I am delighted to welcome you to this occasion –the celebration of the International Women’s Day. It is a day that calls to question the essence of life without justice. Justice for the part of humanity, the Female Gender, that has been described over time as ‘poor, pregnant and powerless’. This description is apt when one recalls the plight of women in conflict ridden parts of the world; who as victims of rape, they have high vulnerability to debilitating diseases, limited or no reproductive health rights, poor access to health care, bear the burden of care for legitimate and unwanted children among others. They are simply victims of violence, with attendant traumatic consequences.
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to imagine what happens to the girl-child that goes through these harsh experiences. Imagine that as a child, she becomes a mother. Imagine that she is denied parental care. Imagine that her access to education is truncated. Imagine that her life dreams and ambitions are shattered. Imagine her on the street, in the IDP camp or in captivity as a sex slave to her captors. We can go on and on.
Consider the plight of the African woman, in stable but deprived communities. Imagine that the African woman, with her little children, girls and boys have to wake up early and trek long distances to fetch water for household needs. Imagine that she has to fetch firewood from the forest to prepare meals for the household. Imagine that she has to return to the market arena, either as a petty trader, hawker or scavenger; to earn a little to contribute to the family economy. Imagine the hardship she goes through to send her child to school. Imagine the pains she goes through, as the plague of unemployment looms over her husband and educated children. The Gbagyi woman belongs here too.
But she has peculiar experiences. It is this woman that has borne the burden of the nation from Minna to Zungeru; from Jere to Kaduna; from Toto to Abuja since the formation of Nigeria. These places have geo-political relevance as seat of power either to the colonial or federal governments. The wood that she carries on her shoulders has now become her official complaint about balkanization and neglect. She is bewildered as successive governments have misapplied extant laws on land use, the federal character, resettlement, urban renewal to diminish her economic fortunes. It is this woman that lost her children to careless drivers on the palatial highways of Abuja as they returned home from school. She agonizes over the fact that she is told that in Abuja, her entire family does not have franchise for self-governance; she agonizes that there has been a longstanding conspiracy to block her access to means of production and national wealth. In her existential trauma, she cries out needs to be heard.
GIPI remains highly indebted to Ms Della Ilenre for her sensitivity to these issues and utilizing the opportunity offered by the Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st) to mobilize sponsorship for today’s event from the International Women’s Forum Peru. The case she made was for the Gbagyi Woman –the need to give her a voice. She was inspired by her late father, Pa Alfred Ilenre, may his soul rest in peace. GIPI met him briefly yet he left an indelible mark on us as a true nationalist. In addition, Della has a mentor, Titilope Akosa, Executive Director of C21st who has made invaluable contributions to the success of today’s event. We thank her most sincerely.
Prof. Andrew Zamani