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Cleared paths: The ones that walked before me

There are times in our lives when we want to embark on new journeys. These journeys would open doors to a world that would otherwise have remained unknown. To do so however, we need paths. Paths previously cleared so we can tread. Footpaths of those similar to us, paths of those who share in our struggles, those with whom we share bonds unbreakable.

Our world has built itself based on the premise of the survival of the fittest. Nothing is handed to you, it has to be taken, and sometimes, taken by force. As women, we are swimming in the midst of unstable waters and there is a target on our backs.
Many times as we go through life and it’s many instabilities, we must remind ourselves that those who came before us did just the same.

I love to talk about women, I enjoy conversations that revolve around our wit, our relentlessness, our ability to defy boundaries. So I have picked four of my favorite women and I would love to share with you the remarkable things that they achieved, despite society’s attempt to derail them.

1. Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth I
“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

Elizabeth is one of the most successful monarchs in British history and under her reign, England became a major European power in politics, commerce and the arts. She led England to war against Spain and till date that victory is recorded as one of the greatest military victories. Elizabeth was a woman that dared to sit on a man’s throne. And her stubbornness has paved the way for others like her.

2. Jane Austen
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Jane is popularly known for her ever green novel, pride and prejudice. Jane successfully defined an entire literary genre. Her novels questioned women’s traditional roles in society and her literary
influence lives till this day. Sadly however, she had to hide her identity as the author of these
masterpieces. She along with many other female authors chose to publish anonymously and it wasn’t until after  her death before her identity as the author of these perfect works of art was revealed by her brother.

3. Ada Lovelace 
“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show.”
              
Indeed, her brain lives till today, forever immortalised in our thoughts. English mathematician and world first computer programmer. Ada’s intelligence can be said to be years ahead of her time. She was the first person to publish an algorithm intended for a computer. Nearly a century after her death, her work became recognised as the first description of computer and software. Lovelace didn’t just dive into a world of men, she also left an impact that we will continue to talk about, decades from now.

4. Orompoto
First female Alaafin of Oyo Empire

Daughter of Alaafin Ofinran, she assumed the throne after her brother who was next in line, died without an heir. Her role as regent was instrumental in driving the Nupe from Oyo in 1555. With strong will and relentlessness, she outwitted the chiefs who continually made plans to install someone else on the throne. Being the only link to the dynasty, she rightfully took what was hers. Orompoto displayed her ability as a skilful warrior at the battle of Ilayi. History believes that she died in
combat.

These women, although dead, their memories live with us and will continue to. They have cleared paths so that we may walk, defied boundaries so that we may fly. But above all, they have shown us that anything is possible when you prove true to yourself and take what you want, even if it means taking it by force. From Ada Lovelace and Jane Austen’s display of intellectualism to Elizabeth and Orompoto’s stubbornness, we see that gender roles are nothing more than a societal construct.

My dears, when you see what you want, or what is yours, take it! Take it by force if you have to. But make sure you take it.
Immortalise yourself in the memories of those who will come behind you, for just as we need cleared paths today, they also will need cleared paths tomorrow.

Thank you for sharing in my thoughts and allowing me to take you on this journey
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O. Omokehinde
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