A Letter to Dr Kayode Fayemi on International Women’s Day

Dr Kayode J Fayemi
The Honourable Minister
Mines and Steel Development
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Abuja

 

Dear Dr K,
In Year 2000, I began work at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) as Programme Officer. I was seven months pregnant but I did not feel inadequate. I had support. I remember two months later at the women’s leadership training held in Ogere, my sister Erelu Bisi had her friend and our sister, Zeedah Meierhofer Mengali standby as midwife.. just in case. I have come to know that it is the way of the Feminist Movement, to look out for their own. Lukman and I named the baby, Mohammed Hani Zid Kayode – the latter three names for Chris Hani, Zeedah and a true brother, yourself.

Five months after the birth of Hani, I remember coming to you with tears in my eyes and saying Doc, I am pregnant again! (I believed the tale that you don’t need contraception when you are breastfeeding; mba, not true, that don’t work same for everyone). I feared for my job; what kind of Boss would tolerate this; two babies in less than two years on a new job? I had heard stories of hardnosed organisations that would fire such an employee and some who even demanded you signed a pact ab initio to not be pregnant, for the first few years of work life. But Doc, you waved my fears aside in that characteristic ‘well, life happens, you just have to find a way to happen to it’ way that you have.

I raised my ‘twins’. I did my share and had the space, empathy and tools I required to excel at work. Long before the lyrics of the now ubiquitous work – life balance ‘song’ was written, you understood it and enabled it. CDD even debated paternity leave. We knew that it’s a fallacy to attempt a divide between women’s productive and reproductive lives. It is all one interconnected life: women’s child bearing work makes paid work possible. Women in fact subsidize the state when they reproduce that future human resource under the high risk conditions, which they brave. Few knew this then, unfortunately, only a few more know it now..

As our Director, you made CDD a haven, a place to thrive, to be unafraid to work in new ways, to find untraveled territory and to marvel at new learning. You let us ‘be’. For those of us who were lucky to have worked with you, CDD was a firm root and the source of our becoming.

Fast forward to your work in Ekiti State as Governor and the courage and purpose you brought to expanding the space for women and girls through laws, policies, voice, participation and access to life changing opportunities in innovative and enduring ways. Awe!

Through your rich humility, I have learnt that the most important hierarchies are not those of power but of the imagination. This is enabled for women and girls, where power allows them unfold, stretch, explore, reach, climb and soar and thus embrace the bitter with the sweet, knowing that everything is possible and every experience has its value; and that they will not be judged unfairly. That is true freedom.

Thank you Dr K, for enabling freedom for women, girls and their communities and for your brand of leadership as you continue to demystify public office and bring meaning to service. Thank you for your solidarity with the Women’s Movement over the years and for enabling us just ‘be’.

Most of all, thank you for your kindness and warm friendship. I admire your easy, mutually supportive relationship with my sister, Erelu. I pray your friendship keeps enduring and you both live to tell your great grandchildren, your many intrepid stories.

On this International Women’s Day, Doc, I want to ask that you continue to model the way, to help reach more male held doors, to push them further ajar and ensure that the path of choice is kept open for women, girls and boys everywhere.

May your journey find new exciting roads and remain inspiring.

With immense gratitude,
Amina Salihu
International Women’s Day
March 8 2018
Abuja
#PressforProgress
#HerStoryOurStory

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2 Responses to A Letter to Dr Kayode Fayemi on International Women’s Day

  1. Femi Diipo March 11, 2018 at 12:33 am

    Wonderful. Men like Dr Kayode Fayemi are indeed rear and even though I’ve only known and read about him from afar I know enough to believe by now that he is indeed exceptional. Kudos to all men who support women in anyway and capacity they can

    Reply
  2. Femi Diipo March 11, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Wonderful. Men like Dr Kayode Fayemi are indeed rear and even though I’ve only known and read about him from afar I know enough to believe by now that he is indeed exceptional. Kudos to all men who support women in anyway and capacity they can

    Reply

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