Marking International Women’s Day, March 8 in North Eastern Nigeria comes with some amount of pain and hopelessness for many women. In many countries the day was marked with all the pomp and pageantry.. Activists have spoken, politicians have said what is politically correct and women, who are captains of industries and politicians, have given inspirational speeches.
Very few women, who have undergone persecution or who are under siege have any opportunity to voice their pains and express their hopes.
“I guess different women from different societies focus on what is immediate and challenging to them. For many of us in Africa, death, in many forms, stare us in the face, either by Islamic terrorists, disease or famine,” Gloria Kwashi, wife of the Archbishop of Jos province, Church of Nigeria, said.
The world is very much aware of the insurgencies of Islamic Jihadists like Al Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL, Boko Haram as well as Governments who have unleashed devastation on their citizens often deliberately targeting and devastating Christian communities. This phenomenon of Islamist Jihad has spread to Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Congo DR, among others.
“Rape, slavery and torture have been weapons of war.” Government forces have not been excluded in these abuses of vulnerable women.
“The focus of women’s day needs to also focus on widows world wide with the discussion on how to prevent making more widows, as Islamic terror groups unleash mayhem all over the world,” Gloria Kwashi, also president of Mothers Union, Anglican Communion in northeast Nigeria told Global Christian News.
“Christian women in all countries battling Islamic insurgencies today go through the same challenge. They are mostly widowed, they have to flee with their children. They face starvation and are open to all sorts of abuses,” Gloria said.
The women’s day provides yet another opportunity to hear the voiceless supplications of women who have seen and known what hell must mean in this day and age, she added.
“Can’t we all come together as the world and wipe away (vulnerable women’s) tears?” asked Aisha Yesufu, a member of the Bring Back our Girls movement, speaking on a Voice of America programme about a mother of an abducted Chibok girl who has not seen her daughter for almost three years.
“We should not allow terrorists to define humanity for us… We can not celebrate on International Women’s Day [while] our daughters are in captivity and we seem to have turned our backs on them,” Yesufu said.
Talking about the Chibok school girls who were abducted by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists, she said the girls’ continued captivity is a stain on International Women’s Day.
“We say to the girl child to dare to dream, she should aspire … But I feel as if it’s all a lie,” Yesufu said. “Because for 1,059 days our sisters (Chibok girls) have been in captivity, just for daring to be educated.” But the government has not been able to secure their release. The Nigerian government has however said negotiations are “still open with Boko Haram.”
Gloria Kwashi noted that in north eastern Nigeria “Muslim children still go to their Islamic schools, despite the attacks and killings,”and some of these Islamic schools are places for radical indoctrination. In contrast, children from Christian communities can’t go to school.
“Many are orphans and most have their entire homes and livelihood destroyed and do not know where to start from.” Gloria declared.
The Christian woman in drought ridden Somalia faces the threat from the Al-Shabab Islamic terror group while suppressed by an Islamic regime. Survival, in the very sense of it, is all she knows.
“People are dying [from drought-related] problems and this is a national issue and everybody is involved in how to solve these problems and to feed our people,” said Batulo Sheikh Ahmed Gaballe, chairwoman of the Somali National Women Organization, speaking from Mogadishu.
The image of the body of the little child, lifeless on the beach, as refugees flooded Europe is engraved in our minds. Many of the refugees are Christians fleeing tortuous life in countries ruled by religious fanaticism that vexes many. Yet the busy world has to be reminded many time, what should be priority.
Mumina Sheikh Mohamed, whose 22-year-old daughter is held captive by traffickers in Libya, said they “are demanding $7,000 for her daughter’s release.” An amount she can not afford.
A 2016 report from the International Organisation for Migration says there are about 264,000 migrants in Libya alone, seeking passage to Europe.
While a lot of the discussion on the International Women’s Day in the west focusses on equality for women, equity in the work places and opportunities for aspiring women in politics and the economy, for the African women, especially in northern Nigeria, the pain of the mayhem of Islamic insurgents is a life and death matter.
The African women, in their women’s day commemoration could only console one another. “What we would say to Somali women,” said Yesufu from Nigeria, “is let’s not ever give up. Let’s educate our children irrespective of gender. Education is the easiest way to break the shackles of poverty… Nobody will come and tell them to come and join certain (Islamic terrorists) groups … and we must never give up. We must keep fighting.”
Gloria Kwashi said, “the Church is under duress in northeastern Nigeria. In this region, women form a larger part of most congregations. They are are not usually prepared for any conflicts or wars, they are always the victims. They always carry the brunt, many for the rest of their lives. We must therefore, always keep the discussions and suffering of women in the public square. We must ask people whom God has put in a place of responsibility to do all they can, always, to stop the pains and discrimination women suffer.” She said.
International Women’s Day, started since 1909. is celebrated every March 8th as a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.