A Tribute To Uncelebrated Heroic Women
Women experience unique challenges in life such as sexual exploitation, cultural biases, societal prejudices and home based challenges. As a woman, you must strive to overcome these odds, but most importantly, hold the hands of those in disadvantaged positions. By Dr. Joan Gathungu
The international women’s day is a celebration of women’s role in mankind. It is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. According to the UN, it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.
As such, each woman ought to be celebrated for their role in society on this special day – for their role in economic development, family perpetuation, cultural integration, political endeavors and generally, societal balance and progress.
Over the years, the day has focused on women who seem to be flying high, those who occupy senior positions and notable positions in society. This, however, goes against the spirit of the day, a celebration of the role women play in society, regardless of their position.
The UN approach is my basis for celebrating all the unspoken heroes. The woman hawking on the streets of Nairobi, the waiter in a five star hotel who does not see her ascension path towards becoming the first general manager in that hotel, the Member of County Assembly (MCA) in the Kenyan village who believes she could become the first woman president in Kenya, the day care attendant who may be caregiving to the next generation’s biggest innovator, and even the woman who has given up her workplace dreams to keep her home as a full time job!
This uncelebrated woman is my heroine today. For keeping the economy going, for nurturing tomorrow’ s labour, by building a strong family unit, for instilling values into our next generation, for representing Wanjiku against all odds, for making the critical decision to sacrifice her dreams for her family’s tomorrow, and for risking her security and safety to put food on the table day by day.
I am reminded of a young lady who served me for a period of two weeks in a leading hotel at the coast in my last refresher programmes. She greeted me each day with a big, warm smile. She made sure I was comfortable and ready to serve my nation through sharing new trends and knowledge with participants. I, however, noted that she worked from early morning till late. This piqued my curiosity about her life and work schedule. Did she have family? Did she get time with her children? Did she have a house help? How was the family front holding up? She took time to explain to me that as a single mother, the job she was doing was critical. It put food on her family’s table. She had big dreams for her children, and yes she often dashed home when she had a break to try catch a glimpse of her children and yes she still had her own dreams.
Today’s tribute is to this young lady, and many others like her. Those who keep the torch alight! Those who keep the fire burning. The ladies who are breaking their backs for the families, employers and society.
As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, mine is to appeal to employers to provide a work environment that meets the needs of women working for them. For some, it is safety as they go home late, for others it is special facilities to nurse or even to take care of small children. Some need opportunities to realize their dreams, yet for others, it is a chance to lead the society to the next level of success.
All women occupy a special place in society. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, workers, mentors, leaders and countless other titles. We are stronger today because trail blazers like our mothers, our teachers, Wangu wa Makeri, Mekatilili, Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris, Martha Karua and Charity Ngilu among others have lit our path. We have seen their ups and downs, and because of them, we are stronger.
Challenges make us stronger
These women have demonstrated to us that challenges are an integral part of a woman’s life. Challenges make us stronger and brighter, it is part of the journey. As women, we experience unique challenges along the way such as sexual exploitation, cultural biases, societal prejudices and home based challenges. As a woman, you must strive to overcome these odds, but most importantly hold the hands of those in more disadvantaged positions to grow.
My challenge to all women in positions of authority is: make lives better for other women and for society. Give your house help better working terms, become more of a mentor to younger ladies at the place of work, set leading examples to your daughters, participate more in decision making, influence the quality of programmes done wherever you are and be the reason others’ lives get better.
As we celebrate this day, let’s remember that tomorrow is better because of the decision you make today as a woman!
Joan J. W. Gathungu (PhD) is a Mother and Educationist whose mission is impacting young lives.