International Women’s Day: Breaking limits

The hash tag theme of this 2021 international women’s day is so catchy, exigent and prompt. #choosetochallenge is what every woman should make her leitmotif, a driving force and motto of her life. It’s high time we stopped over pampering ourselves by just campaigning for women inclusion. We have to individually pull the bull by the horn, position ourselves as the indisposable gender that we are wired as, and take our rightful positions despite all obstacles, hindrances or resistance that could be in our ways.

Breaking the status quo is one barrier women have to independently break if we really want to be included in major positions, strategy or decision. I always believe there’s something special about the womenfolk that made nature chose them to be the sole carrier of pregnancy. Give it to them or not, the herculean and lone task of parturition is divinely designed for the most special and strongest gender, because they are naturally built to multitask; notwithstanding the circumstance they found themselves. Therefore, each woman should personally discover and exploit the extraordinary power wired in her to take charge of her life, position in her home, community, nation and across the globe.

The collective efforts of rectifying gender imbalances which are usually caused by deliberate gender bias such as unequal pay, sexual harassment, racism/tribalism has been since 28 February, 1908, when the first National Women’s Day was observed in the United States. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. However, the first milestone was in the United States in 1848, when women became disgruntled over their ban from speaking at an anti-slavery convention. This prompted Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott gather some women at their nation’s first women’s rights convention in New York. Together they demand civil, social, political and religious rights for women in a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. There and then, a movement was born.

Fast forward to 1977, the United Nations officially recognized the International Women’s Day and its first activity was the labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Meanwhile, celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th is strongly linked to the women’s movement during the Russian Revolution in 1917, and since then International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

The question now is how far has the collective effort and struggle for recognition worked for women? For too long women have been marginalized, discriminated and underrepresented in governance. In Nigeria for example, women constitute about 49.3% of the population (, yet women their inclusion in elective and appointive positions is drastically low at 6.7% (NBS), despite the National Gender Policy (NGP)’s 35% recommendation.

Therefore, individuals should make up their mind to help forge an equal world. Make yourself visible and positively loud enough for everyone to hear. This begins with your personality, believing in yourself, being bold, being a phenomenal woman, a woman of substance, an outstanding woman of virtue who believes she can and she will. The one not carried away by the euphoria of the fake social media life or the bizarre trend of nudity that has overshadowed the sense of decency in some young women of today. The one that is not blindfolded by her physical beauty or engrossed just in fashion and the vanity of being the so-called “slay queen” as many young women of nowadays parade themselves.

Going by the saying “heaven help those who help themselves, women have to answer the clarion call of self-discovery. We should ask ourselves the fundamental question of who we are, I mean ask yourself, who am I? This particular question will help you discover what has been programmed in you, through this you can uncover the purpose you are created to fulfill in life. In this programming lies your strength, and how powerful you are by being confident and comfortable in your own skin without feeling any complex no matter your background, colour or race.

Confidence is a trait every woman should possess if you want to break barriers. As a confident woman, you will want to feel accomplished as you would have discovered how tenacious you are and the kind of positive influence you can make in the world, starting from your family and your community. This we can achieve by exploring endless possibilities by spending time on worthy courses and important matters, but it is also very important to take breaks, breathe, and not overwhelm ourselves as we have to be conscious we are in no competition with no one but to always be better that who you were yesterday. Remember this can be possible by believing in you, being optimistic and remaining positive against all odds.

Choosing a role model wisely is another way that can help a woman become a better version of herself. A good role model is someone who is always positive, calm, knowledgeable, humble and confident in themselves. People that are achieving and positively making impacts in their own lives and in others. They are of good morals, hardworking, respectable with a defined sense of purpose, yet continue to strive for bigger and better objectives. However, you should remember that role models have their shortcomings, therefore we will focus on the part of them that prompt us to be a better person. Do not be afraid to be unique, outstanding, and influential, a refined version of your role model, making waves across the globe. Imagine anyone who chooses a Ngozi Okonjo Iweala or a Michelle Obama, an Ibukun Awosika, an Abike Dabiri, a Funke Akindele, a Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a Kamala Harris, a Sahle-Work Zewde, or perhaps your Mum, sister or even Neighbour. Remember your role model doesn’t have to be someone on Wikipedia, Forbes or on google, rather she should be someone with a clear vision that you look upto to bring out the best in you.

This makes you challenge yourself to overlook the assumption of impossibilities, ignore the myth of seeing a woman as a weak vessel, therefore planting yourself and firmly rooted in whatever field you want; be it politics, science, business, agriculture, technology, leadership, banking, entertainment, engineering, architecture, activism, manufacturing, humanitarianism, journalism and more.

Collaborate and leverage, research, speak up, ask the right questions, make enquiries, read widely, mix, push yourself but do not break. Do not compete but be outstanding. Do things differently to get unique results, be focused, proactive and humble. Believe in yourself, commend yourself, evaluate your progress, accept your mistakes, innovate new ideas, challenge yourself, set goals, motivate others, be happy for people, celebrate yourself, have fun when necessary, refine yourself, do not be static, be optimistic, and know that it is not over until it is over

Unlike the regular motivational speakers, I put it to you that there will be challenges as life itself is not a smooth race, but don’t make these challenges overshadow your set goals. Dear modern woman, be visible, be heard, be known, be informed, be impactful and influential, explore, dominate, champion courses, be outstanding and challenge the status quo. Be proud to be phenomenal, born to rule.

I celebrate you today, Dear woman. Happy International Woman’s Day.

Dewunmi Tijani is a journalist and women advocate who runs SOWI Foundation, an NGO based in Ibadan, Oyo state.

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