For a continent faced with the daunting task of righting the wrongs of both past and present in order to usher in much needed growth into our shores, Africa seems intent on retaining its global notoriety as the so called ‘underdeveloped’.
We lag behind in infrastructural development, and while so many of us live in poverty, very few amongst us can even spell the word. Yet, for a nation that has had to endure physical and psychological oppression in the hands of fellow men of flesh and bones who claim superiority over us, we turn round to practice what we suffered from foreigners on our very own mothers, daughters and sisters.
The Nigerian senate recently kicked out a bill which sought after the empowerment of women, ensuring their marital rights were the same as that of their male counterparts. The body language of the ‘honourable senators’ of the house on presentation of the said bill all but signified the death on arrival of the proposal. Respected men of the senate hid behind religion and tradition as reasons to throw out any chance of a right for widows to automatically become custodians of her children upon death of her husband or for young girls to have equal access to education as males.
The news barely even made headlines, perhaps because it was the third time this particular bill had been blocked by senators of the Nigerian democratic system, or maybe because nobody really mustered a lick of concern. Those who followed the plenary on television may have been excusably sick to their stomachs on the sight of the ‘victorious’ senators leaving the session with smiles on their faces, eager to narrate the happenings of the event to the press.
There is no such thing as a two-wheeled car. Even if there was, it would crash to the ground before making any tangible forward motion. Such is a country operating with half of its human resources and expecting a smooth dynamo of development. It should be bad enough that females rarely get elected into offices in Africa, yet the percentage of female CEOs in renowned companies within the continent lingers around the five percent mark.
If these are not regarded as legitimate indications of Africa’s backwardness, what explanation then do we have for denying a mother the right to cater for her children when their father is no more? There is hardly an argument of better hands than that of a mother for the nurturing of her child (not even the father!). Or why is it that the majority of classrooms we step into are dominated by male students and no one wonders what the cohorts of these very few female students are up to during those learning hours?
In turning a blind eye to crusade against women’s rights, males are subconsciously raised to acclimatize with the notion that women are inferior species and no matter how much formal education a male child gets, with such a mind-set his civil growth remains lopsided.
Women naturally have a high threshold for stress and pain, with endurance levels that cannot be described as anything but divine. This virtue should be harnessed, not abused. After a century of trials and errors, perhaps Africa could do with that feminine touch. We should explore their ideas, not exploit their bodies, and make them a part of us because that is what they are after all (yes this is an Adam and Eve pun)
The African man must be willing to forfeit his unfair ‘traditional’ advantage over women in order to ensure a level playing ground in political and social and business communities. We must openly condemn sexual molestation and discrimination for as long as we want women to remain self-confident. Let us value women so that they can value themselves more.
Let Africa help her women to stand for themselves by first standing for them. For the developing continent to become fully developed, the African woman must get the chance to dream as big as any man ever did.
Happy women’s month.