Why I Matter
A 200-word essay competition
The first time they tried to clip my wings, I was eleven, in JSS1.
My principal had instructed me to fill all the pages of an eighty-leaved notebook with the phrase:
"Good women are to be seen, not heard," as punishment for noise-making.
Then, I began to understand the various ways society censored women: "as a woman, you will only matter if only/as long as. . ."
Formerly, during the infant years of my understanding of feminism, I would argue that I matter as a woman because "I'm successful" or, because "I'm smart/articulate."
Now, I understand how faulty these perceptions are:
If I mattered because I am successful, then it meant poor or unsuccessful women do not matter. If I matter because I am articulate, then, would it mean that women with learning disabilities like Dyslexia do not matter?
I matter simply because I am HUMAN and as so, I am entitled to equal opportunities—regardless of my gender. I matter because the world becomes better when I matter equally.
In a world where women and men matter equally and have equal opportunities, no gender has to solely bear the political or economic or personal or social burden alone.
— Amanda Madumere, Abia State University, Abia.
Why I Matter
I am matter. Therefore, I matter.
I am matter because I can fundamentally be defined as a being of substance that occupies space.
Being an occupant of the world, I am aware that I must serve a purpose. I cannot occupy unnecessary space. Understanding that the essence of my substance was configured for a purpose, it is clear that I matter.
The question then becomes, 'How on earth will I fulfill my purpose?'
The answer to this is also why I matter; I matter because I am a beautiful vessel of potential. Limitless potential. With this potential comes innate abilities, which must be discovered on my journey that matters.
And, guess what’s so special about being matter with potential and purpose? Having abilities. In my case, the ability to create.
The ability to serve.
The ability to love.
The ability to help others realise that they matter. They do matter and we all matter.
As long as we continue discovering our potential, and using our abilities for our configured purpose, we continue to matter as who we fundamentally are. Matter.
— Isoken Aruede, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.
In many ways, I have fought many wars, and won many woman wars that the world would think I wouldn’t have tried fighting at all.
I have walked past my fears and worries and carried my troubles on my back for many days.
I have seen and conquered, at the same time: as the first child of my mother, carrying and taming the rest of the boys who came after me; washing them clean and changing their diapers, daily.
I have grown past doubts and regrets in my life. I am so important to the world that the world can’t breathe without my air. The girl world has been tough, but not for me. Maybe before, but not anymore.
I have had girl pains, heavy cramps. I have been talked down on in gatherings. I have been criticised so deeply because of this womanhood, but I stand and rise and pull my head up above everyone else on this earth.
I am a woman. It’s simple but it’s a big deal. I am ‘wo’ and ‘man’ put together—such length of a personality! Even when I was a little girl, I was greater with the four lettered 'girl.' Four, not three. Therefore, I matter equally.
— Ezinne Iwuoha, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Anambra.
Beyond the colour of my skin and the curve of my hips, beyond the shape of my lips and the length of my hair, I matter. I matter because I am not just a machine for reproduction, an object of your pleasure or a wench to do your bidding.
I matter because I have a voice, a voice much more powerful than the roles that you are determined to box me into. I bring to the table much more than you can imagine; I have perspectives, interests, beliefs, experiences, views that have produced in me, dreams and hopes that are limitless in dimension.
I might be different from you, my form designed slightly differently from yours, but I am not weaker, I am strength personified. I see the world in a way that you might never be able to, I am in touch with life in a way that you can only aspire to. Emotional, Logical, I am in touch with all parts of my humanity.
There are no limits to my magic, no barriers to my greatness, no ceilings too high for me to shatter and no hurdles too tough for me to jump over. I am a woman, 100% human.
— Teju Adeyinka, University of Lagos, Lagos.
I matter because I was born. I won the race in my mother’s womb and thus, I was brought into this world.
I matter because I have dreams and aspirations, and I will not be held down by society views of what women should and shouldn’t do.
I can be a wife, mother, daughter, sister and still achieve all my dreams and ambitions.
I do not need anyone to tell me why I matter because I can feel it in my chest. That fire raging, wanting to break free and show the world what I am made of.
I matter because there are people out there that I need to help—other women, like me, shackled by society. I will help them break their chains, and together, we will change the world.
I matter because I believe my voice can stir the winds of change, no matter how little. And so, I will overlook any sneer and mockery from men. I have a goal to help other women who are not as fortunate as me, and also, to help men be freed from the cage of their toxic masculinity.
We all matter and most of all I matter because I am here.
