March is often celebrated as Women’s History Month. March 8th is International Women’s day and I decided to celebrate this month by writing profiles of 31 African immigrant women across different disciplines whom I could showcase to my daughters as role models. I called a friend to brainstorm on this and being a political junkie, he immediately referenced Kamala Harris. Bingo! Of course! Yet I thought that would be too easy. I moved on and posed the same question to two men whom I respect a lot. The first immediately wrote back recommending his wife, an electrical engineer and then recommended another Zimbabwean woman with a Ph.D. in Real Estate. The second immediately talked about his mother before recommending Ida B Wells. Then I realized that I needed to clarify the scope of this work. I indicated that for this work to have any journalistic mileage, whatever that means, it must presuppose that wives, mothers, aunts, and sisters are the norm for men to celebrate.
And while one can make the case that Valentine’s day just rolled by, and Mothers’ day is on its way, there is something worth highlighting in the fact that these men without any hesitation chose to shine the light on their wife and their mother. In the face of the skyrocketing divorce rates among African immigrants, it is heartwarming that some African men celebrate their wives not just in the proverbial “behind every successful man is a woman” but rather in their own right and on their own merit. This is especially relevant given the many stories in the US of some African men killing their wives both physically and figuratively. During this month of March then let us celebrate the tenacity and tenderness of wives of African men.
While Mother’s Day is still on its way, it definitely is the case that one day could never be enough to celebrate motherhood. Men generally tend to bond better with their mothers just as women bond better with fathers. One set of mothers worth celebrating are grandmothers especially those abroad who are helping many African immigrant families nurse and nurture their children. These grandmothers who should be enjoying the fruits of their labors generously give of their time and energy to provide a service often taken for granted but quite instrumental and invaluable. After raising many of us, our mothers have taken up the role of raising up our own kids while we chase the almighty dollar/Euro. Let us not take their generosity for granted! We cannot compensate them adequately for our mortgaged responsibilities they have assumed.
I remember the joy of spending holidays at Njinikom with my maternal grandparents and often slept on the same bed with Mami Martha Musi, accompanying her in the heart of the rainy season on the long treks to her many farms and having to climb hills with a basket of corn on my head. Experiencing the vicissitudes of life in the village with all its pristine opulence enveloped with the extravagant love of grandparents away from the watchful eyes of parents with their laundry list of do’s and don’ts proved to be a luxury worth its weight in gold.
Women’s history month is a time for celebrating the often-unnoticed and taken-for-granted yet salutary contributions of women to society. We live a in a male dominant world even though women are numerically more. If charity begins at home, we must celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day by celebrating the women of our lives: our wives, our mothers, our aunts and our sisters. When our daughters and nieces find us celebrating the women in our lives, they would be inspired, encouraged, and motivated. Why we celebrate and how we celebrate are equally important. It is about respect! It is about equality! It is about leveling the playing field. Words are important for they are the vehicles of our thoughts! And yet, they can be deceptive as people say one thing when they mean another and in fact mean the opposite of what they say. Gifts are great but these too could be manipulative.
One way of celebrating women is by looking inwards. What action of mine or behavior of mine wittingly or unwittingly perpetuates disrespect of women and fuels gender based bias. What one thing can I work on that would improve the way I treat women. Shouting from rooftops about women’s rights, women equality or women eh is great but just a start. Change must begin with each one of us. Women’s day is about creating space for women to thrive as women.