March 8th is a historic and inspiring day, being celebrated today on every part of the globe. As a women’s rights advocate, obviously, it has been the most cherished date of my personal and public life. But it also became a reminder of a painful moment.
Two years today as I was preparing to celebrate March 8th in my usual humble way, my heart jumped to joy when a women’s rights campaigner in Ghana’s port and industrial capital of Tema and an accomplished public servant sent me a lovely text message wishing me a happy International Women’s Day.
This woman, Madam Theresa Korkor Djan who was affectionately called Sister by all was my mother, friend and ‘accomplice’ in our collective effort for women’s emancipation. It was an inspiring text message.
However, by a sudden twist of fate, later on, that day I was to receive a heartbreaking news.
My mother had lost her life in a motor accident on her return from a women’s rights meeting. The meeting was to discuss the formation of a women’s wing of the Retired Customs Officers Association (RECOA) -- her last effort of devotion to women’s improvement.
Today should have represented a moment of grief but to hold to that will be a dishonor to her memory.
Madam Theresa Kokor Djan is an example of inspiration to all women. She built a solid career and broke the gender barrier in Ghana’s Customs Service. Her fidelity to the cause of gender equity in the Ghana Revenue Authority and in her community is well told.
Her memory has inspired me to dedicate my humble efforts to gender equity and to pour out my thoughts and feelings today.
March 8th although became a constant reminder of the most tragic moment of my life, has ironically become a date I cherish the most because it serves as a reminder of everything my mother stood for.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day: Balance for Better, brings to mind what my mother told me and what her life taught me.
She believed Women’s rights advocacy is not a struggle against men, that the world will be a better place if men and women work together to achieve equal social and economic opportunities for all.
Her life was a beautiful blend of a solid career and a fulfilled family life. She was strong in her convictions but still respected the concerns of men and regarded them as partners in the struggle for gender equity.
Discrimination against women brings us all down. We need to move up together to face the challenges of underdevelopment, poverty, famine, diseases, and conflicts.
I need to add that gender inequality although rooted in socio-cultural prejudice is actually strengthened and enforced by underdevelopment and lack of social opportunities. In such situations, women become the worst victims.
The failure of the public water delivery system, for instance, has thrown women into the hell hole of daily drudgery. They have fallen back to the century-old domestic duty as water bearers.
Gender equity must necessarily be aligned with the broader struggle for social justice, economic democracy and greater citizen participation in public decision making.
We need the contribution of all minds and hands irrespective of gender and race to make the world a better place for us all.
Happy International Women’s Day💃!
#Balanceforbetter #InternationalWomensDay #IWD
The author is the Executive Director of the Progressive Women’s Initiative (PWI), a community-based gender equity advocacy.