BeingFemaleInNigeria: The viral hashtag, the tweets and my take on it

#BeingFemaleInNigeria is a hashtag that went viral in Nigeria just barely hours after it was first tweeted by members of a small book club. The hashtag started trending in many countries including UK. I would have loved for the hashtag to read ‘BeingaWomanInNigeria’ because the word ‘Female’ has its own social construct problem. However, i am over the moon that this very important conversation, which got the whole nation talking, was started by a very small book club.

The book club members had gathered to read their book of the month, an essay titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Nigerian award winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. According to a member of the book club, Florence Warmate, the discussion got very interesting and members started sharing their personal experiences of sexism in Nigeria. They decided not to leave it there but start a conversation on social media about what it is like being a woman in Nigeria.

Florence Warmate posted her first tweet on the subject using the agreed hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria. Hours later, it was trending on twitter. It was interesting that a small group of women could ignite a national discussion via social media in a matter of hours. Clearly, it was a discussion Nigerian women (and some men too), were dying to have.

The hashtag resonated with almost every woman in Nigeria and outside too. It was an opportunity to talk about the things that bug us, tie us down, stands in our way and oppress us every day.

It was a golden opportunity to make our voices heard about the everyday sexism we encounter as Nigerian women in Nigeria.

It presented an excellent forum to share the casual sexism we have learned to accept as normal even though we know there is nothing normal about being treated as breeders, blamed for being raped, thrown out of our marital homes for only giving birth to girls and not boys.

Women are the ones who are asked to grin and bear it when husbands constantly cheat and we are the ones who are told to stay in domestic abusive relationships for the sake of the children.

We are the ones who are called ashewo, prostitute, ashi, runs girl, slut, judged by the way we dress or the type of cars we drive.

We are the ones whose career successes are attributed to sleeping with our male bosses.

We are the ones who are told to stop aiming for PHds because it would be intimidating to potential suitors and the only qualification that matters is how good we are in the kitchen department.

Yes, Nigerian women had a lot to say about being a woman in Nigeria and heck, did we say it!

From my personal experiences, I would say being a woman in Nigeria means-

1- #BeingFemaleInNigeria Having to conspicuously hold my Hilton cardkey every time I stepped out of my hotel room to avoid being called ashawo.

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Yeah, the last time I visited Nigeria and lodged at the five star Hilton Hotel, I had to always display my room card. I could not even go alone to the hotel bar to get a drink for fear of being harassed by security and all these roaming judgemental eyes!  BTW, I made sure to speak to the porters in a fake British accent and left my Heathrow bag tag on my luggage, so they know I be Tokunbo (from abroad). Anything not to be stopped and queried by those securities who assumed every woman around Hilton is a commercial sex worker.

BTW, I am a staunch supporter of sex workers. I have written about stigma and abuses they face and will continue to campaign for Rights for sex workers not Rescue and the need to organise sex workers within mainstream labour movement.  Sex worker, prostitute , Ashewo should not be used as a slur.

2- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- Unaccompanied woman in a hotel = Ashawo, never mind that you are there to present a paper on Global economic crisis!

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As an international trade unionist, I have stayed in hotels all around the world but there is something so uncomfortable about staying in hotels in Nigeria. You are an ashewo or ‘runs girl’ (Lady looking for sugar daddies to fund her lifestyle) until you are proven innocent.

3- #BeingFemaleInNigeria – Taxi man tries to swindle you, you complain, he screams ashawo at you as you alight outside your hotel.

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This happened to me during my last visit, I was so aghast and furious, and the only thing I could think to do was give him the middle finger as he drove off.

4- BeingFemaleInNigeria – Not having the luxury to go clubbing or drinking alone unless you don’t mind being called ashawo by judgmental eyes

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The number of times I had to beg my male colleagues to abandon whatever they were doing and escort me to our drinking joints or clubs! I guess their wives and girlfriends were not too happy with me.

