When I was seventeen, I got a job as a telephone salesperson of ink cartridges. The worst thing about the job was that I was so good at it. I was promoted and was eventually earning a serious lot of money.
I don’t know what made me a successful ink cartridge seller but I use the example to say that in a similar way I can’t fully explain why I feel good at being a woman, I just do.
What I do know how to explain is why International Women’s Day means a lot to me – it is the day that women collectively celebrate the full meaning of woman-ness in a profound, rounded, powerful, holistic and elemental way. It is also the day that we shed tears over the way that the world treats women. Today is the day when, more than any other, I viscerally understand that women’s attitudes towards life on earth, our perceptions of power and how it should be used and protected, our anti-patriarchal, anti-oppression attitude, is what keeps this world turning without loosing the very purpose of life, namely to live. Most of all, today is the day that reminds me of all the foremothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and revolutionary women that have brought the world one step closer to ending the politics of hostility.
Below are voices of African women bloggers who answered the question:
What does women’s day mean to you?
Women’s day is an opportunity for me to reflect on the socio-political struggles and achievements of women, particularly African women. It is also an opportunity for me to take a personal inventory and make sure I am honoring my pledge to self to use my gift of advocacy to continue to lend a voice to the voiceless, particularly African women.
International women’s day is an extension of a celebration that I uphold daily. It’s a commemoration of the strong women of our past, who fought to pave the way for the courageous women in our present, who are actively influencing the soon-to-be women of our future. This day, and everyday, I look forward to celebrating the progress we have made, while bearing in mind the journey that lies ahead.
International Women’s Day is a great initiative to acknowledge women globally, but I fear that it has become a calendar date where we rush to hold events without really interrogating core issues at play. With the themes changing annually, it’s almost like we have a ‘pick and choose’ menu for issues, without acknowledging the chronic nature of problems and their specificity to different localities.
We are currently in the African Women’s Decade for 2010-20, but how well are we linking this decade’s demands to commemorations of International Women’s Day, Rural Women’s Day, Day of the Girl Child and 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence? Are the budget lines invested into grand events and commemorations the best use of resources?
We need to have open discussions about these questions and concerns.
Nana Sekyiamah, blogger at the Adventures from the bedrooms of African women
Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women all around the world. This includes the opportunities created for us by our feminist ancestors. At the same time, Women’s Day is a reminder of how far we have to journey for women’s equity worldwide.
Funke, blogger at Dynamic Africa
Women’s Day is an opportunity not only to celebrate the incredible contributions women and trans-women both in Africa and the world all over have made through the course of history, but to also use the platforms created by this occasion to raise awareness, in whatever way, to the continuous struggles and daily battles that women and trans-women from all walks of life continue to face and fight against.
March 8th is a day to re-ignite peoples consciousness to the importance of women and trans-women as pivotal pillars of society, as well as draw attention to the destructive systematic structures that facilitate the oppression and marginalization of women and trans-women. Women’s Day is a call to action not to be limited by the 24-hour time frame of a single day, but a continuing of the unfinished efforts and battles of days past.
Elsie Eyakuze, blogger at The Mikocheni Report
Really, women’s day should be a public holiday so that we can all celebrate womanhood. There is so much to celebrate about being a woman that when I finally came across International Women’s Day it made perfect sense. Doubtlessly this is an extension of my experience at an all-women’s college, where everything was designed to support and celebrate my gender.
Of course from an activist and feminist perspective I appreciate the opportunity that it provides to highlight important matters that affect women directly. This is a bit depressing to be frank, since the job demands a focus on the pathological aspects of gender relations. And for that reason, I tend to resent the idea that one day a year is sufficient to cram such important work into. I prefer to embrace the entire month of March for this kind of work where possible, it is the least I could do.
That said, there is a deliciousness, a goodness, a rightness and a beauty to being a woman that can get lost under the dross of daily life and the struggles that come with it. My celebration goes beyond notions of the sacred feminine, or anything political or spiritual. Frankly, it is physical-animal delight in this form of being combined with the kinship-feeling with others sort-of-like me. One day a year to luxuriate in what I enjoy about being a woman is welcome.
Conversely, I must confess that I look forward to International Men’s Day. There are times when my inner masculine energy grumbles a bit about neglect, and no political discussions about patriarchy will quiet it. And I do believe in balance. Until we can make it to International People’s Day, it’ll be just fine by me to celebrate genders in the spirit of giving joy for being alive and human in the first place. But for this week it’ll just be us women. I look forward to it.
