Empowerment of women should not be seen as a destination, but as a journey with no end. To achieve this, however, stereotypes, assumptions, and baggage relating to development and gender have to be left behind. What matters instead, is to see what life is like for real women, on the ground. And this is exactly what Nenadi Esther Usman has been doing.
Who Is Nenadi Esther Usman?
Esther Nenadi Usman started her life as Esther Nenadi in the state of Southern Kaduna in Nigeria. She married her husband Usman, entering an interfaith marriage. This was almost unheard of in Kaduna, but Nenadi took things even further. Now the former finance minister, she became Senator Nenadi Esther, becoming a minister that fought for the economic and financial freedom of all Nigerians, but mainly Nigerian women. As part of her career, and now as part of her personal life, Esther Usman aims to raise the position of the woman, but to do so at grass root level.
Nenadi Esther understands that gender inequality is institutionalized. She also understands that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions out there either. She may have become a minister, not everybody can, or wants to, do that. Different women have different needs and different issues to be addressed. Hence, she believes that women’s empowerments needs to come from the very women who need to be empowered, fighting for the issues that they are facing themselves.
She believes that real change is possible, particularly if more women join the campaigns. It is women who need to participate in the economic, political, and social arena. She believes society as a whole needs to learn to respond to the needs of women, and that goes beyond demanding equal rights and fighting for gender equality. It is about actually having those rights.
Lived Experiences Matter
Woman must take responsibility themselves for the movement towards equality. For instance, female genital mutilation is common in Ethiopia, but almost unheard of in Romania. Hence, the issues is an important one, but not all over the world. International legislators, such as those with the United Nations, NATO, and the World Health Organization, should fight for all rights, and governments should fight for all the rights facing women in their particular country. But women themselves need to take their own power and fight for what they believe matters to them personally. In a single area like Kaduna, one woman may have bee the victim of sexual violence, another woman may not have equal access to food, a third woman may not have any say in her own reproductive health, and a final woman may not have access to education. Each of those issues is equally important, but it is the women who are going through those problems who must become the voice of breaking through them. And once they do that, and stand side by side in their demands for equality, that is when a real change will happen.