5- BeingFemaleInNigeria- You must be sleeping with your married male boss, cos career success, nice car and promotion means pussypower!

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Even your family assumes this must be the case especially when you announce your new promotion or buy a new car. Your boss is male, rich and popular, it is expected that you sleep with him to get ahead, never mind that you are smart, one of the best in your field and of course who cares that your boss is very much married!

6- #BeingFemaleinNigeria Your married boss takes it or granted that you are gonna sleep with him

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Yeah, it is actually expected of him to sleep with his female employees, especially if he is rich. Not sharing the goodies would be considered selfish. He could be seen as less of a man and derogatorily called a ‘Born again’ Christian. He also knows if he does not at least make the move to get into your pants, tongues would wag and his virility would come into question. No man wants to be called impotent, not even Sheldon Cooper!

7- #BeingFemaleInNigeria Your female colleagues gather around to chastise you for wearing mini skirt. You wan tempt their office sugardaddies?

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True story, on my first day at work and from fellow female colleagues who identified as feminists too. What a joke!

8- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- “You are a man” becomes a compliment. Did i change sex cos women can’t be spectacular achievers while being women?

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Please understand that calling a woman “a man’ because of her achievements or courage is NOT A COMPLIMENT. Those words are nothing but an insult to the woman, her achievements and gender identity. You do not honour me by calling me “A Woman like a Man“, in fact with such words you deny my gender identity and degrade my biological sex. I am a Woman and Proudly so.I already made a post on this vexing issue, check it out here

9- #BeingFemaleinNigeria You are put in charge of food and drinks while your male colleagues are assigned important contracts for conferences

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Story of my work experience in Nigeria.

10- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- How can you call yourself a successful 30 something year old woman when you never marry?

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I will be 40 this August, an accomplished human being in my professional and personal life. Nevertheless, my personal life success would be questioned because I am an unmarried single mum. Never mind that my son, a lovely 20-year-old undergraduate law student in UK is set to be graduating with a first class in a few months. I am considered a failure for being an unmarried single mum at 40. Being a woman in Nigeria means, I am now officially a bitter old hag who turned into a lesbian because she could not get a man who would accept her big mouth, godless soul, and highly opinionated arse!

11- #BeingFemaleInNigeria What do you mean you never marry, abeg follow me to my pastor, we must rebuke the demons that are disturbing your life

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The fact that I am an atheist only makes them want to pray louder for me!

12- #BeingFemaleInNigeria What do you mean you don’t want children? That is not your portion o, not in this family! Wa bi mo we re! (You will give birth to many children!)

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Consciously deciding not to have children rank as one of the worst things any woman in Nigeria could say in public. Even your family member would scream at you and take your case to their pastor, imam and babalawos to find out if some demons have taken over your mind!

It is not surprising that some reactionary men have decided to make their own hashtag ‘BeingMaleInNigeria’, because ‘What about the Menz’! However, it is interesting to see that some men do get it and are indeed contributing positively to the discussion.

Below are some of the interesting, hilarious and thought provoking tweets. Read, enjoy and remember, we could make a difference by being the change we desire.

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The curious case of Rachel Dolezal

When Rachel Dolezal was outed as a Caucasian woman in blackface, the story almost broke the internet. Several daystumblr_inline_npu43mC6mM1qfb043_500 later, we are still trying to put the pieces together. So far, the story has served as a platform to discuss racism and cultural appropriation. However, it has also served as a platform for transphobes to pontificate on gender and redefine transracial.

Rachel Dolezal, 37 year old part-time professor in the Africana studies program at Eastern Washington University, was outed by her Caucasian parents, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, as a white woman pretending to be black. Following the social media attention, Rachel Dolezal handed in her resignation as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She tendered her resignation without any sign of remorse, later followed by an exclusive live interview with NBC News where she insisted-

I definitely am not white, I’m more black than I am white. That’s the accurate answer from my truth.

