Updated: Dec 30, 2022
"Here is to strong women, may we know them, may we be them and may we raise them" - Unknown
I remember growing up, from about 6 years old, I frequently followed my mom to the local market, Isale Eko in Lagos, Nigeria. We would wake up very early to avoid traffic and it was definitely a day to wear pants because Eko moved like the black panther running. My mother loves to bargain and Isale Eko was were you got the best deals, we got provisions, clothes, jewelry, and so on.
Walking through this market was a task for me. Eko was rowdy, very busy, and with a river of people. I remember the sticky smell of the air and vendors persuading you aggressively to buy from them, some pulling you by the arm or cloth, shouting phrases like "omo mummy, fine geh, this one go fit you". Food hawkers singing out choruses to buy breakfast, "ara bredi e po tea o, fine butter bread" . There was the smell of ewa agoyin ( a beans delicacy meal in Nigeria), tempting me to persuade my mom to buy some but the fear of diarrhea often changed my mind. You had to be street smart and careful as you could get counterfeit products sold at the price of originals. I focused on my mother and kept a straight face. I hated random people touching me but was wise enough to keep it moving, unoffended. These people are only trying to make a living and in Lagos, aggressiveness gets you to sell more. My mother was the bargain queen and she made it her mission to do so until she got insulted. My mother used to say that "if they haven't insulted you, then the price isn't low enough". I was clueless but trusted her to do her thing and we always got the best deals. My mom planted that seed in me, the one to that whispers,"you can get it at a better price", and because of that, I am usually a bargain hunter and proud of it.
I hope that when it matters the most, we do not shut our voices, for there is power in speaking up. Your voice is powerful
Before walking to the market, we would go to my mom's bank. You could see the logo in color orange and blue the closer you got, it was Afrik Bank. Inside, it smelt like fresh clean air, a sense of relief would fall on me as we were away from the hustle in Eko, and from the blazing sun. There was the air conditioner's coolness on my skin and goosebumps on my arms. The floors were tiled and the bankers smiling at us. I looked forward to seeing the beautiful women smartly dressed with their skirts, and sometimes suits or blazers. Their hair neatly arranged or with a chinese weave on wig. They looked so beautiful to me. They were warm, welcoming and always smiling. They would ask right questions and knew exactly what to punch to get us what we needed. I was fascinated by how they handled "money business" even though I had no real sense of what their roles entailed. See, men mostly ran the show in business or banks back then in Nigeria, so seeing these women- few as may - gave me something to look forward to. They were female bankers, who were intelligent and looked beautiful. Even then, I always had an aptitude for Maths and figured that maybe one day, I could work in the Bank too. They helped me make up my mind. When I was a little girl, I wanted to handle business matters, told myself that I too would be intelligent and beautiful just like these women. They empowered my young mind.
In grace, elegance and confidence, walk your walk to the best of your ability. You never know who is getting empowered because of you
My mummy mushin. My mummy Mushin passed away in October 2016 . Mummy Mushin was my grad aunt. I called her mummy Mushin because she lived in Mushin, Lagos, Nigeria. She mostly visited unannounced and I anticipated seeing her on most holidays. She would wait in front of our flat until we returned and it didn't even matter how long she did, she was always happy to see me. She could barely understand English and I barely understood Yoruba ( my mother tongue) but we made it work somehow. She was poor and sold provisions in the local market close to where she lived. Being poor didn't matter as she was always willing to give, she always bought me goodies. Always!! Candies, biscuits, banger ( knock-outs - at Christmas) and whatever else she thought I would like. I experienced one of the purest kinds of love because of her.
A few days before she passed, I was telling a friend about how I must see her when I visit Nigeria, I wanted to see her soft smile again. There was love we exchanged even with very little words. I was dear to her and she was to me. I wanted to take care of her when I had the chance but heaven's gate knocked earlier and wanted her too. Today, I hope that we are all reminded of the importance of love, we all need to love.
A loving heart is not weakness but strength, as it is difficult not to allow the world break you. It is easier not to love but Love is powerful. It cures, it holds, it empowers.
Most women who have empowered me did so effortless without even knowing. In recent years, I have learnt that I must walk my walk without feeling ashamed or unworthy not only because some else may be learning from me, but for my wholeness.
The female bankers planted a seed in my mind to be a female in business; however, this seed has grown as we need more female executives in Business and hopefully one day, I would be one too. All this started because they were female bankers kicking ass!
My mother opened my eyes to the finer things in life while teaching me that if I looked closely, I could bargain to get things at a more affordable price. Little wonder why I am popular amongst my friends and family to go to for how and where to get good deals. Even when I do not know, you can trust Abi to do her research. I pride myself in getting the best value for every dollar spent. Thanks Mom :)
My grand aunt taught me that I do not need a reason to love, she was always there almost every holiday and I can never forget how it made me feel. She made me feel like I mattered, and I mattered to her. She allowed me understand that you do not have to own a lot to love, and to give. We all have something to give, even if it is time. She gave me time, she spent valuable time with me and allowed me experience pure love. R.I.P. Mummy Mushin.
To the women who have impacted my life and continuously do, to women who lift others up and encourage the air around them, and to those bold enough not to dim their lights for anyone; you are my woman crush today. Thanks for being you. #WCW
"The rise of women does not mean the fall of men" - unknown