By Ebuka Ukoh
The March 8 celebration of women is an occasion to give flowers to Nigerian women who contribute to our world and fly our flag high. International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated annually as a focal point in the women’s rights movement, highlighting issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. For this year’s edition, I am giving flowers to Amina Mama and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Amina Mama, a Nigerian-British writer, is one woman who plays a prominent role in the women’s rights movement. Mama is a feminist scholar, activist, and founding member of the Nigerian Feminist Forum. She has dedicated her career to promoting gender equality and advocating women’s rights in Nigeria and Africa.
Mama was born in Nigeria in 1958; she spent much of her childhood in the United Kingdom. She earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of London and taught at universities in Nigeria, Britain, and the United States. Mama has written extensively on feminist theory, gender and development, and women’s rights, and her work has been published in numerous academic journals and edited volumes.
In addition to her academic work, Mama has been vocal about women’s rights and gender equality. She has worked with several organisations, including the African Women’s Development Fund, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights. Mama has also been involved in advocacy to end violence against women, including serving as the founding director of the African Women’s Leadership Institute, which provides training and support to women leaders across the continent.
Mama’s contributions to the women’s rights movement are widely recognised. In 2015, she won the African Studies Association’s Distinguished Africanist Award; in 2016, she received the Ruth Benedict Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association. Mama continues to champion women’s rights. Her work inspires women and girls across Nigeria and beyond.
The second woman of substance is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is one Nigerian woman who needs little introduction. She plays a role globally and deserves recognition for her hard work. She is an economist, development expert, and the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Born in Nigeria in 1954, Okonjo-Iweala holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has held various leadership positions in the World Bank, including Vice President and Managing Director, and has served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister.
Okonjo-Iweala’s achievements as an economist and development expert are numerous. She has played a role in debt relief negotiations for developing countries, helped to establish the African Development Bank’s gender mainstreaming strategy, and led efforts to combat corruption in Nigeria. She also strongly advocates increasing access to education and healthcare in developing countries.
In 2021, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as the WTO Director-General, becoming the first woman and African to hold the position. In this role, she has prioritised efforts to promote inclusive and sustainable trade, support small and medium-sized enterprises, and improve the participation of women and developing countries in global trade.
Okonjo-Iweala’s contributions to global development and trade are widely recognised. She has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and in 2021, Time magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People. Her work inspires women and girls in Nigeria and elsewhere, and she truly deserves her flowers as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.
Five years ago this week, the team Save A Soul, comprising five brilliant girls: Jessica Osita, Promise Nnalue, Adaeze Onuigbo, Nwabuaku Ossai, and Vivian Okoye represented Nigeria and Africa and won the gold medal at the World Technovation Challenge in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, the US. The girls developed the “FD-Detector”, an app that combats the menace of fake drugs in Nigeria. These young prodigies represent the future. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing, I am ROOTING FOR THEM.
Ebuka Ukoh is a Master of Social Work degree candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work