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“Moving beyond the debate about women's role”
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“Moving beyond the debate about women's role”

Olajide Omojarabi

Some of the most inspiring figures in his life are women, writes Olajide Omojarabi, 25, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Zaria in Nigeria, yet it is a disturbing fact that issues of child marriage and violence towards women are still topics of debate. 

I recently caught a glimpse of an accident scene. It was a bright sunny Wednesday morning at about 11:30am.

I was on my way to the bank, directly opposite my campus, when a bus at a full speed smashed into three girls hawking, apparently trying to cross the road. Trays and cooked groundnuts littered the tarred road; the girls lay lifeless by the road side. The oldest could have been anything close to twelve years old. I didn’t stand by the scene. I couldn’t get myself to do that. Returning from the bank, however, the crowd that gathered to clear the rubble had dispersed. Two of the girls had died immediately; the third had been rushed to the hospital, critically injured.

I grew up seeing my mother work hard to help raise us when father was away on long trips. She worked in the catering centers of mining companies to keep up with the bills and provide us with some school needs. She ably represented father when he was away on official assignments. And so when I became old enough to read by myself, and discovered how much in the past women had been denied basic human rights to vote, to education and some decision-making, I was astounded. It is, however, amazing and disturbing that the issues of girl-child liberation and violence towards women still dominate our discourse in the contemporary world.

On March 7, President Barack Obama of the United States of America signed a bill that strengthened and authorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act ensures victims and survivors can continue to be provided the vital resources they deserve. While so-called developed countries like the US still grapple with the fact that women are no less than men, hence should not be abused and molested; Nigeria and other African countries are still enacting laws to prohibit teenage-girls prostitution, trafficking and hawking. Some norms and cultures in these countries still believe girls are not entitled to education; that they were born to help raise income for the families. It is therefore not surprising that when their counterparts were in school on that Wednesday morning, the three girls in Zaria met their untimely death by road accident.

Some of the people who helped inspire – and are still inspiring me in life – are women. First was my mother. Her doggedness and spirit to survive all odds taught me to be resolute and selfless in my pursuit. Then women writers, including Chimamanda Adichie, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neale Hurston to mention a few, helped immerse me in the art of writing with their subtle yet beautiful and simple artistry. I particularly find it interesting to read the works of women writers who, at the time when they were denied fundamental human rights, still wrote works of literature that chronicled their life, described cities where they were born and bred, and were willing to craft nature, people and places into a world of words. This was despite the subjugation suffered from their male counterparts.

Recently, an unhealthy debate emanated from Nigeria’s National House of Assembly regarding girl-child marriage. According to some senators who supported this bill, they wanted a law passed to support young girls—who had matured and regardless of their ages—to get married. This debate sparked a series of controversies from women activists and other human right activists, and is still raging. Girl-child marriage, in this modern time, is still a subject of debate when so many issues like poverty, insecurity, erratic power supply, corruption and dwindling education have penetrated our socio-economic and political fabrics.

If my mother, Zora, Virginia, Chimamanda, Maya and other women inspiring the world today with their creativity and hard work had been knocked down by a hit and run car as a child hawking, or sold into prostitution or married out as a child, would we still have a world spinning with colorful inspiration and ideas? I can’t stop wondering.

Women were not created as mistakes to occupy and fill spaces, neither were they created to simply satisfy some desires or be marginalized. Their achievements in the past, present and future to come are all proof that they were created not only to support men but also to ensure that the world keeps spinning with their love, knowledge, innovation and of course, beauty.

photo credit: IITA Image Library via photopin cc

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About me: I am an active, involved student. For two years I have been president of a student leadership organization called ENACTUS. Before university I was an on-air radio presenter for a live program that cuts across all areas of interest to Nigerian youths.
I look forward to being an expert in African studies, proffering solutions to Africa’s most raging problems through my intense interest in writing, community service and public speaking. Currently, I am a student of International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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