Lesley Agams, blogger at MzAgams
International Women’s Day reminds me of the discrimination that women still face globally and our ongoing vulnerability to male aggression and violence. It’s a day to renew my personal commitment to feminism and the struggle for women’s liberation worldwide because until all women are liberated I cannot claim to be. It is a day to remember, recognise and honor the great work being done by women all over the world to change conditions for us and for their daughters and their sisters. The fact that we celebrate International Women’s Day means that I have to fight harder and resist more the efforts to keep me and other women relegated and silent in the background.
N. Amma Twum-Baah, blogger at Afrikan Goddess Magazine
It was my junior year in college, the year I identified as a feminist. Before then, I knew I felt a silent rage at the stories I heard being repeated over and over again of women’s suffering. And I knew that I had grown up with a silent resentment of my own that I inherited from home, Ghana. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on what to call this sense of injustice I felt.
Finally, it came to me in a political science class. I stumbled upon women’s rights violations in a historical context – from the practice of footbindng to the women’s suffrage movement – and I was astounded by what I found. Before the abuses of women in Afghanistan and India, there had been even greater violations of women that dated back centuries. I started to dig deeper and the more I did, the more vocal I became about the resentment I felt about the injustices. That’s when I became a moderate feminist.
International Women’s Day holds a special meaning for me because after placing an identity and name to my silent rage and confusion, this day assures me that I am not alone in the common fight for justice. It means that I get to focus on how far we’ve come as women. And while things have truly changed for the better, the fight is far from over. The fact that women can come together to celebrate wonderful achievements such as women presidents, women vice presidents, women parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, and millionaires gives me a sense of great pride and hope. As an African woman, I’m exceptionally glad to witness the positive changes on the continent and beyond. We have two women presidents on the continent. We have a woman heading the African Union Commission. We have women vice presidents, high court judges, and an African woman as the wealthiest woman in the world.
Personally, I think African women are on a roll, but the fight is far from over. Cultural and religious battles are still being waged against us, and we must continue to fight to rid ourselves of these barriers that hinder our full rise.
Spectra, blogger at SpectraSpeaks
Women’s Day reminds me of my mother–her life-long dedication to advocating for women who were often excluded and forgotten: widows, orphans with disabilities, adolescent girls. Hence, on Women’s Day every year, I find myself reflecting on the word “woman,” wondering who among us is (still) being forgotten. Is the African women’s movement working to end violence against all women–transgender women, lesbians, tomboys/gender non-conformists like me? Or are we still clinging to a narrow, heterosexist idea of African womanhood?
When I remember how my mother celebrated Women’s Day–as part of a community of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of African women, dressed in bright colors, often laughing and dancing, holding hands–I think about how many African lesbians have been evicted from their sister circles, how many transgender women have never experienced unguarded female friendship. Women’s Day inspires me to keep writing my story so that my African sisters can get to know me, and to keep advocating for queer Africans like me who are still fighting–not just for women’s “rights” but for women’s community, sisterhood, Love.
Women’s Day should be a reminder to all of us to keep advocating for each other’s right to love and be loved, even long after we’ve found sisterhood.
Adiya, blogger at Muse Origins
To me, Women’s Day is about two things – recognition and celebration. Despite all the progress that has been made in achieving equality for women, things are moving too slowly. There are still too few women in leadership positions; way too many women are still being abused in their domestic homes; too many women are being paid less at work; and definitely way too many women make up the statistics when we talk about poverty. I feel that Women’s Day is a good way to bring all these to the forefronts of people’s minds, both men and women. Sometimes in the humdrum of daily life, we forget what women the world over are going through. This day, we remember.
I hope that as we remember this day in years to come, we will remember more and more, until we never forget. But at the same time, it is necessary that we use this day to celebrate the success stories that women have had and encourage us to do even more to achieve our goal of equality for all.
Wishing you a happy women’s day!
What does it mean to you?
Hi! I’m Minna Salami. I’m a writer, blogger, columnist, lecturer and speaker and the founder of the feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, which connects feminism to contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective. I’ve been listed alongside Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie as one of “twelve women changing the world” by ELLE and my work has been used as a resource and case study at universities around the world. Like what you just read? Sign up above to receive new posts directly in your inbox.