My late grandmother, Veronica Isieke, was born in 1916 and died in 1997. During her time she was among the few women who made an impact in the community. She was a visionary, and resilient person who believed that women’s voices should be heard and be allowed to contribute to community development.
She didn’t want to see her right or that of her fellow women trampled. This didn’t mean she disrespected the male folks or her husband, but her measuring scale was equity and justice.
She came from a landlocked region where men believed that women do not have a right to own land. This became an issue after the demise of her late husband as family men pushed her with threats to give up all her late husband’s land property now under her possession.
“You dare not try Veronica”, some would say. When she saw that what was perceived as the dominant culture was going to rob her of her human rights and no one among the men was willing to stand by her, she employed every legitimate means and insisted not even a plot was removed from her land.
As a farmer who practiced on a subsistence level, her survival and ability to create income depended on how much land was available and her capacity to manage that land.
When soil erosion forced many to abandon their farmlands as their crops were consistently washed away by the rain, my grandmother introduced a plant that is widely used today to prevent erosion on farmlands.
Many who left their land began to come back as they now have a solution to the ecological problem in the community. This amplified food security and reduced deforestation, as the same tree can produce firewood for home use, thereby preserving the forest trees.
Growing under the watch of a focused, fearless, and nature-friendly grandmother contributed largely to my love for nature and belief that women have a right that should be preserved and respected.
Remembering her on this #InternationalWomensDay has further motivated and strengthened my quest to pursue those values for which she was known.
Today, I see Veronica written on the face of each of her female grand- and great-grandchildren. I also hear and read her when they speak or act, and I smile with nostalgia and say that is my grandmom.
She was a woman who motivated many rural women, especially widows, to own and protect their land, and to have enough food and income to feed their families.