— Etinosa Uwadiae, University of Benin, Edo.
Cogito, ergo sum. "I think, therefore I am." René Descartes used these words existentially, as a way to remove all doubt that one exists.
So, why do I matter? Essentially, because I exist. I am a fully formed human being with thoughts and feelings, doubts and questions, and life. All the things that make humans the beautiful, complicated beings that they are? I have, too.
I am myself and there is no one else who is exactly like me. So, why shouldn't I matter? Why should anyone else be given priority or favour over me when I exist just like everyone else?
I wear glasses and I love music. I fall in love and fall out of it, too. I love to read and be a walking contradiction. I am just as real, just as special and just as valid as anyone who breathes and learns and loves.
At the core of our beings, we are all human. We all make mistakes. We all create and learn. We are all fighting to survive. We are all born, we all grow and we all die. So why do I matter? I mean, why not?
— Tamilore Oladipo, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.
That is how our questions return back to us when walls of tradition have contributed to impermeability of reasoning. Continually, we are told that a woman's place is in the home or that it is a man's world and those of us who dare question this are told that it is just the way things are. Either this, or, we are met with our own echoes.
While many of us are willing to accept crumbs to be accepted, some of us just will not do so because we know we matter. Well, I know I do.
Certainly, there should be no reason why I would have to remind the world why I matter; there should be no reason why my thoughts should still be considered relevant, when the answer lies in the fact that, despite physiological differences, we are all human.
I am human, so I matter.
I matter because I'm a distinct individual: a container does not determine the usefulness of its contents. I matter because I have a voice and it should not drown in the river of gender inequality. I matter because my purpose is neither written in ink nor is my being subject to the will of a man—any man.
— Olufunke Adeoye, University of Ibadan, Oyo.
Women in Nigeria struggle everyday. Trying to break the glass ceiling and yet keeping to all social expectations.
Gender equality is still a myth in our country. Yet I stand unfazed by this reality. I believe in me is a strong woman. Strong enough to weather the choppy waters of the misogyny in our country. Standing against patriarchy and paving the way for other women to realise that they are not any less.
Everyday society demands why I matter. Constantly asking why I, a young woman, has a place in this world.
I matter because I am a soldier in this war. A war against patriachy. I matter because I fight against unrealistic expectations of women placed upon us by men. I matter because I believe that I am equally an individual, capable of everything a human can do and be. I matter because a woman will always fight to find her place in the world but she'll never stop trying. I matter because I am that woman.
— Stella Inabo, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
I am Aduragbemi Akintepede - a Seventeen year-old female law student, writer and author. And I matter equally.
I published my first book titled "One Good Turn" while in Secondary class two, at the age of Fourteen, and I'm currently working on another book titled "New Cheese."
I'm a force to be reckoned with at all times and seasons. I matter equally to my immediate society and Nigeria as a whole as much as the opposite sex.
My young, creative and brilliant mind is needed in all spheres of the country. I cannot be sidelined, ignored, shovelled or kept away until there is a seeming event that requires my attention. I matter right from the start, in providing solutions to societal problems affecting my country and the globe.
My actions and inactions as a young female are not determined by the dictates of the society but rather by my personal will. I have a sound and equal mind capable of making pertinent decisions that affect me and my society without being silenced.
I address social and political ills through my writing and voice out my opinions. I am a female and I have an equal mind, voice, capability, vision and most importantly, I matter equally.
— Aduragbemi Akintepede, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun.
In a world of constant put-downs and misogyny, I have simply chosen to matter. Why? Because, I a human being. As a woman, I acknowledge that I have a purpose and a passion; I have a voice that will never get tired of fighting against the discrimination of people for any reason whatsoever.
I know I will constantly be a positive impact to the life of people around me. I know I matter because I know the weight of my words can inspire women around me to stop letting the world—one that dishes out doubts and promotes fear—give them limitations.
I matter because while I have weight and occupy space. There is no stereotype big enough to trap me.
I matter because out of the 7.442 billion people in the world, there is no other human with the exact willpower, determination, passion and drive to be a voice for the people who haven't learnt to scream.
I matter because every morning, when I wake up, I make a conscious decision to matter and to surround myself with people who encourage me.
— Ifeoluwa Agunbiade, Covenant University, Ogun.
Other entries will be published on Monday July 16, 2018 by 2pm.
All essays shared were received as entries in our Why I Matter Giveaway which ran for a week in June 2018, and later re-opened from July 2-July 12, 2018.
The essays have been published with the permission of the authors. The rights of the essays remain with the authors.