I consider myself fortunate to be a young woman living her dreams, a trailblazer of my generation. While I strive for greater heights, I also recognize that many women and girls are not so fortunate. I aspire to be the best in my musical career and I work hard to surmount every obstacles and limitations. However, the progress I have made, I didn’t realize I had was revealed in a recent encounter with undergraduate students of the University of Uyo where I was a guest speaker at the “Woman Arise” event that was organized as part of “Accelerate” with support from “W” community and the ONE Campaign.
Sitting there with these young people at Uyo reminded me of my years as a struggling female student at University of Nigeria and what I had to do to make sure my needs were met. I reminisced with them about how I prepared a snack, Waje Chin-chin, and sold it to earn money. I also related the struggles I went through trying to break through as a female musician in the male dominated Nigerian industry. Hearing this, the students got charged with enthusiasm as my experiences mirrored their own struggles. It was then I realized I wanted my greatest achievement to be having young girls walk up to me and say, “Waje, your life story inspires me.”
I shared that women and girls are hit hardest by the effects of extreme poverty especially in developing countries like Nigeria. It is apparent that when we invest in women and girls, we increase the chances of overcoming extreme poverty more quickly – for everyone overall. Women in tertiary institutions, are on the path to success by getting an education. However, the battle is not won, women experience social discrimination and opportunities are lost simply because we are females.
I emphasized that it is time to rise above the limitations placed by society. Our focus should be to ensure that our skills and abilities are not drowned by the fear that “it is a man’s world”.
In view of the apparent disadvantages that being a female impose on women, there are numerous opportunities to prove our mettle. In class, we are not inferior and we excel in our various academic pursuits. We should not allow ourselves to be cajoled into thinking small. We can and should aspire to be in the highest office of the land. There is information about opportunities that exist for women particularly in Agriculture, industry and the arts but how many of us know about them. How many of us even know the names of our political representatives? We cannot stay out of touch with policy makers and expect that good policies will be developed on your behalf. This is why we need to take an active interest in the affairs of our state and speak up to gain space at the center of development in our country.
This year, global leaders will adopt a set of “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) meant to end extreme poverty by 2030. The 17 goals cut across all facets of development, from eradicating poverty, gender equality, and access to education. There are specific targets that have been set against each goal so we can measure progress. As they meet to adopt these goals in September, we must unite with ONE voice, and tell them that it is imperative to prioritize women’s development needs.
That is why I am pleased to join the ONE Campaign to raise our voices as citizens to support government and hold them accountable at all levels to ensure that the SDGs receive the necessary attention and programmes are implemented to achieve these targets.
As an ambassador of the Poverty is Sexist campaign, I wish to call on you to be a strong girl or boy and show your strength as a woman and as a supporter of women. Take up opportunities around you and demand accountability from our leaders.