Rachel seems to think her chosen truth trumps facts. You can choose your truth but you can’t choose your facts. She seems to have a history of choosing her truths with total disregard for facts.

On several occasions, Rachel Dolezal has claimed to be the victim of hate crimes. However, Investigators have not been able to find evidence to substantiate her claims. In fact, it was an effort to connect the dots in her latest hate [Read more…]

#Ferguson: Mike brown and the “It is not a race thing” Apologists.

I have been unable to bring myself to write a blogpost on ‪#‎Ferguson for weeks now. Reading the updates is overwhelmingly heart wrenching. However, my sadness and pain won’t shield me from the myriad of stupid, wilfully ignorant and racist comments and memes that pops up on my newsfeed. If anything, those comments, status updates and memes contribute to my pain and anger. Michael Brown, 19, was unarmed when he was shot eight times in the middle of a street in Ferguson. And now, there is the case of Eric Garner, an African American choked to death by a white police officer.

It is disheartening when in an attempt to deny the racial aspect involved in Mike Brown’s murder, people who should know better post things like:

“This is not a race thing”

“I married a white person, my in-laws are white and they are not racists “

“All black people are not criminals; All white people are not racists”

“What if Mike brown was white?”

“Can’t we just move on?”

“But all lives matter!”

Those comments expose the comfortable ignorance people maintain on race related issues. Many white people are quick to deny white privilege. Some black people are quick to exclaim in unison with their white in-laws, “Not all white people are racists, can’t we just move on?”

An atheist black friend who should know better posted a video purportedly showing Mike Brown shoplifting, without any clarification and the first commenter, another black person, immediately wrote, “He shoplifted, he should be shot.” [Read more…]

Bullies Are Not Born; They Are Made.

Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachersstop-bully-logo laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.

There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.

The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies.  Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class.  Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.

This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.

I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]

On the street harassment video: Calling out racism should not drown out the sexism in the video.

When I watched the street harassment video titled 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, my first thought was, forget 10 hours, that is my experience as a woman 557264_423393704397930_1730387465_nwalking the 10 minutes distance to my gym!

Catcalls and street harassments are daily experiences many women have learned to live with. Many of us have spoken out against this experience many times. However, are we ever taken seriously? No. Instead, trolls invade such posts with excuses like “Not every man”, “I am not your kind of feminist”, “This is why I hate feminists”… blahblahblah

Therefore, I was actually happy just to see a video documenting an actual experience of catcalls and street harassment going viral. In all honesty, I was not looking at the skin colour of the guys in the video, I was more about their words and often I went,  oh, I have heard that or oh that is a popular one. I guess to me, my street harassers have one thing in common, they are men, they say the same shit, they want control, they treat me like objects, and they feel entitled to my body. They are men that feel entitled to my time, who feel they must compliment my body and they get annoyed when I don’t beam at their validation of my beauty. They get angry when I don’t smile when they command me to smile on the street while going about my errands, some even get violent when I don’t reciprocate their unsolicited attention. They do all these regardless of their skin colour. So nope, I was not watching out for skin colour of my everyday street harasser in that video because what binds street harassers together is not their skin colour but their male identity, male privilege or better put, misogyny.

However, I was glad when people started pointing out the racial aspect of the video, especially when the maker of the video was exposed for a similar racist editing he had done in a previous ad video and also a homeless man makeover ad video.  The discussions were good and enlightening.

However, as a woman who is very much affected by this catcalling, street harassment culture, I am worried that in an attempt to call out racism, focus is being taken [Read more…]

Sensationalising the Plight of African LGBTs

I am often approached at LGBT events especially at protests rallies by filmmakers and journalists who want to write a piece or make a 04338_yemisi_ilesanmidocumentary on the ‘horrible’ situation of African Lesbians and gays (they hardly take cognizance of bisexuals and Trans).

