Today, all over the world, we celebrate Women’s Day and perhaps one might ask; what does it feel like to be a woman? If you are a woman, this question is for you. Woman! Has it ever occurred to you that the world is incomplete without you? God’s creation was incomplete until He created you.
“The Lord God said: it is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helper suited for him.” Genesis 1:18. Help mate indeed, although not in the patriarchal sense of subjugation of women. Woman! Pope Pius XII calls you “The crown of creation and in a certain sense its masterpiece… that gentle creature to whose delicate the hands of God seems to have entrusted the future of the world… the expression of all that is best, kindest, most lovable here below.” Woman! You are the epitome of God’s beauty.
“Nwanyi bu ihe” (A woman is priceless) that was my grandma’s native name. The name resonates the nature of most women that I have encountered in the course of my work as a Sister of Charity, which goes, beyond my current work at Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) Ibadan, Nigeria. In this part of the world as in some other places, once you are born a girl, you carry with you certain aura of deep responsibility for the family.
The family grooms the girl child into womanhood even from the earliest childhood. In most cases it is the mother’s job to ensure that the girl child is not found wanting in this regard. “Sit like a woman, “behave like a woman that is marriageable” is a common language in the family (we know this is more than just being prepared for marriage). The girl child even has to learn to smile, laugh, walk, talk like a woman. The emphasis that children do not grow like plant but are raised up, is majorly applied in raising the girl child. Thus, our work with women encompasses special attention to the girl child.
Nature behooves you, woman, to nurture life; the society expects you to give it meaning. Such that if a child misbehaves people would ask, “did she suckle her mother’s breast?” When the child displays good behavior, we hear things like, “your mama born you well.” Yes, these expectations are the realities of our time and the society.
Some women take in these expectations hook line and sinker such that their lives rotate around these demands. Many endure hardship, all manner of abuse in marriages just to keep their homes together. Others however have learnt how to assert themselves. The latter is our wish for every woman, thus, at JDPC Ibadan, in all ramifications we strive to challenge the women we encounter and work with to greatness, by helping them to reclaim and live fully with their God-given human dignity intact. We do this through seminars and trainings on relevant issues that affect women; such as human right, peace education, counselling and rescue of abused women and children. In the light of celebrating International Women’s Day, JDPC Ibadan will host Zoom Summit titled “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal Future in COVID-19 World. The summit will feature female leaders and advocates of the rights of women. As one of the speakers in the capacity of Caritas, Desk Officer JDPC, I will highlight the role of women in leadership and how such tasks will foster greater equality in the society.
Generally, women are resilient, courageous, industrious and highly committed to keeping the homes together. I have encountered different categories of women, many of whom I found very inspiring; some are great models of life enduring values. Many of them are go-getters, these group of women are the breadwinners of the family; in some cases, they double as mother and father in those homes where the men of the house for whatever reason are ‘invisible.’ Some engage in more than one or two jobs to meet these demands. Through thick and thin, they continue to excel and contribute largely to a better society. They are also women who are advocates, we find them mostly in our network groups together we fight for the right of the oppressed, lobby with government to assuage the suffering of the people, render pro bono services for those who have no means of fighting to write injustice meted on them.
It is an aberration therefore, when any woman in any form acts against this standard. It is like acting against nature. Early this year we intervened and rescued a child that was abandoned, sadly by a woman. One can only wonder what went wrong.
It is indeed a disaster for everyone if anything goes wrong with any woman; humanity suffers. The neglect and exclusion of women in significant sectors of the society, community and even in the home may explain some of the calamity we have in our world today. To save everyone, everyone has to be concerned about bringing out the best in every woman; hence, with Chimamanda Adichie we invite everyone to be feminist. Invest in women, do not see them as threat but, collaborators, and protect their rights. Nurture her and you can be sure that every other life will be nurtured; then, we can all go to sleep with our two eyes closed.
Sr. Augustina Offor RSC