In celebration of Women by Ife Piankhi
Before being asked to write this piece I didn’t know much about the history of International Women’s Day. Its origins in Europe in the 1900’s and later the United Nations use of the day (8th March) to highlight the challenges faced by women globally. It’s a day I have been compelled to be involved in for many years. I grew up surrounded by women. Growing up it seemed that the boys had more freedom and privilege, to express themselves and explore their individuality. I remember once my brother left the house without asking my mum’s permission, I was in shock as I always had to ask.
In my youth I began to recognize the differences in treatment he and I would receive and the prescribed behavior my mother taught me would make me a ‘good wife’. In my own way I pushed against these prescribed boundaries – I was a tomboy preferring to wear trousers and climb trees, ride a bike and play sports. I preferred fixing plugs to playing with dolls. I am interested in exploring the taboos around menstruation, sexuality, pregnancy and childbirth. I seek to understand the social dynamic reading books on feminism and politics by bell hooks, Audre lourde and Wangari Mathai, I continue to learn, read and develop my personal approach to womanhood.
Later I created a program for girls called Leaders of the Future, attempting to encapsulate my experiences of being a woman. Questions I would ask myself are; what makes me different to a man beyond the physiological, how do I think? What are our unique tendencies? How can I use my unique abilities to be a better leader to create a better world? But I am still challenged with the notion that if I do things that men traditionally do that I am trying to be a man. I don’t want to be a man, I love being a woman.
Self love is the beginning of women coming into their power. What I understand is that power will not be given to women, it’s something we have to claim for ourselves not in an unbalanced way but through the over standing of who we are and the gifts we have. There is a wisdom that we have forgotten that I seek to explore. The remembrance of great women of history written about in books like Black Women in Antiquity by Ivan Van Sertima, the Goddess Black woman by Akil and What they never told you in history class by Indus Khamit Kush . The first steps I believe are for women to understand who we are. We are the ones who have to stop seeing ourselves as being less than men, we are the ones who have to teach our sons and daughters how to relate to each other. In my most controversial mind state I challenge theology when it says that man was created first. It would seem to me that creation has a feminine tendency. Women have heavier brains and more refined synaptic pathways created through their strong ability to communicate. We are strong and flexible being able to hold and nurture a child thus our ability to cope with change and adapt happens faster. We have the ability to intuit and know things about people which goes beyond the physical left brain preoccupation of logic. We feel things and are deeply compassionate which rather than being perceived as a weakness should be seen as a strength. I love women but I also love men. We need to relearn how to relate with each other, to conquer our conditioned responses to power based on patriarchy. Striving for ‘power with, not power over others’.
Men also have to stop feeling insecure with the dynamism of women and women have to learn how to talk with men, who by nature don’t like to be told what to do. One of my teachers Dr Laila Africa taught me that men and women communicate differently and this is why we are complimentary pairs. I strongly believe that a true African renaissance will happen with the liberation of the woman’s mind. As Malcolm X said ‘when you educate a man you educate an individual, when you educate a woman you educate a nation’.