There is no doubt that African LGBTs who reside in countries where their sexual orientation is criminalised face a daunting task. Living a closeted life or choosing to face the consequences of being out and proud in a society where one’s sexual orientation is criminalised is frightening and dehumanising. I have been there, I am still there, and I know how horrible the threats can be. So yes, I understand why the filmmakers and writers are fascinated with telling this horror story.

However, a recurring theme makes me cringe every time I am approached by filmmakers or journalists demanding that I tell the horror stories or at least provide them some graphic pictures of violence suffered by African LGBTs. There is this fascination with the horror stories and abused bodies of African LGBTs that I am beginning to wonder if it is a voyage into morbid porn and/or just another way to portray Africans as victims.

When I inform these filmmakers and journalists that I do not have pictures of abused African LGBTS to share with them, they are immediately crestfallen. It is my opinion that most of them haunt African LGBT activists protest grounds not because they are interested in the fight for African LGBT Rights but because they see the plight of African LGBTs as a way of furthering their career in Journalism or film industry.

A heart-wrenching, graphic documentary on the abuses suffers by African LGBTs and why African LGBTS need white saviours could turn a [Read more…]

Body Parts And Little Things We Take For Granted

My waist is broken. Sadly, it is not a sex injury; it is probably a gym injury. Excruciating lower back pain sent me running to the doctors again.SDC14523 Last week it was flu, this week it is broken waist, i smell foul play. Now, I must ask my doctor why my waist can no longer support my big bums.

It is painful and somewhat embarrassing. I can barely seat or bend. Lying in bed is difficult and turning sideways is as scary as hell would be if it were real. I get some funny looks because I now walk in a Zombie-like manner. I cannot afford to swing my waist and hips as usual, one of these little things I used to take for granted!

I said “Sadly it it not a sex injury” because in a way, it would make me feel better if it were at least an injury sustained when trying out some 50 shades of Grey positions.  Actually, the ‘sex injury’ reference is cultural. In Nigeria where I grew up, waist injury is associated with ‘prolific sex’. When lovers or potential lovers flirt, it is common to hear exchanges like “I will break your waist o”. It is a reference to how prolific they are (or think they are) in bed. I grew up hearing this myth and even local musicians sang of it. Therefore, when i finally had a broken waist without the benefits of the sex, I feel cheated. At least the memories of pleasurable orgasm could have put a smile on my face when I scream “ouch” whenever the pain hits.

I now attract puzzled looks from passengers in the bus and on the street with my constant shouts of  “Ouch”, “Shit men”, “Fuck” as yet another pain jolts through my waist as i attempt to go about my daily business!

Since it seems I will be stuck indoors for a few days while I heal, I stopped at a supermarket to get grocery. One of the shoppers suddenly [Read more…]

Just another sexist and racist encounter at the hospital

After many failed attempts to get an appointment at the surgery, I decided I was not going to endure another restless, sleepless, sweaty, tossing and turning night, so I dragged myself to my local Accident & Emergency/Walk in Center. At the entrance to the hospital is a big sign that reads, “If you have flu, stay at home, and call your GP”.  Well, I have flu-like symptoms and I have spent the last three days trying to get an appointment with my GP to no avail.  Majority of the NHS surgeries now have a rule that one can only book an appointment on the particular day within the hour of 8:00am -9:00am. Anything outside that, one would have to wait until the next day and start the process again. The problem is, as soon as it is 8:00am, the line becomes engaged. Try every minute and you will keep getting the busy tone. It is frustrating.

Anyway, I decided I have not been diagnosed with Flu, I needed treatment, and i am not going to self-diagnose or self-prescribe. Therefore, I walked to the reception room, and requested to see a doctor.

The following discussion ensued- [Read more…]

Creeps, creeps, creeps everywhere; Atheist movement sure has more than its fair share of creeps!

