All male team

I am all for the best person for the job. I also believe that gender inequality in Nigeria is well and alive to our disadvantage.

While there are numerous issues confronting Nigeria today, I see inclusion of women in all important decision-making processes too important to be put aside.

To have all male entourage accompanied President Buhari to the United States, 33 of them without one single woman is absurd.

Can we honestly say we have no women qualified enough to be on this trip? Of course not.

Imagine if the issue of FGM or child bride came up during the trip? I bet they’ll all scratch their heads and beg to take a break and quickly call up Mama/Wife for updates.

It just does not add up.

Nigerian Economist

“I’d like to be an Economist” She said.

“Really, after who?”

“Like the Finance Minister.” She replied

“That’s ambitious”

Then changed her tone, “Or like a manager”

Okay, I wasn’t trying to discourage, I just didn’t realise she pays attention to the news, that’s all. To have a dream, any dream that means leading a happy and independent life is incredible.

I knew we must get to work making sure she has the right subject combinations for the final year exams.

Then my niece whom I knew is aware of so many things around her but say little asked about the extent of gender inequality especially in work place, she wanted to know what her chances of having her dream job were.

I can only say she could achieve whatever she sets her mind to. Given Nigeria situation, gender inequality is very common both at home and in society, she will need to make hard choice of either being a happy person or the good girl.

In the south of Nigeria, most children have equal access to education regardless of gender but that does not equate to equal job opportunity for both sexes.

A simple but clear example I gave was that of her church.

My parents attend Pentecostal church – the traditional type that has Code of Conduct behind the hymn book, instructing members on things about church that are or are not acceptable to discuss at home (always laugh at that one).

Drum sets, keyboard and guitar are the main instruments and for most boys it is like rite of passage to learn how to play. As a teenager, I asked if I could learn – that was for boys I was told, shrugged my shoulders and walked off.

Over a decade later, my niece, who was good enough to be in the church choir, smart enough to memorise bible verses but when asked if she could join the boys to learn any of the musical instruments, she was told – that’s for the boys.

I knew that would be the response so she joined a group doing private tuition on keyboard.

My sister attends a church under the same umbrella but in a different town where all youths were encouraged to learn musical instrument available at the church –  before long they were proud of their achievements and fill in appropriately to play during church services.

As it is common with many of these churches, the forward thinking pastor was transferred so now they have a new senior pastor – An Apostle.

The Apostle arrived with his own very idea of how the church should be run – banned female youths from playing instruments except tambourine. Uproar in the church but Apostle has the last word.

So to my niece I say – at home she’ll be encouraged to aim higher and that nothing is too much to aim for as long as she keeps working towards it because even if one didn’t have it all – with contentment, one is one step closer.

As a Christian, many decisions will have to be made. The likes of the Apostle is way too many in our society, they’d undermine not for any other reason but your gender – one needs to find a way to switch off when the likes of Apostle are on because they will never change.

There is a reason for International Women’s Day.

Nigeria: When gender inequality goes beyond the surface of skin tone

Prejudice is damaging – it kills motivation and self-esteem. Children especially are likely to believe it is true so end up living their lives creating walls around themselves when they realised stereotypes ingrained at home is manifested in the society at large.

My old guy was excited as he just returned from the village to collect his yearly palm oil from Mama Monday, although palm oil from my father’s farm is no different from any random one bought from the market but there is a little sentiment attached to.

“That woman is hard-working, dependable and always sticks to agreement” My father talked fondly of Mama Monday.

Then my father went on about this woman and how she spent most of the time in the farm going from one chore to the other and how she is a fantastic mother because her children were at school.

So I said “Is Mama Monday like Iya Dele from where we used to live long ago?”

“O ti gba tan!” – “On point!”, my father enthused.

Iya Dele, like Mama Monday is an Igbo woman who was our neighbour in the 80s. She has a vegetable farm (akuro). As it’s the custom for many Igbos in the area, both of their husbands were palm wine tapper (ademu) which means their work is seasonal so are around a lot during the day.

There is a stereotype of Igbo men being drunk, this is where that came from, well from my observations.

Now, I am getting clearer picture of what I have been thinking about for quite some time – Gender inequality in Nigeria affects every woman in the land, however, breaking it down, people are always quick to single out Yoruba and Igbo women for comparison.

Even when both have the same education, exposure and material wealth – for some reason, igbo women are seen to be better in everything – they are stronger, more fashionable, cleaner, more beautiful and ha! more romantic so make better lover.

How true is this, and how much of it has just been as a result of repeated stereotypes based on false claims?

