30th August, 2021
By Bunmi Olowu-Adekoya
The International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day set aside globally to celebrate women for their doggedness and achievements in the context of social, economic, cultural and political sagacity. The day was instituted in the early 1900s. It is set aside to, among others, increase awareness on the need for gender equality and remind the world of the inhumane handling of women’s fragility and disparity with their male counterpart.
On the occasion, women are specially celebrated, while some are distinguished with awards having been identified as role models or game changers.
This writer, however, is mainly interested in the IWD by the three (3) colours identified with the celebration, which originated in 1908 in the United Kingdom (UK) from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The colours are purple, which signifies justice and dignity; green, which stands for hope and white, which symbolizes purity.
It is pertinent to examine the efficacy of these colours as it affects today’s women. We need to understand and put into perspective if truly justice and dignity, hope and purity, are appropriately enmeshed and still relevant in today’s life journey of an average woman. Are these colours myth or reality?
How do you celebrate a handful of a privileged few in the midst of molestation, battering, sexual assault, rigid societal institutionalized norms and so on, which has now become a new normal within the society? Please, do not get me wrong. It is neither wrong nor bad to celebrate outstanding women. In actual fact, who would do it better if not the women themselves?
However, though women have continued to ascribe a lot of value to their self-worth, the celebration night mean little or nothing to the ordinary or downtrodden women out there. Most of them do not even know the relevance of the celebration, not to talk of knowing about the existence of the colours or the meanings attached to them.
In spite of its globalization, a lot of women still believe there is nothing worth celebrating. They consider it to be very trivial and has no relevance or bearing to their lives. Many claim that it does not put food on their tables, neither does it solve any of their problems or provide for immediate needs.
Experience, they say, is the best teacher. Thus, how relevant are these colours today in the face of the foreboding realities of women across the world? Do they encapsulate what women have been going through in the last few decades or have they been significantly liberated?
Justice, according to Paul TP Wong, “is at the heart of other-related morality; it is the foundation for the virtue of treating other people with respect and dignity”. This, of course, is not what prevails today. Women are constantly being dehumanized, humiliated, mutilated, sexually harassed, molested and discriminated against.
A woman who is forced into arranged marriage or sex labour cannot be happy or join in the celebration. Yet, every year some privileged few are celebrated, while the struggling ones who are supposed to be the real heroine are neglected. It is about time for a paradigm shift where also the downtrodden making an impact within their environment should be bestowed with such honour.
Often, women are treated like pariahs that don’t deserve to be seen or heard. This is preposterous. Where is the place of human dignity and justice in all of this? In reality, according to Viktor E. Frankl, ‘today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young’ and this as expected leads to misplaced priorities.
It arouses the egocentric nature of such celebrated women and the youth to the detriment of those at the lower ebb of the economy. Today, justice and dignity have been thrown into the wind and women have become more vulnerable; a lot still needs to be done. Perhaps, this aspect of colour needs recycling to suite today’s situation, justice and equity must be achieved for the oppressed.
As for hope, it is all a subterfuge where women have suffered and continued to suffer in the hands of the opposite sex. They have been misrepresented, oppressed, abused, dehumanized, name it.
According to the English Dictionary, ‘hope is a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled’. Yet, over all these centuries, women are still waiting and answerable to those who are oppressing them. They wear a melancholic look each time as if the world is coming to an end.
I wonder how long women will keep suffering in silence and continue with the waiting game. This parochial act of derision against women must stop now. Women must be more pushful and forceful themselves. They must realise that they can’t start a war and win without putting up a fight against the resistance. It is about time they stopped treating themselves with disdain.
They must love themselves with such mien and stop being loquacious. After all, action, they say, speaks louder than words. Hope is useless if almost everything about a woman’s case is helpless and despairing. According to Winston Churchill, all things could be better if ‘all things are simple, and many can be expressed in the following words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy and hope’. How much longer must they wait and hope for a better tomorrow? What if tomorrow never comes?
Succinctly put, Jamie Le Fay, observed that “The pursuit and preservation of purity can drive prejudice and hate. Many crimes against humanity have been committed in its name. Purity is best applied to water”.
Today, all over the social media, everything unimaginable will stare at you in the face with your mouth agape. Obviously, this is a quantum leap from the normal and ethical social norms to moral decadence, not realizing their self-worth, they inflict themselves with stress infused frustration and misplaced priorities which is really sad. Even if the battle is slow, women must never give up, they must be courageous, regain their self-respect and self-worth in order to remain relevant and purified.
A very commendable and encouraging example in Nigeria today is that of the eight (8) leading banks in the country that have women as their Chief Executive Officers (CEO). This offers a glimpse of hope that things are getting better.
Women are the only genuine activists that walk the face of the earth. Not only are they resilient in their demands, they are true to their calling and belief. All their life, they fight for justice and human rights. And, oh yes, they are very good at it, but they still need to do more for themselves.
It is sad to see that 113 years after, women are still struggling for recognition and emancipation. Are women winning this battle? I do not think so. According to Lyndon B. Johnson, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact”.
In all sincerity and without prejudice, women and women organizations must have a critical appraisal of the relevance of these colours with a view to actualize their yearning.
May women continue to excel and find favour with God and mankind.
-Olubunmi Olowu-Adekoya wrote in from Lagos.