An enlightening piece titled Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? was recently published on buzzfeed by Mark Oppenheimer. It is a long read that exposes the sexist, misogynistic behaviour of some well-known male Atheists leaders. I guess they are referred to as Atheist leaders because they are well paid to speak at atheists events, coveted by the media and well, some of them have written popular books, but as an atheist and feminist, I wouldn’t think of many of these creeps as ‘leaders’ in any way.

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The article particularly focused on the many allegations of sexual harassment surrounding Michael Shermer. It also exposes the indefensible thought process of those in power who have protected and shielded him from the consequences of his questionable actions towards women at Atheist conventions.
James Randy was quoted in the article as saying- [Read more…]

Everyday Sexism: Catcalls and Street Harassment

Every time I step outside my door to go about my daily business, I brace myself for the inevitable catcalls and various street harassment. I am557264_423393704397930_1730387465_n used to these catcalls. Catcalls are a constant reminder that I am a woman in a patriarchal society. However, I still get angry at the catcalls and the unwanted, unsolicited attention thrown my way on the street. I still get riled up when I am accosted on the street by strangers who have no qualms about asking me to smile for them. Even though these are daily occurrences, I still get angry and sad each time it occurs.  For example:

Just this morning I was rushing to make an appointment, when out of the blues, a guy suddenly stuck his coconut shaped head mere inches from my face and asked “Where is the smile?” I had to take a deep breath to resist the urge to make a snarky comment like “Your coconut head just smashed a month’s worth of smiles from my face”.

It still beats me why men think every woman who dared to walk the street owe them a smile. I bet this toady, ignoramus man would not dare stick his coconut head on the face of another man he hardly knows on the street and go “Where is the smile?” He would probably get punched in the face and people would say he deserved to be punched. But, if I as a woman had reacted that way or even caused a scene, I would be called an overreacting, sensitive, ungrateful bitch. Yeah, it’s a sexist, chauvinistic world alright, different rules apply.  All I could do was side-stepped his coconut head and walked away from his toady eyes without a comment. I was not about to let one of the many chauvinist ignoramuses walking the street make me miss an important appointment. The sad part is, most times, women do not even have the choice to just walk away as my next sexist encounter shows. [Read more…]

“We do not learn about our history by sitting in cages or sitting in slave ships and re-enacting how many lashes we had and seeing our skins with all those abrasions.” On Exhibit B-The human zoo. A great talk by Esther Stanford-Xosei.

The Barbican center is yet to cancel the awfully racist, dehumanising and traumatising exhibition titled ‘Exhibit B’ by white South African, Brett Bailey. Exhibit B- the human zoo, is a dehumanising, racist voyeurism in the name of art.

Below is a video of a great talk by “Reparationist, Jurisconsult, dynamic community advocate and radio Broadcaster Esther Stanford-Xosei” courtesy of London Live 360 TV  It is a must watch interview!

  [Read more…]

Exhibiting Africans in a Human Zoo is not Art, it is Racist Voyeurism! Please sign this petition.

The Human Zoo exhibition ‘Exhibit B’ by white South African Brett Bailey is disgusting and dehumanising! As a black woman in the 21st century, my skin colour or body should not be on exhibition for the voyeuristic, closeted pleasure of racist privileged white people. My ancestors already suffered this humiliation, I should not have to watch it happen again under the pathetic excuse of “It is Art”.

If the people at the Barbican Centre cannot see why this is racist and dehumanising, they need to raise their social consciousness and awareness.

As for the artist, white South African Brett Bailey, I think he already knows that he is a racist asshole, afterall his reported use of the ‘N’ words testify to this.

It is not art, it is an outlet for him and his fellow racist, privileged white people to enjoy voyeuristic, closeted racist pleasure at the expense of [Read more…]

When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege.

Elon James White‏@elonjames

If I say #BlackLifeMatters and your response is “Why not EVERY life?” Unfollow me. You dont get it & I dont have time to explain it to you.”