My old guy just spent a few minutes describing all women that I have grown to know. Most women in my village are in the farm all day while their men often in time return to the village for news and lunch.

So Yoruba women have similar workload and no credits for it from their men, why?

So when a friend who is a Yoruba but has lived in a few continents given father’s job read some very skewed views on Yoruba women when compared to their Igbo counterparts – he wanted to know if that was true as he’s been away from home for long and he was sure none of the attributes were true of his mother.

“It’s all stereotypes that has got out of hand.” And from what I have learnt, they were propagated my men – Yoruba men not for anything else but for their ego.

It is complicated but unless we can go to the root of all this, many more women especially Yoruba will waste their lives chasing shadows just so they can feel more accepted by their men.

US is a very good example on this, everyone knows it is a false notion that the fairer skinned you are, the brighter or more beautiful one is but yet fair-skinned folks get more attention for just about anything than their dark-skinned sisters – it’s damaging – time for Nigeria to get hands on Dark GirlsOr our own Nollywood version of the same to raise awareness?

The reason for the fairer skin for many Igbos isn’t a rocket science given the presence of the European explorers in the early days.

If our history – the true ones were taught in schools from primary level, stereotypes like this would have been put to rest long ago.

Tradition of Ada in Igbo land can not be ruled out as a contributing factor that has empowered women in that region, this is evidenced from the lifestyle.

It starts from fairer skin tone of a region, and from there it gets way out of hand. And instead of women uniting to fight gender inequality together, already there is a bias within the same gender group – women allowing themselves to be put against one another making less to none progress on the real battle – closing the gap of gender inequality.

Like many of our challenges, unless we can see Yoruba vs Igbo women from the perspectives of those that bear the brunt of the unfounded attributes – we will continue to glorify the stereotypes.

Reincarnation of a Yoruba girl

It’s fun to dream. Being raised in a society where the belief that humans would be given a second chance to come back to life was huge, gives room for imagination to go wild.

The usual tale goes that by the second time around one would have a choice to tweak certain things they’d prefer to be different from the previous live.

So here goes how I would love to come back.

Most tales I heard was about coming through the same parents, since I love my parents, that is easy part. Also, I would stick to my gender too but this time I will be sure careful about location.

Let’s see… if I had to give being Hausa/Fulani a go. This wouldn’t be far fetched given my father can easily pass for a Fulani and mother Hausa. I know having the same parents, they wouldn’t be from a royal family so no princess-y treats for me.

Thinking more of ME now as this is what it’s all about – I wouldn’t want to have blood of anyone in my hand like the case of 14 year old Wasila Tasi’u who became the 3rd wife of 35 year old Umar Sani of Kano. Wasila had it all about being on sex time table at a tender age, she gave up so poisoned Umar – sad indeed. Now, Wasila faces death penalty as the request to move her case to a juvenile court was rejected, case adjourned to February.

I can’t trust myself not to be another Wasila if I were in her shoe. So, no thank you to the north.

Now, as I wait with he creator, I would give southwest a good thought – been there, done that. I will have to think deeply here as the pull likely to be strong. Then, I’d remind myself of an event of years ago when my father was having his very own mid-life crisis and said to me that he’s sorry he can’t buy Christmas clothes (wearing new cloths is important to children as it is their only festive gift) so instead he bought my two cousins new outfits. My father’s explanation then was that, they were boys and may turn out to be his only hope in old age. Cousins were both a few years younger than me and lived with my family at the time.

So, I’d say, I know things were different now – all jolly, but why must one had to deal with that nonsense – so no thank you.

That leaves me with Igbo. I still will not be an Ada. My older sister is well-suited for that role as she is calm. My mother would have been Ada, so great, in present life, she plays Ada role but none of the credits. I loved the ripple effect of Ada tradition. So ripple effect that trickles down will be enough. 

As we say – B’ori kan ba sunwon a ran’gba – One ‘good’ head effects two hundred.

Seeing things differently from what they are is fun, allows for creative energy to flow.

Nigeria – Igbo’s Ada as a tool for women empowerment

Easy solution to a big problem.

Most Nigerian women regardless of where you are from would have experienced gender-based negative comment that is completely devoid of any sense by the time they reach puberty and because right from home, most of us are reminded of how little our opinion mean to our immediate environment let alone larger society – the negative thoughts replays itself in the mind many times do lots of damage to women’s confidence.

Charity begins at home.

Among all Nigeria tribes, Igbo’s tradition of recognising the importance of female role in the community stands out. For them empowerment starts from birth. The first daughter called Ada from little learns that she could do all that she sets her mind to, a child like this is likely to grow up being confident and would not shy away from challenges. There is a whole culture of rituals involved around Ada but all is pointing towards a society where everyone’s inputs is equally valued regardless of ones gender.

