After the first 20 years of the third millennium passed on December 31, 2020, at a time the world is experiencing rapid digitalisation of every aspect of life, and focused, enterprising, intelligent women are extensively involved in driving the process, what happened recently is despicable.
Civilized countries are moving forward with women in the forefront of development. But some communities in parts of the Southeast and other parts of Nigeria are not ashamed to display that they are laggards in terms of promoting women participation in community decision making and development. Big shame to such communities.
I was shocked to my marrow to hear that in this new dispensation, a proficient family in a particular community in Owerri North, LGA, Imo State, who are seen by others as one of the most accomplished in their locality called a normal family meeting like other families would do at the end of every year, to take stock of their progress and chart a new course for themselves. All the mature and responsible male and female members were gathered. Regrettably, as the meeting was about to start, gender parity played out when the women were asked to take their leave while the men would sit to discuss family issues. In this day and age! Holy Moses!!!
Those women, who were sent away, had individually, through the mercy of God attained great heights and recorded accomplishments in academia, corporate world and the distinguished professions. In fact, one of them had risen to become an associate professor in a respected federal university and attends meetings of the university’s council and senate, where she discusses the affairs of the institution with other make professors. It therefore begs the belief that she was shut out of family meeting simply because of her gender. Incredible!!!
It is so easy to see how male gender arrogance has hindered some families of the contributions of women among them to develop, as well as well-being of the affected families. Clearly, men in families who have the the mindset that the women in their midst are second class citizens, obviously will be in developmentaI deficit. Is it to be understood that the men have inferiority complex or intimidated by the intellectual prowess and exposure of their female kith and kin? The decision of the men in the family is one of the negative aspects of African tradition that has bound the legs of women. Then there was the gratuitous insult that the women only make noise during family meetings. I want to ask: are these women relatives dullards who cannot bring any meaningful contribution to the issues tabled for discussion? In their various professional, corporate and academic settings, do the high flyers among the women not attend meetings in their various organizations? Are they termed as noise makers who would never grow or imbibe new policies, processes and procedures? Could an associate professor be classified as a ‘nuisance or noise maker? Only families who are not appreciative of their own would think so, considering their status and accomplishment. These are some of the microscopic treatments women all over get and such are being treated as patriarchal societal norms that are condemnable.
Gender discrimination has been a contagious issue over the years at various levels all over the world. Women in various facets of life struggle to raise their head, yet some mean men refuse to align with acceptable norm. Almost everything is rigged against the woman. Why? For the fact that a woman is holding a responsible position, she would be uncomplimentary names. If a woman loses a husband, she alleged to have killed him; if the marriage fails, she couldn’t manage her marriage and the world watches all these play out. Some of the men at the meeting might not have valuable contributions to offer, but because they are created with a phallus, which gives them the authority to lead. This is unfortunate, to say the least.
Ancient tradition, aged obnoxious practice and poor assessment of women values have become very big obstruction for women in defining and driving developmental initiatives, especially in the South East region. These three factors have humiliated women as if God created human beings to operate with their genitals instead of their brain. I personally think it is a case of struggling with self-esteem on the part of the men, who walked their women out of a family meeting. To think that some families are still think that the presence of the women would be an impediment to achieving a successful outcome at the meeting.
I am head over heels in my respect for Nigerian women, too many to mention, who have made it big in all spheres of life despite the gossips and rumour mongering that flew around like arrows. It is only an unrepentant chauvinist who would not agree that the table has actually turned in favour of the women in the last two decades. Are the women lacking anywhere? No. Instead, they have emerged, evolved, united and risen stronger in academics, politics, business, small scale industries, mini and micro financial businesses. Other areas women have excelled are Oil and Gas and Real Estate, Entertainment and Religion etc. The wise ones have embraced the new dawn while the arch-traditionalists remain blindfolded.
In telling the success story of women that are excelling, it is succinct to mention that on November 24, 2018, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, first female president of Liberia, presided at 2018 Annual WISCAR Leadership and Mentoring Conference in Lagos. She was invited by Mrs. Amina Oyagbola, President, Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), which organised the conference. Making her opening remarks, Sirleaf informed that the first thing once she was sworn-in was to appoint women to key portfolios previously held exclusively by men in the past.
Her words: “I changed four key offices and handed them over to the women and the economy picked up. They include finance, education, agriculture and tourism.”
Not going far from where we are, recall that notable and celebrated writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lost her father, Professor Adichie, last year. She has brothers who are also successful in diverse but the news of her father’s death was associated with her name until he was laid to rest. Most headlines ran like this: ‘Famous writer Chimamanda losses father; Chimamanda mourns as father dies.”
Again, when Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s father died, she made the announcement herself, a task that was previously exclusively reserved for men in the family. Women are no longer laid back in issues of development. The belief that ‘a woman education ends in the kitchen’ practically become extinct like the dinosaurs, because women have broken the glass ceiling in various walks of life.
That five teenage girls from Anambra State could travel to the United States of America to compete with other boys and girls from all over the world in an information technology contest and conquer the world, is one excellent reason for men to simply respect women. What about girls who have scored ‘A’ parallel in all subjects they say for in the West African School Certificate Examination? Benue State governor, Samuel Orton, recenty honoured Goodness Thomas, who scored 302 marks in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, and also passed all her WASCE subjects, recording ‘As’ in six of them. Ortom awarded her automatic scholarship. In their days, whenever late Prof. Dora Akunyili, Arunma Otteh, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke, men listened. The days when men could hush women at gatherings are over. Such ‘aristocratic’ posturing has no place in present day society.
I think that every family, community and country should draw from the range of human potentials. If we must achieve a holistic development, one gender should not be sidelined. Other African countries, Rwanda for instance, made an attempt to include women in their parliament in different spheres. Today, Rwanda as a country is a destination in Africa. Women by nature nurture and are better anger managers and have few personal interests because every burden falls on them. In their nature, they want everything to work and when it works, all are fine. We should begin to rethink and balance in the board room, classroom, family, communities, states and the national level. Can only one person give birth to a child? No. The two will have to come together and birth the family and community of our dream. In the multitude of counsel there is wisdom. Both gender, working together, will bring it out to get the best.
Worthy of mention is the fact that Sanna Marin is Finland’s 34-year-old lady prime minister. As young as the government is, the cabinet features a significant number of women where 12 portfolios are held by women while seven are represented by men.
At a recent event, Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, first female professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, she said: “By 2030, countries will no longer be measured by the amount of money they have but how they met the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, which largely revolve around women mostly. All the gender movements that started from the ‘WID’ concept (Women in Development) to ‘WAD’ (Women and Development), then ‘GAD’ (Gender and Development), and later became ‘GLAD’ (Gender Legislation and Development) are busy breaking patriarchal structures and will soon be enacted into laws. Some women might not have the physical strength to fight, but in terms of knowledge, competence, brain-work, nurturing and turning things around, they excel.