OUR WOMEN, OUR PARTNERS

I grew up being told the story of how my grandfather did not take too kindly to
the thought of sending my mother to school. His words, according to what I was
told were, ‘what is the point sending a girl child to school when she will only end
up in the kitchen?’
My mother was an intelligent child. She still displays those traits even now in her
advanced years. She wanted to make something of herself as a scholar. But the
stigma around the girl child in those days proved a temporary obstruction.
I do not blame my grandfather, and I am sure my mother did not have any ill
feelings towards him later on. After all, she was vindicated by what she managed
to achieve later in life.
She and her father went on to have a good father/daughter relationship at the
time we were growing up, and it showed that all was forgiven.
But that was the stigma of the mid-20th century in Africa – a clear distaste for the
female gender doing well for themselves independently.
It still exists till this day, in many ways and in some cases, a lot closer to you and
I than we actually are prepared to admit.

So when we were growing up, and we were witnesses to the rise of people like
Indira Gandhi in India, Margaret Thatcher becoming the first female British
Prime Minister and the few other women who rose in a predominantly man’s
world to make history in those days, we could not but marvel.
It was good to see the glamour that went with their positions, but I am sure they
have had stories to tell about the challenges they faced to get to those heights.
It could not have been easy.


Today in the football world, there are only TWO females that occupy the position
of President of their country’s football associations. TWO!
One of them I know very well, and her struggles over the past 6 years have been
on my radar, and I have had to talk to her and give her encouragement many a
time.
There are 209 football federations in the world and only in two have we found
leaders that are women.
As it happens in the football world, so I am sure it happens in many other
sectors.
We have seen some powerful and impactful women in our time. And this piece is
a tribute to them, and to the challenges they have faced over the years.

People talk about gender equality, and we raise a lot of dust about it. Our women
in sport want equal recognition, equal pay and equal treatment.
Our politicians want to be given the chance to lead regardless of gender. In the
corporate world, women want to be treated based on what they bring to the
table professionally and not by who they are.
Maybe we should start, not with an agenda of equality, but one of awareness and
respect.

The message is for us all – to look more closely at the merits of what is in front of
us rather than the gender of who puts it in front of us. To be able to address our
female colleagues at work the same way as we would address a male colleague. To
appreciate what our female peer does the same way as we would do a male one.
To reward the service that we receive in our various endeavours regardless of
gender.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must pay a tribute to the women
who have stood firm and overcome the odds and excelled. We must pay tribute
to the culture and societies that have embraced womenfolk totally and
unequivocally.
Most women do not want pity. They do not want preferential treatment. They do
not want the soft response to them being ‘the weaker sex’. They want to be seen,
heard and respected for what they have to offer and that is the crux of this
message – to show awareness and respect to every individual regardless of
gender.
We must therefore reflect on ourselves and task ourselves on what we do and
how we treat the womenfolk. Today is a day to reflect, to celebrate the ones who
have done well, and to encourage those who have a lot to offer but have been
stifled by fear and apathy.