Saadat Aliyu reminds us why we need to be intentional about preventing the erasure of women

On February 15, 2021 international news agency, Reuters attracted huge backlash after tweeting a piece announcing the election of former finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the DG of World Trade Organisation. Rightly so. 

The now-deleted tweeted, which Reuters replaced with an apology and a rephrased tweet, read: “No-nonsense Nigerian woman to be named boss in double first for WTO.” Many blamed misogynoir – a particular misogyny directed towards black women where the double bias of gender and race come to a head to erase black women. Because Reuters is an English news organisation, this is a plausible theory.

When the organisation is a Nigerian one – ChannelsTV in this case, the chips are easier to decode as many Twitter users easily did. ChannelsTV tweeted, “Kano Lady develops Android App for reporting rape cases.” The lady in reference is Sa’adat Aliyu.

The piece itself that is on ChannelsTV website reflects the name of Saadat Aliyu. The tweet on the other hand didn’t even try to make the effort and there in lie the problem.

The erasure of women in things as simple as a tweeted news headline announcing a commendable project used to be widely missed, and those who would point it out considered to be doing too much. The tides are however changing as the ruse continues to fall apart.

It is something else when the body doing the erasing can be dismissed as simply being racist, but when that card is not on the table and it becomes clear that it is simply misogyny, it makes it easier to face the root of all the evil women have to struggle against.

As noted in this earlier piece, it is not enough for women to excel at something, because often even when they excel the misogynist erasure of women’s achievements means that sometimes they only get their flowers in a roundabout way that tries to address everything but their greatness.

We know Sa’adat Aliyu thanks to the spirited collective advocacy of concerned Twitter users, which is to be expected on any good day. Considering this happened on International Women’s Day, it is especially poetic how swift the backlash has been.

Hopefully it leads to introspection, an apology and efforts to do better moving forward, and not just by this one organisation but by everybody reporting on women and the boundaries they have been breaking from the shadows of an almost deliberately malicious media.

Say her name works to keep the name of black women victims of police violence in the limelight in death. It needs to do more than that however. We must remain intentional about saying her name in life too.

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