Mother’s Day: In Nigeria, a Day for Reflection

This year, this Mother’s Day, I am conflicted.

On one side, my thoughts lie solely with the mothers of the missing schoolgirls, the victims of a heinous crime. Although terrorism is a tragic fact of life in today’s world — across all borders and all walks of life, when it hits home, it causes a unique type of pain. I believe that every Nigerian of conscience is carrying a heavy heart these days, sharing a communal distress for these innocent children and their families. As a mother myself, I can only imagine the agony.

There are certain rogue elements of our society that are determined to confine our women and our culture to their distorted interpretation of religious teachings. They aim to establish a system that will deny women education and meaningful participation in society, and their tactics are ruthless.

Yet, the other side is this: Although my country and my people are filled with grief over this recent incident and the other attacks that we have endured at the hands of terrorists, we are not defined by it. There is more to our story. I want the U.S. and the world to have a clear and multidimensional picture of my country — and especially its women. So I will use this occasion to celebrate the women of Nigeria, the women who give me hope, the women who cannot and will not be intimidated or subjugated.

There has been considerable media attention lately on the up-and-coming economic powerhouse that is Nigeria today. Yet, we ought not overlook the fact that many of the hands that have helped to build this thriving economy — both in the government and the burgeoning private sector — belong to women. In Nigeria, women are holding positions of power at the highest echelons of government, private sector, and civil society.

We are an integral and forceful element to our country’s growth and advancement. And we will not allow fringe elements, driven by intolerance and hatefulness, to determine our country’s future or our role in it.

This week, Nigeria is hosting the World Economic Forum in Abuja. We are connecting the entrepreneurs and innovators of Africa to the rest of the globe. And as those who are in attendance can surely attest to, looking around the room at WEF, many of these movers and shakers and these leaders of tomorrow are women.

The women of Africa refuse to be dragged down by the will of the despicable few. Even in the darkest of days, we will endure, we will march on. And we will continue working to forge a better, brighter tomorrow for our people.

God bless the women of Africa.

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