This is the first part of a lecture that was presented at activities of the International Women’s Day Celebration organised by Total Nigeria on 12th of March at Port Harcourt.
Harness: it means to tap into or make functional use of the available resources or potentials.
Power: means authority, influence, and ability to achieve set objectives. Power also means the ability to achieve a task.
Womanhood: this is the entirety of the female species of humanity.
Community: a community is an amalgam of different people resident in a specific geographical area or those who are linked by functionality even if dispersed. Communities are made up family units. Families are made up of male and female species.
Development: this means improvement on what has been in existence.
This lecture is not centered primarily on whether men are equal to women or not, however, I want to look at intrinsic abilities quite unique to women and how to maximise these abilities.
I will use some biblical references and scientific facts as my theoretical framework or derive my authority from them. This is because a lot of the perceptions we have about womanhood stem from the Bible. The Bible also shares some basic similarities with the Islamic faith because of the common ancestry from Abraham. Moreover, a great majority of those celebrating Women’s Day are in Christian nations. Religion has been one of the instruments for discrimination against womanhood.
I do not understand what feminism is, but I know what it should not be. It is not an attempt by women to prove superiority to men or contend or contest with men. It is not a movement of divorcees; that a woman’s marriage failed does not mean her humanity failed. The woman in John Chapter 4 had several marriage failures, but her community respected her integrity such that they moved out to see Jesus. They eventually got converted. It is an advocacy to be treated equally as citizens of a community and nation. If it is the demand that their rights, lives, and privileges be respected, then I am a feminist.
Let me quickly say that Ephesians 5 verse 21 and 22 have been deliberately misinterpreted. Submit yourselves one to another is a universal expectation amongst Christians; it was not talking about marriage. It was a congregational expectation. Women submit yourselves unto your own husband is a family affair.
The Queen of England is the head of government; her husband is her subject and he is expected to walk a few steps behind her according to the British custom. However, in marriage, she is subject to her husband at home. If you are in the police force, and the commissioner of police is a woman, she is your boss even if she is a single mother and you are a sergeant. Don’t dare tell her, “Madam, I get wife like you.” She is not your mate. This is what must sink into the heads of Christians.
In my business, if there must be a balance for better, my wife must realise that I am the head of the business, but every worker must realise that madam is a joint director and owner of the business; you cannot sidetrack her and come to me and expect me to treat my wife shabbily.
We shall try to look at womanhood and their intrinsic strengths from the following perspectives.
- As a biologically distinct entity
- As a wife and mother
- As a citizen of a community and nation
A woman has XX chromosomes. The X chromosome-bearing sperm cell lives longer than the Y chromosome-bearing sperm cell. For a female child to be conceived, it means that her sperm cell swam faster than over 250 million other sperm cells ejaculated by her father. It also means she outlived or ran faster than all the Y chromosome-bearing sperm cells that could have been her brothers. That means there was an intrinsic ability in her when she was microscopic to compete and beat both males and females. To swim from the cervix of her mother to the Fallopian tube of her mother the X chromosome-bearing sperm cell by mathematical extrapolation is like an adult swimming from Lagos to New York across the Atlantic Ocean. With all the contractions of the Fallopian tube representing the waves of the sea. This means she is as strong as any potential male of her race and family.
The biblical description of the female species was based on the agrarian era of physical activity. Then, most things were done manually. The difference in muscle mass was as a result of hormonal differences with maturity. However, it is a known fact that men can lift heavy loads at once, but women can carry the same weight over a longer period and still do domestic duties when they get home. If you doubt me, come to Delta State, and you will see women setting concrete blocks and carrying mixed concrete to deck storey buildings with men.
In this dispensation, however, technology eliminates the advantage of physical strength to a large degree. Mrs. Adeola Ogunmola Sowemimo, who works as a pilot, flies a Boeing 787 Aircraft for Qatar Airways. She is the first Nigerian female to fly the Boeing 787 across the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the ways to harness the intrinsic power of womanhood is to introduce technology. Women can fly fighter jets, they can operate tractors, and combined harvesters. The bus driver that carried me from the Sierra Leonean border with Liberia into Monrovia was a woman.
To harness the power of womanhood, we must appreciate them as individuals and give them the same opportunities and training. Feminism must not be seen as cultivating an entitlement mentality. Even though in some specific cases, affirmative action can be taken for balance and equity, and women and men must be ready to compete for excellence. My female colleagues in medical school are professors of medicine on merit.
Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba
Queen Ana Nzinga of Angola, as a princess in her youth, was highly favoured by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom. He carried her with him to war, and she participated in all the intense training for warriors. Nzinga grew up in a world normally suited for males. She was educated in all fields of hunting and archery and in diplomacy and trade. Nzinga was a true military and intellectual genius. Nzinga was special in the sense that she was educated, and spoke and wrote Portuguese fluently.
After the death of her father in 1617, her brother, Mbandi took the throne as required by tradition. In 1622, Nzinga went to Luanda to negotiate with the Portuguese governor as an emissary of her kingdom. The governor, João Correia de Sousa, refused to offer her a seat. She ordered one of her male servants to bend down on his hands and feet and she sat on him to negotiate with the governor. She did not want to be treated as an inferior race or an inferior gender. The governor sat on a chair, but she sat on a man. She attached value to herself. She had training and skills that earned her respect. When she got home her brother, Mbandi the King, committed suicide. Imagine someone you sent to act as an emissary of peace standing her ground against a world power. After a brief spell of weakness in the Kingdom, Nzinga rallied her troops and defeated the Portuguese. She held them at bay for forty years until her death in 1663.
She was a woman ahead of her time. She was named the King of the Ndongo people. She was an outstanding and impressive female warrior, a charismatic ruler, and field commander. They admired her for her strength, her intelligence, and the fight for the sovereignty and freedom of her people. Her sister, Mukambu, who inherited the throne gave her a great burial with a leopard skin, a bow over her shoulder, and arrows in her hand.
What a great African woman that earned equality and respect through the following:
- She was provided good mentoring by her father,
- Her potentials were identified early and developed.
- She had adequate exposure.
- She was given the same intense training as her male contemporaries.
- Tradition did not confine her to “the other room”—President Buhari.
These enabled her to develop the following
- Capacity and competence,
- Charisma, and
She could work with both males and females without gender identity.
When women are trained only for the following emphasis, then their intrinsic strengths are negated. These are what many females emphasise today:
- Child bearing,
- Colour of her skin,
- Companionship, etc.
You hear it in the songs of today and adverts; womanhood is portrayed as an object of entertainment and attainment.
There is no record that she got married or had children. There are no children by Mary Slessor or St Teresa Mary.
Womanhood is beyond breasts, babies, and buttocks.
Queen Taytu Betul of Ethiopia
She was the third wife of Emperor Menelik II, King of Ethiopia. Menelik was sickly and quite indecisive, but Taytu was firm and forceful. There was an agreement between Italy and Ethiopia that Menelik tactfully crafted. The Italian copy said that Ethiopia was now a territory of Italy, while the one in Ethiopian language read Ethiopia has agreed that Italy should represent her interest in Europe. Menelik was hesitant but Taytu tore the agreement. Italy invaded Ethiopia, but Queen Taytu led a battalion of soldiers to war and Ethiopia defeated Italy at war in the battle of Adwa in November 6th, 1896.
She named the capital of Ethiopia Addis Ababa, which means beautiful flower.
In the continuing post, we’ll look at the preservative and expansile power of womanhood and how womanhood can be more empowered with religious liberty.
God bless all good women of the world.