Please, DON’T call it inclusion
When you remember women only when it’s about women. Don’t invite a woman to speak about ‘women’ unless you also invite women to speak on other important issues besides their gender. It is not inclusion. It is not creating a seat at the table for women. It is you doing a ‘do good, feel good’ for yourself. Do you feel attacked already?
Don’t invite a woman to write or speak because it’s International Women’s Day unless you’ll invite or let her have her platform to share her innovation, her expert knowledge and opinion on every other issue, every other day including International Women’s Day.
When there is conversation on government or accountability, unless you’re bringing a man to talk about a man’s role, don’t bring a woman to talk about women’s. Women are not only experts in being women. They’re also experts, just like men, on democracy, accountability, science, policy and the economy. Women’s expertise is not about their gender.
Don’t recognize and acknowledge a woman because she is a mother or your mother, your sister or someone else’, your daughter or someone else’, your granddaughter, a cousin or a friend because that still makes it about the other and not the person. Recognize and acknowledge a woman because she is a person first. A human being with rights, deserving of equal respect and dignity.
Don’t bring women as props to introduce men on a panel on academics or everyday issues unless women can serve as experts on that same panel.
Stop associating femininity and feminine characteristics with negativity or weakness. There is power and positivity in femininity. Don’t tell me it is a joke. Jokes that demean or undervalue women are inappropriate, wrong and unacceptable, not funny.
Don’t tell women to lower their guard, stop being loud or stop taking up space unless you can tell if their act is what you have a problem with and not their gender.
Don’t tell me I am too much, over the top or too sensitive unless you can prove you have been through half the things I have. Don’t tell me I am an angry woman. Women’s anger is valid.
Are you able to listen to a woman’s words and not make it about her gender?
When you get criticized or called out for bias against women or anyone or anything else, don’t be defensive. Fix it. If you lack the ability to recognize where people might be coming from, seek help. Don’t try to justify. Note, women don’t owe you to teach you about what it means or takes to be a woman.
Women’s voices matter and there is power in lived experiences and who better tell a story than people who live it themselves. When a woman draws from her lived experience to offer context in a discourse, it should be a choice she gets to make and her story is not the reality of all women. Being a woman is not a representation. But, when does a woman’s voice matter?
Women have a right to equal participation, access and opportunity. A nation with empowered women is a developed nation.
Absa Samba is a feminist and has been involved in advocacy for women’s right in The Gambia and beyond. She works with prominent organizations, including Forum for African Women Educationalists’ The Gambia. Absa is also a Social Work Major at Champlain College in the USA. She is currently on an exchange study program at Abertay University in the UK.