By Uche Amunike
Just a couple of weeks ago, the world woke up to the news that our very own Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been announced as Director General of the World Trade Organization.
It was a piece of information that caused a global uproar because if its historical nature. Apart from being the first woman to clinch that position, Okonjo-Iweala was also, the very first African to wear that tag.
It was a delightful emergence and I’ll tell you all that every woman saw it as their personal victory, especially here in Nigeria where the female gender is considered second class, except incase where they have exceptionally proven their mettle in their areas of specialization.
Her selection cast my mind to great women of our time who made history with no apologies to the world. I will name just a few of them in this piece in order to remind the world at large that women are no longer in that phase where they accept to dim their lights and allow their potentials die, just because their society expects them to do so.
The best protection any woman needs is courage. Nigerian women now wear courage like an apparel. This is why they have been able to defy all odds and live up to their potential zeniths in life.
They have learnt to be brave by grabbing life by the horns, thereby paving the way for the generations of women all over the world to fight for what they believe in and chase their dreams. I believe it’s time for men, the world over to stop viewing the world with a gender coloured microscope because women have become not only empowered and inspired, but aware of what potentials they have and are determined, more than ever to improve their society and advance the world with it.
Below, are some of these women who have steered the course of history in a male dominated society. You cannot ignore them when you analyse the economic, political band social sphere both in Nigeria and beyond.
AGBANI DAREGO: She was the first indigenous African to win the Miss World beauty contest in 2001. Before that, she was the first Nigerian to be placed among the top Semi Finalists, finishing 7th overall. Her emergence as Miss World changed the narrative of beauty, especially for young Nigerian girls who became inspired to chase after their dreams no matter how lofty.
FUNMILAYO RANSOME-KUTI: She was an activist, a teacher and founder of Nigerian Women’s Union and a political campaigner. She was the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria. Even in death, she still managed to pull a multitude to her funeral and expose corruption in government. Her activism helped expose, not just Nigerian women, but African women as a whole. She was the mother of the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and former Minister of Health, Beko Ransome-Kuti.
How many women would go to prison for three years and remain unwavered? One of such people is Margaret Ekpo. When you see a Nigerian woman in politics now, you should remember to say thank you. As Nigeria’s first female political activist, she paved the way for women whose place was confined to the other room to become recognized in politics and society at large.
MARY ONYALI-OMAGBEMI: She is one of the best female sprinters Nigeria has ever produced and the first Nigerian to compete at five olympics. Her numerous medals speak volumes of her passion for what she believes in and how she undauntedly excelled in her chosen field.
GRACE ALELE-WILLIAMS: Being a Vice Chancellor in the Nigerian university system is no child’s play. Professor Grace is the first female VC in Nigeria, specifically, the University of Benin. As her name implies, she played that part gracefully and contributed greatly to the advancement of education in Nigeria.
CHIEF FOLAKE SOLANKE (SAN): She is the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to wear the silk gown as Senior Counsel. She was the first Commissioner of Western state and former Chairperson of the Western Nigerian Television Broadcasting Corporation.(WNTBC)
CHIOMA AJUNWA: She is not only a police officer, but the first African woman to win a good medal in 1996.
PROF DORA AKUNYILI: This dogged and tenacious lady will always be remembered by Nigerians for the part she played in ridding the health sector of fake and sub-standard drugs when she was Director General of NAFDAC! After her sister, Vivian died after taking false insulin injection in 1988, she took the fight against drug counterfeiters personal in order to save other victims. Even after she escaped physical attacks and assassination attempts, she remained fearless and fought with the strength of a lion.
CHINAMANDA ADICHIE: This young Nobel Laurette changed the stereotyped ways Africa was seen globally. Her works have helped to inspire the younger generation to be interested in literary arts. She is globally vocal and has received fleets of awards no woman in her age bracket has ever received.
CAPTAIN CHINYERE KALU: She is a pacesetter in the Nigerian Aviation Sector. She has gone down history as the first female commercial pilot to fly an aircraft in Nigeria. Kalu was the Rector and Chief Instructor of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology between 2011 and 2014.
She was raised by a single mother, yet another proof that women are family oriented and give the best to the girl child. She’s a member of the Nigerian Women Achievers Hall of Fun and has been conferred the honour of becoming a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2006 among other professional awards.
Nigerian women have really done well for themselves and taken positions the world never expected of them. So many women are sadly rusting away because of circumstances beyond them. So many others are slaughtered on the altar of societal pressure, marital pressure, gender based discrimination and what have you.
A lot of men have turned their backs on their female children because they prefer to have male children. These girls are denied their rights to proper education because of their gender. It’s really sad because those hidden and untapped potentials just might change the world.
Isn’t Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala doing her thing on the global stage? What if her father or the father of all the great woman in history had turned their backs on them? This is a great lesson to be learnt. I hope the men are reading and digesting this.
I however encourage every woman reading this to look inwards and discover their potentials. God blessed every being with potentials. Discover yours, harness it and shine with it. That’s the message I bring today. Tomorrow might be too late. Start today! You have the capacity. Being a girl isn’t a curse. It’s a blessing! Adore your girl child. Accept her like the precious ornament she is. Daughters are truly precious gifts. Nwanyi bu Nwa!!! Daalu nu!!!!