(l-r) Kamala Harris, first woman Vice President of the United States; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, first woman Director-General of World Trade Organization (WTO), and Deborah Kayembe Buba, first refugee woman to be Lord Rector (President) of University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
By Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma
As we celebrate WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH (in the USA), it is worth noting that March 8 in the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. I am delighted to join the international community in celebrating and reflecting on this day by paying a special tribute to three distinguished women leaders, namely, Kamala Harris, first woman Vice President of the United States; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, first woman Director-General of World Trade Organization (WTO), and Deborah Kayembe Buba, first refugee woman to be Lord Rector (President) of University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
KAMALA HARRIS, 49TH VICE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.
Prior positions: San Francisco’ District Attorney, California Attorney General, U.S. Senator.
The historical character of her Harris’ achievement is that she is the first African American woman, first South Asian woman, first Black and Indian American, Black woman of Indian descent, and in Alisa. Wieserma’s words, “the first person of color to be second in command and the highest-elected Asian American in history.”
DR. NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)
Prior positions: Nigeria’s finance minister during the tenures of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan; former managing director of the World Bank and chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Her history making appointment makes her the first woman and African to lead the 26-year-old trade organization.
In her acceptance statement, delivered via video link, she stated, among other things that “Without the recent swift action by the Biden-Harris administration to join the consensus of the membership on my candidacy, we would not be here today.” Apparently, for whatever reason, the previous administration was opposed to her candidacy.
Source: “Africa: What Africa Expects of the New WTO Director-General.” AllAfrica, March 3, 2021. Africa: What Africa Expects of the New WTO Director-General – allAfrica.com
DEBORAH KAYEMBE, 45, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER, ELECTED 54TH LORD RECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
She fled her native land of Democratic Republic of Congo and settled in the UK where she worked as a human rights lawyer. Like many African immigrants in Europe and elsewhere, Kayembe and her daughter have been the victims of racism in Scotland. For more details, see Ada Ugo, “Deborah Kayembe, A Refugee From DRC Named As First Black Rector Of University Of Edinburgh.” February 15, 2021 Deborah Kayembe, A Refugee From DRC Named As First Black Rector Of University Of Edinburgh (mbbaglobal.com)
These three firsts’ stellar rise to the highest echelon of global leadership matters. It matters because gender representation in all aspects of sociopolitical, economic, and academic fields is crucial in a concerted effort to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 5, “To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The achievement of this goal is consistent with our belief in the self-evident truth that all humans are created equal. This belief is codified in numerous legal documents, including but limited to the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776), and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Believe it or not, the belief in and call for gender equality is unambiguous in Osun and the Power of Woman, a Yoruba story that warns us against gender discrimination. According to this story,
Olodumare, the Supreme Creator, who is both male and female, wanted to prepare the earth for human habitation. To organize things, Olodumare sent the seventeen major deities. Osun was the only woman; all the rest were men. Each of the deities was given specific abilities and specific assignments. But when the male deities held their planning meetings, they did not invite Osun. “She was a woman,” they said.
However, Olodumare had given great powers to Osun. Her womb is the matrix of all life in the universe. In her lie tremendous power, unlimited potential, and infinities of existence. She wears a perfectly carved, beaded crown, and with her beaded comb she parts the pathway of both human and divine life. She is the leader of the aje, the powerful beings and forces in the world.
When the male deities ignored Osun, she made their plans fail. The male deities returned to Olodumare for help. After listening, Olodumare asked, “What about Osun?” “She is only a woman,” they replied, “so we left her out.” Olodumare spoke in strong words, “you must go back to her, beg her for forgiveness, make a sacrifice to her, and give her whatever she asks.”
The male deities did so, and Osun forgave them. What did she ask for? The secret initiation that men used to keep women in the background. She wanted it for herself and for all women who are as powerful as she. The men agreed and initiated her into the secret knowledge. From that time onward, their plans were successful.”
The rise of ‘the three firsts’ indicates that the international community is slowly paying attention to this Yoruba story and to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) The Global Gender Gap Report 2016. The Forum’s commitment to “reshaping the world” must also become every democratic and human rights loving society’s commitment to dealing with the exclusion and underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in politics and other fields. Regrettably, in most of the world, and in varying degrees, women and ethnic minorities continue to have the lion’s share regarding poverty and political underrepresentation. The continuing gender income and political representation gap suggests that the international community, including supposedly industrialized democracies like the USA, has failed to include women in the democratic process and the application of the stakeholder theory as suggested by the Yoruba story. In the introductory remarks to the aforementioned Report, Klaus Schwab, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman, explains the stakeholder theory as follows, “for a community to have a sustained positive impact, all interested parties must be engaged” (World Economic Forum 2016). Undoubtedly, Kamala Harris, Okonjo-Iweala, Kayembe exemplify the stakeholder theory in a concerted effort to realize Liberty, Equality, and universal Fraternity and Sorority.
Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!
Dr. Zekeh Gborokuma at Love Padlocks site near Seoul Tower, Seoul, South Korea 2008
DR. ZEKEH GBOROKUMA is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University and Founder, Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD). He is the author/editor of numerous multilingual publications, the most recent of which is DEMOCRACY AND DEMOGRAPHICS IN THE USA (Amazon Kindle 2020)
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