Written by Adebayo Akande
For a long time I questioned the women movements. I didn’t loathe it, just wasn’t particularly enamored with the idea. I reasoned “men also have problems. Why don’t we have ministry of Men affairs? Why aren’t we empowering the men? If women consider themselves to be equal, why fight so hard to prove it? Then if women are equal to men, why should the statement “treat her like a lady” still sting our ears?
Before you try to convict and blacklist me as a chauvinist, let me say that I know too well about the influence and power women wield that men don’t understand, my mother and sisters are testimonies. And a part of me feels a political movement isn’t necessary to prove this.
Or maybe it does. Maybe a revolution is needed to open the eyes of the world to what obtains in most, if not all third-world countries. I am presently working in one of the core northern states of Nigeria, and I can now relate with the plights of the girl child.
I was asked to give a career talk to secondary school students, and I was excited about this. I had given this talk a few times to similar groups down south, and I could see the glee, their chipper mien as I talked about Ben Carson, the Wright brothers, Wole Soyinka, Theresa May among others. It was a rousing speech, and it almost always ended this way- the students standing and clapping. And the school administrators would ask for an encore. So you can understand why I was looking forward to this particular one.
Let me just say this particular talk was a catastrophe. At least to me it was. I was terribly sad after the session. The students were happy, they asked questions, they seemed enthusiastic, but then they were grossly unprepared. Let me explain.
First, I had to speak to SS3 students through a translator! Yes, they would soon write SSCE and JAMB, yet they could hardly string a complete, meaningful sentence in English! My interpreter told me not to think too much of this, as those in the University are no better! And this wasn’t even the sad(dest) part.
The boys in the class wanted to be doctors, engineers, soldiers, pilots, scientists, lawyers and so on. It was easy to notice the girls weren’t talking. And this wasn’t due to shyness, at least not entirely. Now let me describe the classroom setup- the students sat on mats, the girls were huddled together against the wall at the back, and had to sit with knees folded, and as I would later learn, they were to keep mute.
I moved close to them and tried to force them to talk. One of them eventually obliged, and from her speech, it was clear that she was miles ahead of the class in terms of intelligence. I asked what she wanted to become in the future, and the next thing she said sent chills down my soul. “I’m betrothed already. I will be a housewife.” (Yes, she used the word betrothed)
I was speechless! I looked into the eyes of the other girls. What I termed shyness was now clear to me for what it really was- shame! I thought of my female colleagues, and I wondered what could have been of them if they had grown up in such conditions. I wondered how many potential surgeons, political scientists, were locked up in houses making babies; bringing life into the world yet dying on the inside.
I engaged some contemporaries, and I was told it was a mix of culture and religion. But I almost immediately found fault with this logic. Were the daughters of the custodians of this culture and religion subjected to similar treatment? No! Their own daughters are studying in tertiary institutions abroad. Are they above culture?
This article isn’t so much to whine, nor to rant. But the challenges of the twenty first century woman are real! Even for the “empowered women”. There are still pressures from society, expectations that fall in the continuum from unrealistic to outrightly bizarre. Both the illiterate woman locked up in some third world purdah and the brilliant female neurosurgeon has to cope with immense pressure on a daily basis. So while this piece has highlighted just a few of the denigration women face from society-and we shall discuss these and many more in subsequent posts-, the main purpose of this article is to do the least we can for the women in our lives-appreciate them!
So this goes out to the young girls who have been made to believe that all they matter for is their culinary or fecundation abilities, I pray one day, not too far away, this world would do right by you, and for your female children after you. That your dreams won’t remain just dreams, but there’ll be enabling environment where you can be you-gifted, brilliant, and creative.
To those who have suffered abuse in whatever form-physical, mental, emotional; that healing comes, and life becomes worth living once more. To the career women, those who have to bear the responsibility of training and catering for their families on their own, the world is better because of your sacrifice!
To those whose only crime was having more than one X chromosome, and who have to grapple with the harsh realities of fitting into a vicious society, and to those who have been robbed of their dreams; to the daughters, sisters, mothers who each day teach us that life is more colorful than the black and white we see, who remind us that being tender, considerate and loving are signs of strength not weakness; to the wives who give us the beauty of a smile, and manifest the miracle of bringing forth new life; to the amazing women who turn defeated men into warriors with words and care, I say you may never get to know just how powerful you are, and us men may never really realize the extent to which we need you, and the depths to which we appreciate you! We may not always compliment you, but we can’t deny the fact that you complement us! I say again, that maybe we don’t really understand the enormity of your strength, so it scares us. But then we must know and accept this fact- you were created different from us, but not inferior.
And especially today, as on all days, I celebrate the women in my life, and the woman of my life. If I manage to replicate in my daughter[s] what I’ve seen and learnt from you, I would consider myself a success!
Happy International Women’s Day 2017!