Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

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International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized, and celebrated for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. 

It is a day that the searchlight is beamed on women’s resource building, equality issues, and advocacy rights. 

Based on this year’s theme, “International Women’ Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” – Antonio Guterres

All over the world, we find the girl-child and women homeless, friendless, and powerless. 

They are homeless due to wars; victims of natural disasters, poverty discrimination, fallouts of inheritance claim, domestic and sexual abuse, widowhood rites, trafficking and migration – displaced from their origins. 

They are friendless because of the harmful practices inflicted upon them, by a world that seems too weighed down by the enormity of the problems they face. 

They are powerless, simply because the environment places certain hurdles against them, and society is slow or reluctant in effecting the enabling measures that would place women in the mainstream of decision making and taking. 

Making their way as best they can on the cruel edges of the world; women have stories to tell, changes to make, lives to touch, and dreams to build. 

I believe that the world should partner with women, on this noble cause. 

More than ever, the time is now to keep pressing on the advancements made in correcting the wrongs of the past, in initiating and consolidating changes for the present, and in establishing core values for the future. 

It is not the time to rest on our oars; but with every handshake of acknowledgment, there should be a corresponding double back-slap of encouragement. 

The goals are clearly spelt out in the UN charter, and the targets are achievable. The discourse is focused on women’s rights, equality and justice. 

It is a sad reality of our times that increasing cases of child molestation and abuse, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public awareness, and fueled a rising determination for change.

As we utilize this yearly opportunity to transform this momentum into action, let us also make the resolve to keep our promise. 

We all agree that it is time for change. 

It is time to develop, train and empower all women and the girl-child in all communities, both rural and urban. 

It is time to celebrate the activists who are working tirelessly, relentlessly, most often quietly, to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential. 

It is time to deal with deep-seated gender inequalities, exploitation and discrimination. 

It is the time for empowering women for acquisition, and enhancement of their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

It is time to put an end to the abduction of our young girls for whatever reasons. Our daughters are not commodities, they are not bargaining chips. They are not merchandise to be traded for by faceless tribal agitators, and certainly not for auction. 

It is time to transform women’s lives everywhere. 

We shall not forget the sacrosanct place of human dignity as the core of our national identity, in shaping, guiding, and effecting our resolve. 

Let us with tact and wisdom, shove aside what clearly no longer serves us. The unfair burdens of culture, the bias of stereotypes, and the unwholesome limitations of tradition.  

The woman deserves, and has earned a place of honor, respect and protection. 

It is time for the needful to be done, for the sake of the future generations.

The girl-child is a blossoming asset for humanity. Let us educate her. Let us protect her.

The time to press for progress is NOW!

 

Written by Uboho Bassey