MFA community, today we celebrate International Women’s Day.
I was fortunate to be a part of the Form 3 Assembly this Monday morning where one of the classes shared a great presentation, sharing in particular, the stories of women past and present from whom they draw inspiration.
I shared with them a statement on the International Women’s Day theme: ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.’ from Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):
“This year’s International Women’s Day is like no other. As countries and communities start to slowly recover from a devastating pandemic, we have the chance to finally end the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls. But to do that, we need immediate action. Women must have the opportunity to play a full role in shaping the pivotal decisions being made right now as countries respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – choices that will affect the wellbeing of people and the planet for generations to come.
To do this, we must break down the deep-seated historic, cultural, and socio-economic barriers that prevent women from taking their seat at the decision-making table to make sure that resources and power are more equitably distributed.”
Sadly, across the world and particularly in Africa and Kenya, women still do not enjoy rights equal to those of men. Also, far too many women in this country are subject to physical violence and sexual abuse. The attitude of too many men in our society is one of entitlement and ownership when it comes to the girls and women within their communities.
These attitudes towards women have become culturally entrenched in this and many other African countries. Too many societies are not only plagued with abuse and violence towards women, but women are paid less for equal jobs and far less likely to be voted into positions of leadership. We need change.
I posed this question to the Form 3’s: What can be done about this ? You may think you are powerless to bring about change, but change can and must start right here at the Academy. As we move into the process of electing new Student Leaders for the year ahead, I challenge all the students to take a mature, considered view of student leadership, to vote for leaders, not based on their social popularity, but on evidence of good leadership traits. To vote for those who have demonstrated integrity during their time at the academy, those that have shown that they are able to make tough decisions regardless of wether those decisions are unpopular. Those that do the right thing no matter who is watching or when nobody is watching. Those that will lead the Academy to a place of being a truly student led Academy that will transform the lives of all who attend the school.
I challenge the students and staff to consider rationally and without gender bias who the best leaders will be for the next year.
In their assembly this morning I particularly challenged the girls seated there not to be restricted or limited by how women and girls may be perceived in their home community or in the prevailing broader culture, I challenged them to boldly put themselves forward for leadership, to have their voice heard and to take up the challenge of leading the academy. We need the strong and courageous voices of our young women if we are to challenge the status quo
I also challenge the young men of our school, no matter your culture or the society you find yourself in, to be considered men of balanced thought and understanding and integrity. Men who vote for the strong women in our school, men who boldly support girls in leadership positions and to be men who denounce practices that fail to support the female leadership in our school and society due to narrow minded thinking. I challenge you all to be men of real significance.
I sincerely hope that we will see more young women putting up their hands to take up the challenge of leadership in our school and beyond.
Join me in celebrating International Women’s Day by reflecting on our attitudes and biases, those that are both intentional and unintentional and then make a conscious decision to change. Change starts with each of us.