There are many jokes around about the year 2020, calling it
the year nothing happened because the world almost ground to a standstill.
The year was a bad one for millions of businesses and individuals around the world. Even those who were not affected by job losses or lack of income suffered in other ways – there were record levels of depression and even suicides triggered by the forced isolation from the usual support systems.
We also witnessed increased levels of violence against women and girls. I took advantage of themonths we were forced into inactivity to work on projects that did not require
me to move around, and I am happy with the what was achieved.
It also offered a rare opportunity to pause and reflect and come to terms with what was working for me and what was not. As this rather strange year draws to an end, I would like
to share some of my observations, lessons, highs and lows.
I embraced the almighty Webinar
2020 was the year we all rose to the challenge of staying connected in our business and professional lives as well as our personal ones. I don’t know what we would have all done without almighty Zoom. It enabled us participate in meetings, seminars, briefings, you name it. I participated in so many Webinars as a Guest Speaker that I lost count. My Media Officer, the indefatigable Funmi Ajala decided to count just for the fun of it, and she listed 42 Webinars! These do not include regular online meetings of organisations I am involved with, these were public events where I had to dress up as if I was going out (being on a Zoom call looking like you just got out of bed, even if you just did is so unprofessional) and prepare a decent presentation. I am however grateful that I was able to master this new way of communicating and staying connected, it helped get a lot of work done.
- I published ‘Where is your Wrapper?’ and launched The Wrapper Network
This year, I was able to get out my collection of essays, the second volume of Loud Whispers which I called ‘Where is your wrapper?’, named after one of the most popular essays in the book. Published by Farafina Books, Where is your Wrapper? is available in bookstores around the country and on Amazon books. On June 11th 2020 I launched The Wrapper Network, a mentoring, information and business support platform for young women. The network keeps growing and meeting so many vibrant and talented women every day gives me so much joy.
- The spirit of Ubuntu lives o
Ugliness, bitterness, suffering, pain, agony, these are things we are used to feeling, seeing and hearing. There has been plenty of that this year, as always. Yet, this year, when it mattered the most, I also saw a lot of kindness. People reaching out to others during the lockdowns. Online groups mobilizing resources to provide shelter, school fees, food or clothing for total strangers. Irate yet vigilant citizens clamouring for justice in cases of abuse. Whistleblowers saving children from slavery and imprisonment. Even though the demands always far exceed supply, I have been humbled and gladdened at the way people try to look out for others and make sure they get the help they need. The African spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ ( I am because you are) is till there, it has not gone extinct, inspite of all the pressures it continues to face.
- The Culture of Silence has been threatened
Sexual predators count on one key factor, the silence of their victims. This is what emboldens them to not only continue their assaults on a particular victim, they continue to leave a trail of broken bodies and spirits in their wake. This year, the culture of silence was threatened, if not totally broken. The ceaseless attacks on women and girls, aided by the COVID19 lockdowns pushed one too many buttons. Now women are speaking up and speaking out. Women’s organisations and networks, tired of doing all the heavy lifting due to the abdication of the government have cried out at the alarming ways in which the violence statistics keep increasing exponentially. Now the Federal Government, State Governments, and development partners are more willing to address this pandemic that occurred within a pandemic. Victims are now becoming survivors, who are willing to break the silence that evil perpetrators have counted on for so long. Violations are still occurring every day, but now people know it is no longer the usual business of silence.
- Bad news will always travel faster than good news
Recently, there was a video in circulation about a group of women traders in Ado-Ekiti who had been duped out of their hard-earned money by a now faceless group known as ATLAS. Within twenty-four hours, I had received the video of the poor women lamenting their losses at least a dozen times. Two weeks ago, someone I know in Texas sent me information about a building complex somewhere in Ogun State that could be converted into a shelter for women and girls. She wanted to know if Ekiti State would be interested in using it, as well as Ogun State. I pointed out that on November 26th, Ekiti State commissioned a 208-bed Transit Home and Vocational Training Center for Women and Girls, an ‘all singing, all dancing’ shelter. My contact was not aware. I sent the video of the facility and she was very impressed. The news had been all over the place at the time, in all the regular media outlets as well as online. Yet, it did not get passed from phone to phone like the bad news about the swindled women.
- The tenacity of ‘Koro’
There is a pandemic that has no cure at the moment. It is highly infectious and dangerous, it has claimed many lives around the world. There are vaccines now, but it will take a while for everyone to be vaccinated. In the interim, we need to observe certain protocols such as using a face mask, use hand sanitizer, observe social distancing, avoid large crowds, watch out for government updates. How hard can this be? Obviously, it is rocket science for many, even well-educated people. In recent times, I have felt like I was the one who was out of place when I would go to events and the only people wearing masks would be me and my aides and government officials present. I attended a church program a few weeks ago and noticed that the vast majority of people in church were not wearing masks. When I was asked to greet the congregation, I reminded people that Covid19 was still out there and we all need to wear masks. Half of the church shouted ‘Koro ti lo’ (Covid19 has gone). I told them that there are two things we can never argue with. One of them is the word of God. The second is the truth. ‘Koro’ is till very much around, in fact it is back with a vengeance. The same scenario played itself out at another church service. After I had spoken, and received the same reaction, the Bishop scolded the congregation, reminding them that some priests had lost their lives to Covid19, so it is no respecter of anyone. Covid19 will be with us for a while. Hopefully, 2021 will see a reduction in Covidiocy.
- Political leaders have a serious trust deficit
Hardly anyone trusts a government official. Even government officials don’t trust government officials. As someone married to a top government official, this is a painful truth I have had to come to terms with. It is tiresome trying to tell people your own leader is different, or you can be trusted. So what I have learnt is simply trust yourself. Trust that you have the right kind of values to enable you make the best decisions. Trust is earned, not demanded.
- A feminist opinion on ‘Bone Straight Hair’
I was interviewed for a Wrapper Network broadcast recently
and I was asked what I thought about the new craze for ‘Bone straight hair’,
and the pressure a lot of men are under to buy it for their ladies. This very expensive, silky, long and straight wig is very much desired by young women. I see no problem with having such lovely hair if that is your choice. It is entirely your choice to spend money the equivalent of a plot of land (depending on where you are buying) or the cost of starting a small business on a wig. If you want Bone Straight Hair, by all means, go and buy it and rock it to your heart’s content, with as much sass as you can muster. However, if you need to
beg, manipulate, dupe or threaten a man to buy it for you, then you are Bone Straight Stupid.
I wish everyone a safe, blessed and prosperous New Year.
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of
Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com