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I came across the tweet above and i had to say, “Well said, Elon James White, well said“. Unfortunately this kind of tweets always get some of my white friends on facebook in a twist. What is so unfortunate is that some of them think they are well meaning people who want equal rights for all. If only they would take a minute to do their research and understand how the society they live in works. Everyone should learn to see their own privilege, be it skin colour, sexual identity, sex birth, geographical location, religion or class.

To be blind to your privilege is to not understand or see how you benefit from the society due to your status, a status you might not be conscious of but which is enough to deny the persons who don’t have that status the benefits you get. Heck, it might even cause the persons their lives while you go around not even acknowledging that you have that privilege. Yes, it is frustrating.

A few of my very good white friends on social media think this is sad and they don’t like it when I put up such status calling out [Read more…]

Avoiding Ableist or Sexist Language Won’t Make Us Less Fun!

I found this amazing campaign on a website and decided to share on my facebook wall.  As stated on the website , “The following are images from the “You Don’t Say?” Campaign out of Duke University. The premise of the campaign is to encourage people to think before speaking as the words one delivers can have negative implications that were never intended in the first place, especially to those around us.

These phrases are often said with harmless intent. But how do we really make those around us feel? Perhaps it’s time for us to actually think before we speak?”

 The images show different persons holding different signs  –

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When I posted this wonderful piece as my FB status update, I added-

 And I don’t say “Don’t be a retard” because it is Ableist . [Read more…]

Don’t Call Me A MAN, It Is Not A Compliment. Happy International Women’s Day!

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being318461_10150505434059409_883031157_n she is said to imitate the male.” Simone de Beauvoir.  As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the words of Simone de Beauvoir ring loud in my ears.

As someone who became fiercely politically active as a young woman in a very patriarchal society, I was often ‘showered’ with the words “You are a man!” It was considered the highest praise you could give a woman for her bravery and courage while referring to a man as a woman is considered a below the belt insult. If only I had a penny for every time I heard these words from my fellow comrades, colleagues and mentors who actually should know better.

Please understand that calling a woman “a man’ because of her achievements or courage is NOT A COMPLIMENT. Those words are nothing but an insult to the woman, her achievements and gender identity. You do not honour me by calling me “A Woman like a Man“, in fact with such words you deny my gender identity and degrade my biological sex. I am a Woman and Proudly so.

We are all HUMANS irrespective of what the various creation myths say. Women demands recognition and respect as human beings. Brave and courageous women achievers do not need to be called A MAN as a compliment. Being called “A MAN” does not elevate us to the level of human beings; we are already human beings irrespective of our sex or gender identity.58427_436067596481409_1920683597_n

Kindly recognise and respect my gender identity, this I believe is not too much to ask!

As we celebrate more than a decade of International Women’s Day, feminisation of poverty continues; Reproductive, Productive and Domestic roles still hold down the working woman from reaching her full potentials. The triple oppression of Racism, Classism and Sexism persistently  affect our unity. Let us continue to fight all the Isms and Schisms that jeopardise our strength.

The degree of emancipation of women is the natural measure of general emancipation. Every society’s greatness can be measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable members. Every human being is born equal in rights and dignity.

You do not have to be a woman to support woman’s rights.

You don’t have to be gay, bisexual or Trans to support LGBT rights.

You don’t have to be a sex worker to support sex workers’ right to organise, unionise and work in a safe environment.

You don’t have to be an animal to support animal rights.

And in case the aliens ever invaded, let’s hope you don’t have to be a human being to support human rights. We all could be in the minority sometime!1982_438044192955887_307874593_n

Stand up against oppression of women, stand up for equal rights, empower a woman today, emancipate yourself from mental slavery and DEMAND your inalienable human rights! No human being is born subordinate to another. No woman is born to satisfy a man, you are born to create and define your own ‘destiny’, even in the face of all odds. Your happiness is supreme.

Fellow sisters, assert your right and recognition as human Beings!

Happy International Women’s day to you all!