By PRISCA SAM-DURU
Poets, Essayists and Novelists(PEN) Nigeria and the Women Writers Committee of PEN Nigeria , last week joined women all over the world to commemorate the 2012 International Women Day(IWD) Celebration.

It was indeed fun all the way during the celebration which took place at the faculty of Arts Boardroom, University of Lagos.
Unlike previous IWD celebrations which usually had guests lecturers speaking on a topic with regards to the subject matter, this year’s, had three distinguished guest writers, Lola Shoneyin, Prof. Chinyere Grace Okafor and Ify Omalicha entertaining, educating and at the same time, sensitising the audience largely comprising students, on the rights of girls, through readings from their works and performances.

At the occasion, Lola Shoneyin, who read from her  novel, The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s Wives and also gave talks from theme of the book. Her work centers on sexual relationships with special emphasis on rivalry that exists in polygamous homes and  how women are affected by such ugly developments. She said Baba Segi’s story is about exploring womanhood and changing the perception of how society views women. Women according to her, should look at themselves with respect, and make frantic efforts to be empowered.

Prof. Chinyere Okafor  from the Creative Arts Department of University of Lagos , who read from her poetry collection, Ode to Omumu ,said that women have come a long way with sensitisation on gender consciousness. She dedicated the poem to women and those who appreciate women.

Prior to the rendition, she spoke on the issue of feminism describing it as merely, propagation of the interest of women. She cited example with the events of 1994 when she was labeled an unrepentant feminist on a national daily, because three of her books, The Lion and the Iroko(drama), He Wants to Marry Me Again(novel) and From Earth’s Bedchamber(Poetry), which promoted women’s interest all won awards during the 1994 Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA)awards, as how bad it really was with women.

On gender, class and race or ethnicity as applies to Nigeria, she identified poverty as major cause of treating male and female children with disparity in terms of education.

Ify Omalicha a poet, performing artist and fellow at University of Ibadan where she teaches dance and choreography, got carried away by the radiance of the event and response from the over excited students that rather than read from her own book which she came with, performed “Ego Tripping” by African-American Poet, Nikki Giovanni. Her mien was gorgeous and that added to her amazing performance.

She got the audience craving for more to the extent the students asked her to dance. Without wasting time, Ify who was already seated after her performance, stormed the stage and raised the roof with her romantic dance steps which she did to the rhythm supplied via hands and voices of the excited students.

Betty Abah, one of Nigeria’s women writers who arrived quite late during the interactive session, read Dem Go Say I be Woman from her book, Go tell our King. A poetic rendition in Nigerian pidgin English which praised the worth of women and at the same time, lambasts men who contribute to women underdevelopment.

Speaking earlier, chairperson of the occasion, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo stated that the focus of this year’s theme is on girls, an indication that the younger generation of women is important in the struggle to ensure the economic, political and social achievements of women.

“We are here to celebrate achievements of women in the past, today and in the future, the support of men is vital to women’s success. Women’s conditions are still appalling in many parts of the country with crime against women such as rape, battery, victimisation of widows, marginalization and molestation of the girl child, genital mutilation and sexual harassment still happening.”

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