In Yoruba culture, a first-born who happened to be a girl would not receive the same reception as in Igbo culture, actually the mother would be told “don’t worry, next time you’ll have a boy,’ which of course would be followed by the poor woman spending most of her days wishing for boys.

What I found interesting in my culture for example was that treatment of a girl-child differs for different situations. In a family where there is a boy-child, girls in that family are very likely to be treated the same as the boys and of course the girls are most likely to do all of the house chores. However, it becomes more demeaning when a family have no boy-child, then it means that the pressure is both on the mother and the ‘very’ lucky daughters to please their father and be subjected to endless rants on how having a boy-child could have made their life so much different. This on top of the larger societal narrow mindset on women ability can not be good for anyone.

What I found particularly interesting about Ada culture was that a first daughter who is raised to believe in herself would likely grow up empowering all the girls around her be a first daughter or otherwise. It would be more like ‘if I could do it so can you all’ kind of positive spirit. And this to me go well with Yoruba believe of B’orikan ba sunwon a r’angba – loosely means one well off head will affect two hundred others positively.

Please note that this is not taken away from the facts that in all of our numerous tribes, male child is favoured but the difference is that first female child in Igbo is empowered.

In Nigeria today, we have lots of women leaders representing us at the national level, (without pulling tribal preference into it which I am honestly not interested as this has never benefited the common people) looking at the names of the ladies in top positions says a lot. I do believe that everyone should get the top posts based on merit but can we honestly say we don’t have Yoruba women who are smart enough for these posts or our men (Yoruba) did what they call ‘Pull her down syndrome?’

An article with the First Lady meeting three 2015 women governorship aspirants in Abuja last month was an interesting one. No surprises that none of the three states were Yoruba.

Since we are still one nation, we might as well work together and share what is positive amongst us – Ada’s spirit and this time not just for first daughters but for all Nigeria women.

Everyone deserves a champion

The first photo on BBC photo news of A male feminist’s view on African women looks very much like Mama Oloole at work. If that was Mama Oloole, she would have fed Oole (beans cake) to a number of the people in my village for breakfast before setting out to Eku (designated place where palm oil processing takes place).

Mama Oloole is not so unique in doing multiple jobs to keep family afloat, however, she is very different from many other brave/courageous women because she questioned and made our traditions work to her advantage.

 

Traditionally in Yorubaland,  when a husband dies, the wife would be taken over by another male in the family. Arrangement can be made that the widow stays where she lived especially when the ‘new husband’ already has his own family however, everyone around would have knowledge of this as he is free to come for conjugal visits as much as he likes.

God knows what happens if the woman has multiple crushes within the family – drama, am told.

Mama Oloole got married just after puberty as was the custom that time in the late 1950’s. Her husband unfortunately passed away very young leaving Mama Oloole and six children behind.

As adult when I asked why Mama Oloole never had someone to take her as Opo (widow), I was told Mama Oloole refused all the advances from all male members of the family. She preferred to stay in her house and keep working on the farms while raising her children.

Smart choice, I thought. Mama Oloole had very big farm bigger than quite a few men in my village including my father’s. If she remarried, her farm will be automatically taken over by the new husband. Given she was in her early forty by the time her husband departed, it is very likely she will be ‘made’ to have children for the new man and her children were likely to be priority to just her and not the new husband’s.

She maintained adult relationship with a male member of her husband’s family but never married the man. Village women and family planning – curious.

In July this year when an Ikeja chief, Oba Rauf Adeniyi Aremu Matemi passed away and there were commotions about rituals being performed at broad day light sending panics to citizens. I remember how Mama Oloole in my village managed to convince the elders to move  Oro rituals  to late in the evening when everyone likely to be inside their house or move it away from the path she takes home. 

Mama Oloole always returns to the village later than anyone else, always with lanterns. My village prohibits some work done in the village – all women related ones, had to done in a designated place called Eku as a way to keep the village clean. Activities such as extracting of Ekuro (palm seed) which is commonly performed in the villages around is among the ones no one is allowed to do in the village because of the hard shells – far enough.

Mama Oloole’s reasoning was if she was to live by this rule, then male-exclusive rituals such as Oro should wait until she returns safely in her house.

Mama Oloole is in her 80’s now, isn’t as strong as she used to be. Looking back, she has lived, inspired many along the way. Did I mention she was funny?

She is one of my inspirational women.

I wish her many more happy years ahead in good health.