By Lola Akande
If a clarion call is made for the celebration of the pivotal roles of women such that they are beginning to dominate the landscape in everyday life,a number of people might give little heed. Yet, keen observers of the trajectory of women would recall how, over time, women have suffered invisibility, subjection, and repression. With the rise of democracy, however, there has been a kind of democratisation of the public space especially through education; and with education, we are beginning to find strong amazons coming into the public limelight. Hence, women are no longer as side-lined or marginalised as they had always been; They are standing up to be counted as strong archetypes; they are demonstrating that a woman could be studied and appreciated from her everyday way of living. That a woman could be a child, mother, sister, colleague and that there are many more ways to picture a woman in the society; that the woman is more than her physicality.
To be sure, women have always strived to impact their world positively in all spheres of human endeavour. In Nigeria, for example, women have contributed to the development of the country by playing pivotal and peculiar roles. They have consistently proven that they could be teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, administrators, and managers of human and material resources.Mrs.BolajokoKuforiji-Olubi became the first female chairman of one of the foremost banks in Nigeria. She gave a new meaning to banking management. Mrs.NdidiOkereke-Onyiuke got into the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). She held her own like no man had done before. No one imagined that Prof. Dora Akunyili would be capable of confronting manufacturers, distributors and sellers of fake, substandard, adulterated and expired foods and drugs. Nigerians were awestruck by the sheer strength and patriotism with which she discharged her duties as director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). She was neither deterred nor enticed by the dangerous lure of bribery which had become the albatross of most public office holders in Nigeria. Other names that readily come to mind include but are not limited to Amina Mohammed, NenadiUsman, FolorunshoAlakija, HadizaBalaUsman and KemiAdeosun.
Elsewhere in the world, women have continued to hold sway where many men fear to tread. SlyvieKiningi became the first female acting President in Burundi in 1993 and went on to become the first female President in Africa. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Africa’s first elected female Head of State. She served as president from 2006 to 2018 after winning presidential elections twice. Sirleaf is internationally known as Africa’s iron lady. She and three other women were awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for their efforts in promoting women’s rights. Joyce Hilda Banda was President of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. AmeenahGurib-Fakim was President of Mauritius between 2015 and 2018. The Germans elected Angela Merkel as leader, and she led her country with competence, skill, dedication and sincerity that is yet unmatched in German history. It is not surprising, therefore, that at the end of her service, the entire German population went to the balconies of their houses and clapped spontaneously for six minutes to appreciate a woman who is dubbed “the lady of the world” and described as the equivalent of six million men. But who would have imagined that a woman could rise to the position of the World Trade Centre? Indeed, history was made on February 15, 2021 when the General Council agreed, by consensus, to select NgoziOkonjo-Iweala as its seventh Director-General. Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman and first African to be chosen for the exalted position. Without a doubt, she and many more African amazons are re-writing some of the wrong notions of female weakness.
It is in the light of the foregoing that it becomes imperative for modern society to draw useful lessons from the great social psychologist and motivation theorist, Douglas McGregor who describes two contrasting sets of assumptions that managers make about people. In trying to determine what motivates workers to greater performance, McGregor explains that it depends on the manager’s perception of human nature. He says if a manager perceives human nature as being characterised by indolence, despondency and laziness, then only a specific kind of people may be believed to be capable of being at the helm of affairs. He submits this position in his famous theory X which posits, in part, that “the ability to demonstrate creativity and intelligence is limited to only a few people” (ostensibly the managers). Instructively, he says he discovers, however, that this perception is wrong and that what really stimulate people into action are human needs. This discovery necessitates his even more famous Theory Y which states in part that “the ability to demonstrate creativity and intelligence is not limited to a few people but is widely distributed among the populace.”
It is delightful that the world seems to be gravitating towards the McGregorian path by jettisoning the old age practice of suppressing and subjugating women. McGregor saw the mistake in his theory X and promptly propounded his Y theory. Similarly, it would seem as if the world had previously imagined women as treacherous, cantankerous, noisy, troublesome, unintelligent, and weak. The erroneous perception had tended to degrade and diminish their individuality for so long. But not anymore; women are now normal members of society, they are being looked at in their own right to significance, and they are increasingly taking the centre stage. The inclusion and participation of women in national politics, the professions, and other important sectors have increased. This is why it is important to celebrate the steady ascension of women into the limelight. It is time to commemorate the growing visibility of not only the female face, but more importantly her voice as she displays courage, fearlessness, and initiatives in the scheme of things. The world is peopled by strong-willed women, women of substance and character. They are not just preachers of peace and teachers of good conduct; they are competent and skilful workers as well. The future is here; it is unmistakably female.
*Dr.Lola Akande, Department of English, University of Lagos