By Amatesiro Dore
- There was a mad man. His sanity was unquestioned, untreated and permitted to flourish in a world of misogyny and male chauvinism. On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine segregated men from women in a class of engineering undergraduates (killing fourteen women and injuring four men) at the École Polytechnique, in what became known as the Montreal Massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
- There was a crazy man. He uprooted teachings from his anus and kidnapped a community of school girls on the night of the fourteenth into the morning of the fifteenth of April, 2014, to service his army of religious ignoramuses, to serve as bargaining chip with a callous government, and as a childbearing factory of extremist views. Since then 276 Chibok girls have lived in captivity, religiously converted under duress, brainwashed, raped and abused; some escaped while some were released in batches like sheep without rights, without dreams of their own and without a say on how to live their own lives. After all, they are just women, girls without connections, daughters of powerless men and women without the resources to protect their children from a world where the lack of a straight white penis is a lack of privileges.
- There are some quiet men. Some of them are very polite respecters of traditions and the status quo. Sometimes they get angry and they beat their wives, lesser beings according to their faith and cultures. As a result of their quietness and lack of words, they use blows and punches, some pour acid on their wives and girlfriends, some claim to be provoked into violence yet they will never hit a police officer, or a fellow man…they only beat women and those they claim to love.
There are some quiet men who are sick in the head and can never use words to solve a quarrel. They only understand sticks and stones.
- There is a mad man in a white house. He loves God, takes good care of his daughters, grabs the genitals of helpless women, discontinued the sponsorship of women’s health programmes, will not provide funds to organisations that respect the rights of women and will never condemn the rise of the ultra-right racists in his country. However, he was duly elected and supported by God-fearing people in a society that claims to safeguard and protect the rights of women. A lot of good people voted for this man; good people who choose to look away when bad things happen to women because that’s just the way it is. We live in a world where bad things happen to women and some good people do nothing about it.
- There is a mad house where girls are not allowed to use their brain. Education is forbidden and early marriage is encouraged in order to keep women ignorant, docile and unimaginative. They say that’s the way God has called us to live. Yet the children of educated parents do better than theirs. Societies where women are guaranteed their basic rights and freedoms are prospering at a higher rate. But no, they will not agree. In a mad house, insanity is the norm.
- There are some women who will not agree. Women who refuse to continue with the status quo. Women who resist; say no and disagree with their societies. Women who rose up and marched. Women who insisted on getting an education. Women who wanted more than a good husband and fine children. Women who decided to use their brains irrespective of societal restrictions and religious stipulations. Some women woke up, one morning, and said enough is enough!
- There are some women who reject labels. Women who demand equal rights and justice. Yet they do not want to be called feminists irrespective of the fact that feminism is just a word that actually describes their worldview. However, be it feminism or the rejection of such labels, some women just want to be free and equal members of society. Is that too much to ask?
- After the mad man of Montreal massacred women in the name of “fighting feminism”, what do you think happened? Women folded their arms and cried to bed? No! Women took action and demanded equality from society. The movement was galvanised and it culminated into the revolutionary Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace convened by the United Nations from the fourth to fifteen of September, 1995, in Beijing, China. It brought about the Beijing Declaration, a resolution adopted by the United Nations to promulgate a set of principles concerning the equality of men and women. No, a mad man cannot stop the advancement of women’s rights. Not even his bullets can stop them.
- What about the Chibok Girls? Ever heard of Bring Back Our Girls and how the leaders of the campaign to return the Chibok girls withstood teargas, government intimidation and national blackmail to seek the release of the kidnapped school girls?
- What about the youngest Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, and the bullets of the Taliban. What were they thinking: bullets would stop women from getting educated? The movement for women’s rights and equality are littered with gender based violence and masculine intimidation. Nevertheless, woke (awoken) women of the world continue to push back and reclaim lost territories in terms of rights and freedoms.
- And after many struggles and activism, women can drive in Saudi Arabia.
- This is why we advocate, awake and educate the world for sixteen days. From 25 November to 10 December, 2017, you will hear them, see them and testify of the exploits, gains and strengths of a woman.
- This year, the theme of our 16 days of activism is “Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education”.
- At the International Centre for Sexual Reproductive Rights in Minna, Niger State, our Hajara Usman Girls Leadership Training Programme continues to build and empower a generation of girls free from the shackles of religious, cultural and societal abuses. We are proactive in our approach. Mentoring school girls before toxic patriarchy infringes on their rights. And we are educating boys into becoming better men than their fathers and predecessors.
- Through our Parents Teachers Forum, we are educating and training teachers in our secondary schools, in Minna, on how to respect and protect the rights of girls and women. Cases of gender based violence in our educational sector have been curtailed to the barest minimum and offenders have been made to face the law and account for their trespasses.
- We also support the European Union and United Nations Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls; the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign; and all other global initiatives in commemoration of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence.
Together, we can change the world and safeguard the rights and freedoms of girls and women.