Women, do what is right and earn your rights!
Nigeria’s Senate recently threw out a proposed bill aimed at seeking equal rights for women. Women Rights activists say the bill was designed to promote women’s equality in Marriage, Inheritance, Job and Education.
The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill was aimed at promoting equality, development and advancement of all persons in Nigeria as well as promoting women’s freedom of movement, female economic activity and girls’ access to education. This is really commendable and I applaud the people behind this move.
But I need to raise a few issues and ask a few questions and please kindly pardon my ignorance and inexperience. This is not intended to slight my fellow women, as some will be quick to conclude and take offense but we need to point out some areas we need to work on which are absolutely imperative. The truth they say is bitter!
With regards to Equal Rights to Education, is there a law that forbids the female child from getting same education as the male child? Or is it that we have more male schools in Nigeria than female schools? Or perhaps is there a woman who got a first class but she wasn’t awarded because she is FEMALE? Or is there a limit to the level of Education available to women in Nigeria?
The issue of Equal Job Opportunity is quite an exciting one! I thought the women themselves defined what jobs and occupation are “feminine” and which is not? Enough respect to my friend Joan Obasi who is a female pilot now because she challenged herself while working as an Air Hostess that she could do more! Except for a few like her who have broken the norm, most women would not be caught dead being an Auto Mechanic or Engineer, Pilot (It’s more feminine to be an Air Hostess), Civil Engineers, Naval Officers etc. Why? Women would say it’s a job too tedious for their gender and not because they were qualified but refused the opportunity. Some who are brave enough to try are enjoying these jobs now. Or is there a law that restricts Nigerian women to certain jobs? For Female Economic Activities I wonder, are women denied financial aids like bank loans to carry out their businesses just because they are women? To the best of my knowledge, survey shows women are more credit worthy so financial institutions are happier to transact with them.
Even on the entrepreneurial journey, women themselves have defined what businesses are “women friendly” or feminine…Boutiques, Salons, Supermarket, Make Up, Bead making and Gele tying. Most Women would not readily consider Export, Auto Sales or Maintenance, Horticulture etc. The few women who take the bold step to try their hands on the male-dominated trade were never stopped by any bill or constitution.
So, is it really a Bill that wasn’t passed that is holding us back here? And when this Bill is passed and women still refuse to take the chance to aspire to challenging profession and greatness, what next?
Equality in Marriage? Well…I guess I really need not state the obvious! The originator of marriage has given the guidelines and organogram in this institution. It is at anyone’s peril to try to do otherwise. That would amount to buying machinery and refusing to use the manufacturer’s manual for installation and operations…disaster is inevitable! What is my point exactly? There are worse issues plaguing the Nigerian women that require urgent attention. One of such is our limiting beliefs that women cannot and should not have certain aspirations and ambitions which are as a result of our native laws, ancestral customs and traditional believes than of Bills and Constitution!
Nigerian Women themselves need to rewrite their mental DNA, reconstruct their psychological anatomy and regurgitate the chauvinistic bile they have swallowed over the years in order to have a clearer picture of what their issues are. Nigerian Women need a swift change in mindset, attitude, perspective, behaviors and over all outlook! No Bill can change these and this is what we really need in order to make a head way in life. Even if the bill is passed and we continue to revel in our idiosyncrasies, it would be of no impact on the long run. So we’ve got some good house keeping to do!
We need to learn to set our priorities right. Take this scenario for example…Many women would spend upwards of N50,000 for Aso-Ebi
(Party Wears)…they will attend parties no matter the location but won’t spend a quarter of that amount to empower and improve themselves. If you throw out an invite for an enlightenment programme like conferences and seminars, you are likely to have more men. But if you throw out an invite for a party, you are likely to have more women. Yet we want equal opportunity with these men who invest in training themselves? Such opportunities are earned and not demanded! Ask the likes of Okonjo Iweala and Akunna Oteh! More than anything else, women really need to rise above the customs and beliefs that hold them down! Bill or no Bill… Law or no Law…any woman who chooses to stay down will remain down…those who have chosen to soar are doing so without any constitutional restrictions or approvals. Those who have swaddled themselves in traditional and customary beliefs like beef in burger, have made that their own very set backs. Let’s rid our systems of these!
Another problem with Women worse than the bill rejection is the fact that most women do not support one another. They are sometimes the very architects of their own misfortune! These same RIGHTS we are clamoring for, we are the first to cast aspersions on a fellow woman striving to attain them. When a woman gets to the peak of her education, career or business endeavor, it is her fellow women who see her as a threat and begin to insinuate all sorts to explain to themselves how she got there! Even in marriage, you would barely hear of a Father-In-Law who is a pain…it is always the women; Mother-in-laws and Sister-in-laws that are the greatest antagonist. Even if the men grant us equal opportunity in marriage, the women go gree???
They barely see good in one another hence you rarely find women supporting one another…a custom we need to come together to change real quick. Thank God for forums like the AMAZING AMAZON INITIATIVE where women have come together to bond and pledge to be a pillar of support to one another!
In the last elections, the only female presidential candidate got only 3 votes, meaning all her friends and family did not vote for her…only herself, her husband (maybe) and perhaps her kid did! None of the women crying for women’s equal right voted for her evidently…neither did I! Not because we doubted her antecedents or pedigree but only because she is a WOMAN! The women would not even support one of their own. Some would argue they didn’t because they knew she couldn’t deliver…that she needed more experience and all that. But if all the women voted her in and the best of us lent our support and expertise to her, she will succeed. Ruling a country is not one person’s job…it is a collective responsibility!
Wouldn’t it be better if the women in the Senate ensure that a single bill is passed prohibiting DOMESTIC VIOLENCE against women and ensuring this is ENFORCED in practice not just in principle or on paper in order to ensure that abusers are actually PROSECUTED? My thoughts…if we fight for a Bill to be equal, can we still get the law to protect us from Abuse from our “equals”? I don’t know! A Tiger does not proclaim its Tigritude, or says Prof Wole Soyinka. Just like respect, Rights could be earned and not demanded. I have never heard of Men’s Rights…they have apparently worked hard to earn it without demanding it. Is it possible we make the necessary change and begin to work hard to earn our rights?
Moreover, Bill passed or not…I personally do not see how it can or would stop me from being all that God has destined for me to be. The only thing that limits us in life is the limits we have set on ourselves.
My fellow Women let us never forget that we are first of all HUMANS before WOMEN! No one stops Okonjo Iweala, Folorunsho Alakija, Ibukun Awosika, Adenike Ogunlesi, Chiamamda Adichie, Arunma Oteh and the many successful Nigerian women. Even in times past when there was little civilization and education, the likes of Margareth Ekpo, Queen Moremi, Queen Amina, Queen Idia, Flora Nwapa, Grace Alele Williams, Stella Jibril, Chris Anyanwu did not need a bill passed for them to function and live a life of purpose!
So Sisters, go out there and chase your dreams like the men are doing and be all that you want to be. There is nothing stopping you…no Bill…no Constitution! Asking men to give us Equal Rights implies it is theirs to give. Instead, do what is right and you will earn your rights!