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Taiwo Odukoya Copyright © 2016

by Taiwo OdukoyaCopyright

Printed in Nigeria

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The views expressed in this book are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible quotations are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Holy Bible.

ISBN : 978-1-60188-786 -8

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If you the men of Asante will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battle fields.

These were the words of Nana Yaa Asentewaa of ancient Gold Coast Ghana. She was the regent of the Ejisu district after the British exiled her brother. At the time, the local chiefs were constantly threatened by the British and worse, they demanded the golden stool, a sacred symbol of power of the Asante people. The men were unable to reach a consensus on how to deal with the opposition, but Yaa would have none of it. She took leadership of the Asante uprising, and though she was eventually exiled for it, the legacy of her courage is continually celebrated among the Asante people in Ghana.

This is one of many incidents where women have

stood up to challenge the status quo or have collaborated to achieve a common goal. But it has not always been the case. History has not always leaned towards women with respect to unraveling the full extent of their leadership potential. For thousands of years, women were not seen at the fore of crusading social change and innovation. As a matter of fact, from the historical narrative in the Garden of Eden, women have come to be touted in many societies as being politically and economically inept. And these narratives have influenced the stereotypes that have restricted women over the years.

Once in history, women were not allowed to pursue higher education because of the social prescriptions of the day. It was not until 1849 that the British-born Elizabeth Blackwell emerged as the first woman to get a medical degree in the United States.

Today, most of the factors that previously confined women have given way to societal adaptation. Whether from the political landscape

in Liberia and Rwanda, to the technology industry of Silicon Valley, women have continued to soldier on as global shapers. However, the statistics still leave a lot to be desired. There remains a remarkable gap to be bridged.

Women are still grossly underrepresented in the corporate world and Government. Majority, especially in rural Africa and Middle East, have been relegated to culturally prescribed expectations. Even religion, where it has been misconstrued, lends itself to the social stereotyping of women. Yet, the truth simply is, women are endowed with enormous potential. And with the right incentives and enabling environment they can in fact contribute strategically in shaping the future. In other words, women, by their contribution, will change the world. So any forward-thinking society must, with a sense of urgency, adapt and embrace this potential.

It is against this background that this book was conceived. It is my desire, by the grace of God, to

call forth the leader in every woman by providing practical answers and making the case for the place of women in shaping and changing the world.

Chapter 1



The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.- Charles Malik

History records an unforgettable incident in pre-colonial Nigeria – in November 1929 to be precise. The British were perhaps at the crux of their political and economic hold on the nation. Their system of administration, particularly in the east, entailed engrafting men to serve as warrant chiefs. More than that, the role of women in Government at the time was heavily restricted. Naturally, there were grievances and verbal outbursts occasionally protesting the relegation of women who at the time had a strong economic influence through their diverse business outputs. Yet, despite the complaints, women were not carried along in policies directly affecting them. Unable to contain their exasperation anymore, these market women rallied together and put up a protest strategy. Although rightly frowned upon by the Government, the incident is notable in our national history to underlie the capacity of women to work together to achieve a desired objective.

Indeed, women will change the world. Not only because they are imbued with the capacity to push frontiers and drive sustainable development but also because, as far back as the history of mankind, they have been on the scene, shaping policies, breaking barriers and influencing society for good.

It is therefore necessary to echo the irrefutable proofs of history, by chronicling certain groups of women whose undeniable leadership potential and individual resolve culminated in ground- breaking achievements for women, and men alike.

Beyond the borders of Nigeria, the results have been the same everywhere.

In 1994, Rwanda witnessed a genocide that claimed the lives of one million men, women and children. Till date, its effects still ripple through Rwanda and across the globe. However, the emergence of women, particularly on the political scene, has been a direct fallout of that tragedy from all those turbulent years. Yet, the not-too-distant history bears witness to the vital role women played in

rebuilding the ruins of a nation brutally torn apart by war. It was the women across the divide who had lost husbands and children to the war that emerged from the grassroots level to the highest cadres of leadership, enacting their much desired change. As of 2013, women in Rwanda – a small nation in eastern Africa – boast of a staggering 64% women's representation at the parliament level. They have raised the bar for gender participatory politics across the globe and more importantly, have shown the world that women are adequately motivated and capable of enacting socially defining policies.

And this template of women coming together to effect social good has manifested outside the shores of Africa all through history. The year 1920 was particularly instructive in the United States. After a 70-year-period of activism led by women, the nation ratified the constitution to allow for the right of women to vote and be voted for.

Even at an individual level, women have always made significant contributions in shaping

societies. Countless times, they have proven to be eager volunteers, offering their lives to foster a cause they readily believe in, a cause that blesses humanity. One of such women was Mary Slessor. Indeed, many knew her as the woman who was instrumental to the abolishment of the killing of twins in eastern Nigeria, but so much more can be said about her zeal, heart and willingness to sacrifice. Raised as a hardworking Scottish girl, Mary became a missionary and volunteered herself to work in Calabar, Nigeria, a place dreaded by even men, a place no European missionary had ever set foot on. Being unaccustomed to the language and idiosyncrasies of rural Africa, she had several bouts of illness. Yet, convinced of the importance of her service, she refused to return to the country of her birth. Instead, she stayed and learned the Efik language, practiced some of the traditions of the people and inevitably earned their respect. Her influence grew to the point where she became instrumental in the eventual abolishment of the killing of twins.

Beyond that, Slessor was a woman of undeniable resilience, whose passion and commitment ensured her continued service in the poorest living conditions. At a point in her career, she refused to lodge in the missionary quarters allocated to her and instead took up the same living arrangements of the locals she attended to. She adopted many Nigerian children, especially twins who had been left to die.

The truth is, Nigeria's history, particularly in Calabar, cannot be written without alluding to the significant role Mary Slessor played in shaping and influencing the people. This is just one woman and the remarkable and undeniable way she shaped the world.

We must also remember the women in our midst, right here in Nigeria, in Africa, whose legacies remain for their ground-breaking achievements.

Consider Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria. She was known for her social activism, her passion for liberating

women and her dissident voice against questionable people in authority.

Consider also Wangari Matthai, who was the first African female Nobel Prize winner reputed for empowering thousands of women against poverty and enabling the environment through her Green Planet project.

It is impossible to exhaust the list of women whose brilliance and leadership have redefined the quality of life for mankind in general. In 1969, it was a Chinese woman, in the person of You You Tu, who from her experience studying herbal medicine, extracted a substance known today as Artemisin used for the effective treatment of malaria. It was Francoise Barre - Sinoussi, the French virologist whose research work was fundamental in the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983. How about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist, whose incredible brave blog posts in 2009 and subsequent activism from 2012, have spearheaded talks about female education and rights all over the world, especially in the Middle East? Again, the list is inexhaustible.

The truth is, all these feats come as no surprise. Every notable achievement accomplished by women has been modeled in the scriptures. Truly, the Bible sets a precedent for women achievers. For instance, in the quest to inherit the Promised Land, the Jews were confronted with many challenges and limitations. And indeed, they fought and disposed nations, but we cannot acknowledge their victory over Jericho without alluding to the woman at the heart of its strategy—Rahab, the prostitute who housed and offered protection to the Jewish spies. Today, her relevance in the Jewish agenda cannot be over emphasized. And there are several other woman in Jewish history who continue to model God' s commitment to using women to effect change. Consider Esther, the young orphan who became the wife of King Ahasuerus and through her bravery, delivered the Jews from extermination. Also consider the likes of Deborah who served as both prophet and judge at a time when even men cowered in the face of battle. The list is endless.

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