I grew up in Nigeria. A country where sexism is rife and so embedded into society, that people don’t know any different. The disparity between the treatment of men and women has always been evident to me. Only yesterday, I saw a photo of a classroom in an underprivileged government school in Bauchi, Northern Nigeria, where there weren’t enough chairs so the boys sat on chairs and the girls sat on the floor. I have seen over the years the confinement of women to certain spaces and exclusion from boardrooms and senior management positions in their careers. Girls are taught from a young age to aspire to marriage whilst men are taught that they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do. Sexism doesn’t only exist in Nigeria- I see it all around the world everyday. It is structurally entrenched into society and it will take many years to overcome.
However, I love and find it reassuring that femininity and sexism has become a huge part of the conversation in recent years. We have noticed that it is a problem and so many women, and a few men, are banding together to fight sexism and misogyny. The #forceisfemale is so important to me because it is educational and because of the influence of a huge company such as Nike, it stirs a larger conversation and does so in an authentic way that is true to everyday life. The Nike Air Force 1’s have become such an iconic shoe, it would be difficult to go about a day running through Central London and not see at least one person wearing them.
When I was asked to be a part of this campaign, I did a quick google to check whether the board of nike has female representation- it does, of course. It is so important that female empowerment doesn’t just become an internet trend that is hot for a minute. It needs to be an entire lifestyle. We have a responsibility to educate each other continuously and do our best to ensure that women are represented and respected in every aspect of life.
The equality of the sexes isn’t something that ‘would be nice’. It is a necessity. When women lead, society thrives. There is so much work to be done andso much to be learned and unlearned. Those children in that classroom in Bauchi will grow up with the mindset that females are inferior and it won’t even be their fault- it will be the norm in the society that they were born into and grew up in. They really won’t know any different, and how could we expect them to?
It will take so many years to change this mindset and this structure. However, we need to actively educate people, raise our children differently, and plan for a better future. History has shown us that force brings about change. We need to stop being apologetic for our femininity. We don’t need to be ‘nice’ girls who limit ourselves in order to be liked and meet societal standards. We all need to do better and be a little bolder.
Women, and men alike, need to dream about and pursue a society of equality, with full force.
Shop my Nike Air Force 1’s.