#IWD2021 Special: ‘I choose to challenge you’

by Tolu Akintaro

The day is March 8th. Every major organisation rolled out their best graphics for Women’s Day, others posted pictures of women raising a hand, Choosing to Challenge. While others used this spectacular day to remind us why we need to have a conversation on women rights. From webinars to symposiums, it seems there’s a yearly template we all use.

The meetings and long conversations have become a yearly phenomenon. However, I often wonder that after the brouhaha of posting pictures and trending for a day, what’s next? How have these graphics and these photos for social media made a lasting difference?

Between the year we choose to pledge to parity and now, we still have reported a rise in female genital mutilation, rape cases (especially in minors), harassment in the workplace, spousal abuse… the list is endless.

We have had sisters, mothers and friends lose their joy and worth struggling to survive a pandemic while ensuring the daily horrors of being female in Nigeria. But it seems we are moving in a merry go round.

So this year, I choose to challenge us all to go beyond the pictures and graphics on social media – because one, it’s cliche and two, there’s more to be done.

I challenge us to sincerely look out for the other woman, to never choose to be silent, but seek justice when we hear another woman or girl has been raped, to financially, emotionally and physically support the young woman you know who needs help with positioning her business.

To stretch out that same hand we raised in those pictures for the lady who lost her job during this pandemic (as against telling her ‘e go better’), we can palm her up again and show her how amazing she is, and nudge her to try again.

Dear men, I choose to challenge you to never look away when a woman around you is assaulted, harassed at work or while she peacefully walks home. I hope that you would let women around you have opinions. Opinions you would not feel emasculated by.

I hope you would give that woman a chance to prove herself. Not because you want to fill a status quo or because your mind has had a magnetic print of her body but because she is intelligent and capable of getting the job done.

I choose to challenge you to say something and do something when
your friends slut shame women. I challenge you to report that friend of yours to the necessary authorities when you discover his wife has become a human boxing bag.

And to you reading this, I challenge you to raise your right hand again and say:

“From this moment on, I choose to do the best I can to see women (mention the women that come to your mind) succeed. I choose to protect her and be kind to her. And in the event that she informs me of being battered, harassed, raped or deprived of her rights, I would not keep still. Not on my watch.”

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