the women folk, the truth is we all along needed women; we could not and cannot do without them. I suspect men were hell bent on demeaning women out of the fear that they would prove better in so many ways because we were too afraid of the competition and admitting to ourselves that our bloated egos were the reasons as to why we wanted to always be better.

Times have changed; women have proven beyond doubt that they are just as exceptional if not more. As a matter of fact, they went ahead to prove that they all along had our backs even though we denied them the opportunities to show their brilliance. While we the men folk focused on proving ourselves better than women, they helped us achieve what we thought we did on our own. The only difference between men and women would probably be physical strength; men are generally physically stronger than most women with the exception of a few women who are as strong as an ox. Women’s lack of physical strength is however made up for by their great sense of direction, empathy and attention to detail.

It has been said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. I suspect it took a brave man to admit this to himself as much as this phrase is cliché it could not be any truer than it has always been. It particularly took me a long time to get the mass of my bloated ego off my face and see the truth for what it is. I have no substantial amount of success to brag about but I credit much of what I have been able to achieve to the women in my life.

While attending a job interview recently, which by the way I would not have applied for in the first place why it not for the wisdom of a woman in my life, my girlfriend insisted on taking me. First of all, I had no idea where the interview was but she did, she took it upon herself to find out for me. When I felt like I was ready for the interview, she spotted creases that needed to be straightened. She saw the stain on my left shoulder and the dust on my age-stricken shoes. It is hard for a woman to see a problem and ignore, while I resigned to the fact that I was already here and there was nothing much I could do, she made me wait outside a supermarket while she rushed to get shoe polish to clean my shoes and thought of a way to conceal my stain.

She kept asking if I was panicking and I could see the depth of her concern for my wellbeing in her eyes. She, a woman, genuinely wanted the best for me and while all I would have done for her at that moment was repeat words that resounded in emptiness with no much meaning to them like “I will be fine.” She went the extra mile, she did not just say, she did. She missed her anatomy class for me, spent her money to get shoe polish to make my shoes clean and even insisted on cleaning them herself, but I could not let her, even I felt it was too much.

Coming to think of it, maybe men have not done as much of a good job to empower their women as they should. Women are like a centre piece of beautiful flowers in the middle of a table in a grey room. They bring life where it’s all dull and grey. We need women, a man may as well be the strength, but what is strength with no direction and detail? Where it all matters, men and women are equal. Maybe it has not been said enough but women are great and they champion noble courses aimed at ensuring their men and children will be okay in the years to come. That is why we had Wangari Maathai championing for environmental conservation against all odds even when it meant fighting men and risking her life while at it. It is also why the first lady Margaret Kenyatta would train to run for kilometres with professional athletes if that is what it will take to improve maternal health care and save the lives of women and their children.

It is because of women like these that every year on the 8th of March we celebrate International Women’s Day throughout the world. The day is observed to acknowledge how far women have come fighting for gender equality, it is also on this day we celebrate remarkable women in their fields of work. International Women’s Day generally seeks to show respect, love and appreciation of the role women throughout the world play in the political, economic and social spheres of the communities they come from. It is also on this day that we celebrate exceptional and extraordinary women who have played a huge role in the history of their countries.

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Onduu Oluoch is a writer, poet and human rights activist obsessed with being black and African. He is currently a student pursuing linguistics media and communication at Moi University. He is an ardent reader of African literature and believes the whole point of life is being part of a good story.