Monday, 8th of march, 2021 was international women’s day. After a long day of tiring activities I was about to lay down and rest when my phone beeped. Someone sent me a text that read “Thank you for epitomizing this year’s theme.” This year’s theme was “Choose to Challenge.” That text took away the sleep from my eyes, sent me into deep reflections, thinking about my parents and lineage and that resulted in this piece.
My father would call me “Nnem” (my mother in Igbo language) because according to my culture he believed I reincarnated his mother; Janet Egeuka. This woman whom I was named after left behind shoes that look so big to fill and I was scared I might not be the right candidate to fill them. She chose to take her kids and the only child of her late sister and move to an unknown city with very few options rather than be passed down to the next available relative after the death of her young husband. In her time women had no inheritance, lacked financial power and the culture permitted wives to be inherited by relatives after the death of their husbands. She took the road less travelled in a time most women dare not challenge the patriarchy and she lived life on her own terms.
My father was another person that stood for equity and fairness. He never used those words but his actions spoke loudly. He recognised his village had so much natural resources when it came to farming but lacked access to infrastructure like roads to allow the farmers convert this resource. This was a key ingredient missed for wealth creation and financial empowerment for a community that very much so needed it. He decided to change the status quo. He saw a future well ahead of his time, he fought for his convictions. He rallied the villagers and made a case with the government and other stakeholders for access to good roads to be provided for his community. He wanted to create opportunities for the farmers. He wanted to change the situation.
My mother still challenges me till this day. One of the bravest shoulders I stand on. As a young girl I would experience her playing several roles. She was the plumber, electrician, mason, and part of the technical team repairing broken machines in our Bakery which she ran. With very little education herself her ability to acquire these skills is exceptional. She never let anyone put her in a box, never based on her gender. She did not take strongly to the opinions of those who disliked her drive or abhorred her penchant for breaking gender stereotypes.
That is the lineage of ancestors I have, the cloth which I was cut from. Challenging the status quo for a better society was never discussed or spoken but in the lives they lived they handed me the map by which I have navigated life. If I must preserve this legacy, I am the map, giving directions to my children on the ethos and values to navigate life.
Dear Asher and Sarah, my kids, these are the shoulders of whom we stand on. They left us a map to guide us. Not one with words but built out of the actions of their life. They paved the way so we can challenge the status quo. Those that came before me chose to challenge their world, they took responsibility for doing something about issues regarding bias and inequality in their world. In their way they were making the world a better place for us. We must pass on the baton and make our world a better place for the next generation.