From the earliest dawn of the human race and possibly civilization, the role and place of women was established without any shred of doubt. The woman is a pillar. A support system. I have watched with amazement and equal joy how women in the world and particularly in the 3rd world countries have with equanimity braced up to the challenge of existence and confronted the odds; gaining great milestones and mileage with sterling achievements. I cannot say with certainty when the tides turned against women but doubtless, the women have made untold contributions to the world in which we live, and the world we ought to live in. Their accomplishments have been against all odds, in diverse fields that have historically shut the doors against them, neither welcoming nor appreciating women. Only last night, I chanced into an advert on national television with the caption of my brief remarks: “I AM WOMAN!” Indeed, I am a woman with a difference!

Nothing gives me greater joy than my gender, faith in God, dedication to the service of humanity, teaching, and rolling back injustice wherever and whenever I see such. As a woman, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, and a mentor with countless mentees across the globe, I have always maintained that the role of the woman is secure and a dignified one. What do I mean? For the sake of clarity, it is simply unacceptable when juxtaposed against the backdrop of women’s contributions to the advancement of humanity for the nagging and persistent gender gap to continue to act as a drawback on their talents, abilities, and willingness to continue to push the frontiers of greatness for the human race. When we are silent or afraid of equal participation of women based on competence, talents, and abilities, then the consequences are all too obvious for everyone to see. There is no gain for humanity when women are prevented from unlocking their full potential. Humanity stands to lose ultimately when the woman is shackled or manacled.

Women make up more than half of the global population. That is huge and a minefield and reservoir of strength for the global space. Women’s continuing underrepresentation in any sphere of endeavor is an affront to human dignity. Whatever barriers are stacked against women in any society is a crime against humanity itself. Whatever culture or practices, including religious ones, prevent the full manifestation of any woman’s call for reforms are hindrances that debar the whole generation. Barriers are meant to be pulled down and women have proven to be worthy of themselves and worthy partners in the growth and molding of nations of the world. As a Chief Executive Officer, I have enjoyed the absolute support of my Founder, President, and Chancellor, Aare Emmanuel Afe Babalola, SAN, OFR, in a manner that baffles me. I owe our Chancellor all gratitude and appreciation for being a manifestation of God’s love and support for women. Such men are rare, especially in the developing world and more especially on the African continent. In our institution, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, we have had three Chief Executives since inception. Two are women. This is an eloquent testimony that our institution is a gender-friendly environment where the glass ceiling has been broken and the results that trail us bear affirmation that women can hold their own in any competitive environment.

Being a woman Chief Executive is not a stroll in the park. We have the results of our exertions trailing us. Under my watch, our institution continues to make a giant imprimatur of excellence both locally and in the international arena. In 2022, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti was ranked as the best University in Nigeria and one of the top 321 in the world by the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking. Other laurels have defined our labour of love within the first decade of our existence. Our university’s accomplishment is stirring and inspiring. The ABUAD Multi-System hospital was built with the aim of ending medical tourism and has scored remarkable feats within its short life span. Indeed, the National Universities Commission, the highest regulatory agency for Universities in Nigeria, rightly referred to us as a “model, benchmark and reference point, the most dynamic, progressive and fastest growing university in Africa”. The NUC ended by saying that, ABUAD is “the pride of tertiary education system” in Nigeria. All of these was made possible because our Founder’s firm believes in gender.       

I am often gutted when I hear or read stories of domestic violence. Violence is an assault that holds no place in the comity of civility. Any such violence stands condemnable and ought to be checked with legal redress. The gamut of our existence keeps growing with enormous potential which allows women to continue to challenge barriers and opposition to their full participation. We are worthy and equal partners in progress. We shall not beg to be heard. We shall roar with our evidence-based contribution from rural places to cities, locally, regionally, and globally. The human race needs women and we shall not be apologetic for our gender. When women blossom then humanity is enriched in all its splendor. 

I am quick to encourage women to rush into all fields of endevour with the aim of proving their mettle. Women are enduring, determined, intelligent, and smart. Smart women will always be an asset to their environment and humanity shall be the better for their existence and recognition. For me, March 8 is every day. Every day in the sense that the women’s gender must receive daily affirmation and a daily call to roar. We are not supposed to beg for space. We are unique. As we climb and we must climb higher on the ladder of greatness and in perching on the apogee of greatness, we owe the world that much.

Even as the world is grappling with present-day challenges, the call for an all-inclusive and more equitable world remains intact and realizable. An inclusive world will be an equitable and fair world. The global crises, can be eroded, and as such a chance for a better future is all that we crave and it can birth-a better future for not just women and girls but for all and humanity, where unspeakable joy will flourish. That future is desirable and visible. That future is needed where the oasis of opportunities will not rob any girl or woman on account of their gender. That future is when women with their unique gifts and talents flourish for the sake of deepening prosperity. When a woman is flourishing the world will blossom.       

As we mark this year’s international women’s day, I remain resolute and determined to continue to push the frontier of greatness forward for the human race. That is my charge to women. I know that the push will bear worthy fruits of greatness. I see our tomorrow assured. I am certain because of our share of investment in the human race will continue to speak in terms of huge returns on investments and our female children and future generations of women are ready to take the baton of greatness forward. In my mind’s eye, I see them perch on the highest mountains, where the sky is just their beginning.

If my Creator will give me a second chance on mother earth, I will pray to come back as a WOMAN. I am a “woman"!

Professor E.Smaranda Olarinde, FCArb. FCAI.

Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti.