Contributed by Emiliene Alemkeng

The International Women’s Day is a focal point in the clamour for women’s rights. Although women celebrate themselves daily, this day is special because the world takes a pause to reflect on the women’s contributions against the backdrop of a patriarchal society.

Some women celebrate the day by advocating for the rights of women in places where their voices are still silenced. Other women just throw huge feasts and have a lot of girl fun as is mostly the case in Cameroon. Yet, no matter how we celebrate, we must reflect on the theme, which for 2019 is, “Think equal, build smart, innovate change”.

The theme encourages us all to find innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls globally. To achieve an equal world, women need to integrate in all societal domains from economic to political and technological. Women must reflect on new ways to advocate for gender equality in the professions.

Thinking equal out to be our collective mindset as human beings because it fosters peace and respect for all irrespective of gender, religious creed or race. The marginalisation of women is a travesty against humanity because “women’s rights are human rights”.

All forms of equality are imperative in the creed of parity. Women who aspire for public office should be taken as seriously as their masculine counterparts, their policies should be scrutinised and not their physical appearance, tone of voice or sound of laughter. Remember, women are people too! In all professions, the glass ceiling must be broken, we must stop acting like some professions and positions are exclusive boys clubs.

Finally, social equality is another element which we must all reflect on. Rape and domestic violence are issues that women undergo daily while society turns a blind eye. Victims of rape and domestic violence are often mocked and shamed, adding victimisation on injury. We must educate our sons, brothers and husbands that “NO MEANS NO” there is nothing coy about it. Raising a hand against a woman is not proof of masculinity; it is a sign of insecurity. Women in Cameroon and other countries suffer the shame of rape, physical and verbal abuse daily, but no laws are put in place for their protection.

As we unite to celebrate our achievements, let us think about equality for all as our collective responsibility. Remember, though you might be free, there are still women and girls in some dark corners of the world still battling subjugation. Girls are still forced into marriage, refused their right to education, raped victims are blamed for looking too sexy while ambition in women is still considered a negative quality. So while we celebrate, we should never forget that unless all women and girls are free, we can never stop being activists for equal rights. An equal world, is a happy world, let’s visualise that.

Edited by Louisa Lum