Guest written by Jumoke Eniola-Odepe on Her Sides: The shoulders we stand on in celebration of women and women’s history month.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” — Margaret Mead.

March is Women’s History Month.

Rightly so.

With over a century-old women’s rights movement, women have crossed many rivers to get to where we are today.

Over the years, women have fought for the right to vote, equal representation in government, the right to equal pay, and a host of other rights.

We, the younger generation of women, are proud to be in this era because of the work that our female forerunners have done {and are doing}.

Some of the women who paved the way for us are known; some remain unsung heroes.

We knew nothing about the three women mathematicians who worked in NASA as human computers till the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures” brought them to our screen.

Based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the movie brought to us Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.

In the face of segregation by race and sex, the brilliant work of these three African American women was pivotal in propelling the first American orbital spaceflight piloted by astronaut John Glenn in 1962.

In 2018, shortly after the movie, a bipartisan bill was introduced to designate the street in front of the NASA headquarters as “Hidden Figures Way.”

On June 12, 2019, the street was officially so renamed in honor of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and “all women who have dedicated their lives to honorably serving their country, advancing equality contributing to the space program in the United States.”

These women went before us, opening the doors for other women to work in space exploration and aeronautics research.

In pre-1929 Canada, based on a narrow interpretation of the law, women were not regarded as “persons” and therefore were not eligible to sit in the senate.

A group of 5 prominent Canadian women activists, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby {the Famous Five}, challenged the interpretation of the law that excludes women as “persons.”

On October 18, 1929, in the celebrated Person’s case, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision:

“The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word ‘person’ should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”

October 18 has been declared Person’s Day in Canada. A day dedicated to honoring the bravery and determination of the Famous Five and the historic decision to allow women’s equal participation in all aspects of political life in Canada.

We stand on the shoulders of these women.

In Africa, we have Grace Alele Williams, the first Nigerian woman to obtain a Ph.D. in mathematics and the first female vice-chancellor in Nigeria. We have Mo Abudu, the first female to launch a pan-African TV channel in Africa.

A cloud of female forerunners surrounds us, pioneer women, shattering diverse glass ceilings held up against us and showing millions of women behind them that impossibility is nothing.

We stand on the shoulders of these women. We see their work in our everyday lives. They have amplified our voices. They have extended available seats for us, opened more doors for us, and made us walk a few inches taller.

We, in turn, owe it to one another to pull each other up, to open the doors for one another, applaud the success of one another, and ensure you’re not the only woman in the board room.

We owe it to the next generation of women to provide mentorship, keep pressing on, and paving the paths, so the next generation of women can thread on the paths we pave.

Picture Credit

About The Writer

Jumoke Eniola-Odepe writes mostly about African narratives and speaks healing to people of African descent. She is passionate about innovation in Africa and believes that innovative thinking is key to transformational change in the continent. You can find her online at https://www.activepens.com