By Debo Ikuesewo-Akinbami
Nelson Mandela’s stance on the place of women came in handy as I open this piece.
It was the legend’s heartfelt offering that he gave in his speech on World Women’s Day in 1996. As he puts it, “As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow.”
These words of Mandela bear frantic and far reaching consequences. And the texts underlined certain salient worries, which include but not limited to age-long condescending posture of patriarchy on the womenfolk. Besides identifying the rate of regard for women, the late sage raised the flag while condemning the tradition of estimation that he derided and described as outmoded. Despite Mandela’s strong stance, and about three decades after he labelled the practice as old-hat, many among men still unashamedly wear the tag in the illusion that the philosophy places a man at advantage over the other gender.
Meanwhile, Mandela left his audience with a warm warning to the effect that this faulty fashion of thought prevents women from making meaningful contributions to society and makes the pace of progress to be slow. Even at this rate, army of men of African tribe are yet see the vanity in dominating space like a mass. And I dare ask, why do men fiercely hold on to this blamable mindset? Why stubbornly spreading empty stereotype on the nature and stature of women?
Come to think of it, beyond the false arrogance of masculinal superimposition, there’s rarely an empirical evidence of man’s superiority to the opposite sex. And even life’s stage, in all walks, evidenced how women have wrought incredible successes even ahead of their male counterpart. Or shall we then say that this attitudinal defect stems from the fact that men for too long have indulged in the illusory injustice of patriarchy?
Matter of factly, patriarchal tendencies has endured for too long as it has caused dire social, psychological and spiritual damages to the personality and estimation of what a woman represents. But unknowingly to credulous helpers of this devious imbalance, the tale is changing daily and the table is turning. Even civilised men are now helping to rewrite the narrative as women of worth raise their voice in defense of womenfolk. They speak up for themselves and their kind, goring the oxens of the malefolk Wherever these amazons reign, however, the tendencies of resistance raise its ugly head in form of browbeating from men, as in the case of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.
But Betty is a different spec, raised by parentage who with her falsified the societal and religious sentiments that place male children ahead of the females. Hers were parents who do not share the viewpoint that gender determines the height a child could reach. While Betty’s parents gave her wings to fly, her hubby helped her altitude. Small wonder she soars unfettered. Her matter lends credence to the extent that there is no limit to the mileage a girl child can cover with the right motivation. She is a proof that no height too reach for a woman when she is well encouraged.
Against all odds, Anyanwu-Akeredolu is demonstrating the truism that, apart from procreating, a woman can be wired for wonders with the right support. Here is a soul who, after defeating a deadly disease, stood up in defense of womenfolk against the same killer disease while committing her energies and resources to it. She dared to redefine the role and place of Nigerian women despite daunting dangers. And quite frankly, the way this illustrious Nigerian has managed Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria ( BRECAN) smacks of profound leadership capability.
That BRECAN, after consequential twenty years of efficient management, despite a very large scope and obvious challenges, remains sturdy and continues to score high goals, gives a definite statement about the difference women can make in leadership. And in her capacity as woman leader in Ondo State, using different effectual models, Betty has achieved a whole lot for women and girls with laurels dotting her dealings. Yet, she is doing this much to complement but not to compete with her husband.
Betty has given graphic examples of what a woman can do under the right economic and psychological climate. And she is investing in our girls to reach for the heights that great men reach. She deserves continuous applause from all and sundry. Her message is straight and simple, ‘to teach our daughters stand up for, and speak for themselves in a world that represses the voice of women.’ That way, the scary scourge of silencing women would begin to diminish and improve on the shape of our society.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu has kept an unfettered voice. Betty has raised her voice. A voice already reverberating even before her spouse become the governor of Ondo state. As she does, she is also helping to give volume to the voices of those relegated to the background among women. When she speaks, therefore, it is in favour of freedom. It should not be misconstrued. But if her guts is replacing the spelling of affront, then it is a new day!