International Women’s Day(IWD) is a day that’s taken out to celebrate women. Worldwide there are events to commemorate this special event.Although there has been some progress made there is more work to be done to ensure that women are empowered and treated equally.
This year I went to an event in Victoria Australia hosted by Africa Day Australia. The theme was DigitAll: “Innovation & technology for gender equality.”The two speakers Mayase Jere and Junie Baptiste-Poitevien inspired everyone when they shared their journey in the tech industry.
February is a month dedicated to celebrating black history. I am one person who has considered race to be sacred. Growing up, I never thought much about my race. After all, I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, a sub-Saharan country. Most people looked like me or had a slightly different shade of black.
Studying abroad in the United States and Australia made me become conscious of my skin colour and be aware of racism. Yet, despite all this, I’m still honoured that God created me as a black woman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today, I’ll end my post with a post I wrote in 2013 when I was a senior in college at Hofstra University in New York.
“Celebrating Black History Month: Honoring a people who endured colonisation, slavery, prejudice, segregation amongst other atrocities. I am honoured to be a descendant of such a resilient and persevering race. I am proud and blessed to be black, and I would not have it any other way. Like me, my descendants will be standing on the shoulders of giants…” – Sibonginkosi Abigail Moyo(13 February 2013 – Facebook Post)
The second woman to be celebrated in this series is Getrude Matshe-Kanicki. Getrude is originally from Zimbabwe but is based in New Zealand where she relocated to in 2001.This woman wears many hats: She is an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author Rooney International Scholar, TED Speaker and Rotary Member.
As an Entrepreneur She started Medical Recruiters of New Zealand Ltd, GM Global Investments Ltd (Property) and Simzisani Ltd, a talent agency catering for the film and advertising industry. As philanthropist Getrude founded a not for profit organisation Africa Alive Education Foundation, an organization that supports HIV orphans in Zimbabwe.
Getrude has written several books including ‘Born on the Continent – Ubuntu’ and “It’s not what happens to you that matters!”. As someone who has been a TED Speaker she has a conference called HERSTORY circle that gives women a platform to speak and share their story.
We celebrate you our heroine Getrude, keep doing the amazing work that you do!
The first woman to be celebrated in this years Heroine series is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.Dr Okonjo-Iweala has a Bachelors in Economics from Harvard University, as well as a PhD from MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology). She also has built an amazing career in international development. She has worked for the World Bank for 25 years and and selected to be the Minister of Finance in her country of origin Nigeria,(2003-2006,2011-2015). She was born in the southern Nigeria town of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She is a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States.Also a family woman, she has a daughter and three sons and a husband who is a neurosurgeon.
This remarkable woman also sits on the board of prestigious organisations such Twitter and Standard Chartered PLC. With the COVID pandemic, her leadership has been sought after and she has been appointed as WHO COVID-19 Special Envoy and AU COVID-19 Special Envoy.
Dr Ngozi highest achievements include the following:
-Becoming the first female and African Director General, World Trade Organization
-Being named by Forbes as one of Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World four years in a row
-She continues to inspire young women to follow their dreams and make history. We celebrate you our heroine, Dr Ngozi.
Today is that one day where the world focuses just on women, so I’m taking time out to celebrate myself as a woman and other phenomenal women making the world a better place.
2021 has started off on a high note in the woman kingdom with Firstly the first ever female vice president of the United States was inaugurated, Kamala Harris. Also, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation(WTO). With representation in these spaces, young women will have role models to look up to.
To celebrate women’s day and women’s history month, I’ll be doing a series highlighting phenomenal women that inspire me.
11 October is the day designated by the United Nations as the ‘Day of the Girl Child’, and it began in 2012. The International Day of the Girl Child is a day to bring focus on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
For this year, I have decided to focus on women in STEM careers. I studied Engineering up to master’s level, and I was fortunate to have parents who cheered me on and told me I could be anything I want to be. Even though my family was supportive, other people had a different opinion. I remember visiting a family friend who was in her 70’s when I was a student, and she asked me why I wanted to do a man’s job. When I remembered her age, I realized when she was young Engineering was not a career path for women. That being said, it’s sad to see in this day, and age young girls with the talent and desire to become Engineers or anything else in STEM say they are unable to do so just because they are girls. I am aware some of these girls come from families or societies that are not yet ready to break gender stereotypes.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, there is a low number of women enrolling for STEM courses in tertiary institutions globally. About 8% for construction, engineering, and manufacturing; 5% for mathematics and statistics and 3% for ICT courses. Also, women who choose to pursue a STEM career later face the prospect of unequal pay and restricted career progression.
As we celebrate the girl child, let us remember to tell the young girls in our lives that they are leaders, change-makers, and provide opportunities for them to shine.
For the last part of my heroine series, I go back to my home country Zimbabwe, to celebrate a phenomenal woman who has inspired generations. This woman is none other than Charwe Nehanda Nyakasikana(Mbuya Nehanda). She stood at the forefront of the first Chimurenga(“Revolutionary Struggle”) to resist the Colonial Settlers when they initially arrived. She carries the title Nehanda because she was a spiritual leader as well, a spirit medium.
Cecil Rhodes arrived in the country with the British South Africa Company( BSAC). When the BSAC invaded the country, they possessed the land, imposed heavy taxation and forced labour on the indigenous people. This oppression now led to a rebellion. Mbuya Nehanda and other leaders such as Sekuru Kaguvi were responsible for organising and directing people to resist the invasion.
The resistance began in 1896 till they captured Mbuya Nehanda and sentenced her to death by hanging 1898. The defeat came as they ran out of resources and the BSAC had superior firepower. This first resistance of colonialism was not in vain, as there was a second Chimurenga(“Revolutionary Struggle”) which gave birth to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
The story of this great woman’s, bravery, leadership and resistance to colonialism will be passed on to future generations. We celebrate you Nyakasikana; you continue to inspire Zimbabwean women to be strong leaders!
For the second part of my African heroine series,I am celebrating Wangari Muta Maathai(1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011), a political and environmental activist from Kenya. Although she is now late, she made a significant contribution to the African continent. This great woman was the first Africa woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize when she won in 2014. Also, she was the first woman in East Africa to have a Doctorate degree when she got her PhD in 1971 from the University of Nairobi.
Wangari studied Biology, getting her Masters from the University of Pittsburgh and also obtained a PhD. In 1977, she started the Green Belt Movement, an organisation that mobilised women in rural Kenya to plant trees, reverse deforestation, stop soil erosion while they make an income and have a source of fuel. By the early 21st century, the Green Belt Movement had planted about 30 million trees and had inspired similar projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
We celebrate this great heroine, continue to rest in power Wangari!