A former Zimbabwean Vice President, Dr. Joice Mujuru and a former First Lady of Liberia, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, have urged women to brace themselves for top political and corporate leadership role instead of resigning to the fate of weaker sex tag.
The two leading African women were the special guests of honour at the opening of the 2017 National Women’s Summit, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Wednesday.
The three-day annual summit, which was themed, “The resilient woman: making a difference,” was organised by the Officials’ Wives’ Association (OYSOWA), under the auspices of the wife of Oyo State Governor, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi.
The event, which attracted more than 1,000 delegates across the country, was also graced by four Governors: Mr. Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos State), Mr. Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State) and their host, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
On hand to lend support to one of their own were the wives of the governors of Lagos, Enugu, Abia, Osun, Imo, Delta, Nasarawa, Edo, Ogun , Kebbi and Zamfara States; while those of Sokoto, Ondo and Ekiti States were represented.
Mujuru, who delivered a keynote address, urged women to stop placing themselves at the mercy of men, urging them to brace themselves for the challenges of leadership at the top echelon of all spheres of human endeavours.
She said that her emergence as the first female vice president of Zimbabwe in 2004, a position she held for ten years, did not come on a platter of gold, having been in the trenches with the Zimbabwean liberators since 1973.
According to her, women must be inspired to rise to the occasion even when the challenge appeared to be daunting and insurmountable.
She said, “We must have the desire to make a positive transformational difference and not be satisfied by being helpers of men. We must run business and be leaders of nation not rulers.
“Our desire must not only be about making monies, but the difference we make in people’s lives. The major driver behind our positive transformation must be anchored on our ability to implement a unique vision, which must arouse the consciousness of the African society.
“We cannot continue to play a second fiddle simply because of gender. We must rise to the occasion. We should no longer accept the tag of a weaker sex.”
In her address, Howard-Taylor, who is a ranking senator and running mate to the presidential candidate the Coalition for Democratic Change, Mr. George Weah, in the Liberian presidential election, also echoed similar sentiments.
She said, “Women are currently in difficult circumstances across our world and especially, in Africa; as we struggle to deal with issues of violence against women, unequal opportunity and lack of economic opportunities.
“Resilience is a life journey. I dare not say that it is something you wake up in the morning and you have. But you have to go through the fire and get better and become a more resilient person. There is something you can do now in your shape your life.
“Women must tell their own stories to inspire those who think they cannot make it to the top. Seek help when you need it. You will be surprised that many people will be willing to help. We must mentor the next generation of women leaders.
“If you put woman in a position of authority, you have put somebody in charge of maternal mortality, you have put somebody in charge of emancipation of women; you have put somebody in charge of campaign against violence and other vices against women and children.
“In a 30-member Liberian Senate, I was just one of the only three women. There is this particular guy that was constantly my harasser each time I made attempt to speak, all because my husband was a former president. But, one day I decided to square up against him and that was the day I gained freedom from him.”
In their separate addresses, Ajimobi, Dickson, Ambode and Aregbesola said that women had pivotal roles to play in the development of the country.
They stressed that men would find it difficult to change the society without the support of women.
The chief hostess of the event, Mrs. Ajimobi, said that the conference was initiated in 2012 to support the state government’s three-point agenda of restoration, transformation and repositioning of the state to its pacesetter status.
Annually, she said that OYSOWA assembles women for the conference to prepare them for the challenges of life and position them to be in good stead to support their families; while she said it was also an avenue to recognize women achievers.
Ajimobi said, “The theme for this year’s summit was coined out of our appraisal of the life of the average woman and how she is able to survive and succeed against all odds. In the course of this appraisal, we discovered that the greatest strength of a successful woman is her resilience.
“A woman is therefore only able to make a difference in her society and the world at large if she is able to recover quickly from the setbacks and vicissitudes that life may throw across her path. These setbacks could be financial, physical, emotional or even psychological.
“It is not these drawbacks that matter but how we are able to deal with them and return to status quo after being bent, compressed or stretched by the issues of life.
“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel. It is man’s injustice to woman. If strength is assumed to be brute strength, then indeed women are less brute than men. If strength is assumed to be moral power, then women are immeasurably superior to men.”