March 8th 2018 marked the 42nd Women’s day in Ethiopia. The role of women in our country has been fairly muted compared to their male counter parts. They have been undervalued for their importance, underappreciated for their efforts and underestimated for their potential. Of course this is prone to exceptional instances, where women have been acknowledged and championed. But that has not been the case for most women who deserved the accolade coming their way.
About a month ago, a close friend of mine told me she doesn’t want to be labeled as feminist. “Whenever I say something about women or that we should get something in return to whatever we give, they label me as a Feminist. And I don’t like that term. It has this uncomfortable tone which is ineffable”, she said. “Well, I’ll tell you what that feeling is. It is the sense of marginalization, a sense of taking a side and neglecting the other end.”, I said to her. She nodded in agreement. In an attempt to escape the “heavy negative baggage”, as she describes it, the renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie narrowed the term and at one time called herself a Happy African Feminist, who doesn’t hate men, who likes lip-gloss and who wears high heels for herself and not for men. This is the existing narrative.
Feminism, however is never a one sided concept. Yes, it does speak about the rights of women being protected. Yes, it does speak about women having an equal opportunity as men. But it never proposed dismissing men. It fights to end the oppression and suppression of women and to allow them to speak their truth, to laud their arguments and harness their potential. The international women’s day has been doing one hell of a job in getting the message across the globe. But the narrative, despite encouraging progress, still remains disappointingly perverse. Women are still subject to discrimination based on their sex, are still subject to violence (both physical and psychological) and are subject to lack of education. This is the 21st century, that shouldn’t be happening.
I have always been in favor of acknowledging our women and their achievements. Side to side with, however, there are women who are in need of our help, who still struggle from various societal narrative. There are women who struggle from fully expressing themselves, who struggle from speaking about the damages done to them by men (because the society will vilify them instead of the perpetrators), who struggle for access to education, work, opportunity to decide by themselves for themselves. These women need our help more. The work in our hands is never enough until there are no women who suffer from such institutional deficiencies.
Women, like my dear friend, who are afraid of being called “A Feminist” must not feel as such due to common misconception. I am a proud feminist, because I believe in the idea it stands for. The idea of giving women equal chance, what is not there to support. And for all feminists out there, you must be crystal clear, being a feminist doesn’t mean being against men. It means you stand up for your rights and what you believe in.
Here it is also worth mentioning that, women who have made it to the top (it doesn’t only have to be women who are rich, famous or owners of businesses, but also women who have fulfilled their dreams, who have succeeded in achieving their life goals) have the duty to help as well. They are people whom our youngsters draw inspiration from. Go out and talk to girls and women who feel overwhelmed by their societies, speak out and tell your story of success. It is your duty to make sure that the coming generation doesn’t suffer from societal and institutional bias. That way you’ll dwarf any obstacle that comes gunning for our young generation. That way you can change and write a new narrative.