It is New Year’s Day, my mother and I are taking turns to pound the yam. It is just both of us in the house. My arms are taking a beating because it had been a while I pounded yam. So between the muscle cramps, I crack a joke about how it is the role of men to pound yam in some cultures.
My mother retorts by saying ‘oya go and find the man to come and pound the yam that you are going to eat’. We both burst into laughter then she launches into her rhetoric about how a woman must be self-reliant.
The rhetoric isn’t new because I have heard it most of my life. My mother is full of colloquial wisdom. I have often thought of her as an uneducated feminist. The kinds that don’t get to make the history books.
I have always been self-reliant, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because circumstances dictated. The older I have gotten, the more I have had to see my ability to get things done as something beyond my circumstances… to a much larger framing.
As most of us know, 8th of March marked International Women’s day with its theme ‘Make it Happen’ – encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women. There have been little pockets of activities across the city in commemoration. I have had my own share of panels, talks and mentorship sessions, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
One of the most interesting topics that came up during a panel session was initiated courtesy of an audience member who asked about financial independence for women. Throughout the conversation, what seemed to be highlighted and overly talked about was its relationship to men, and more specifically, husbands.
This conversation again is not new territory as we are aware of an increasing financially empowered generation of women. What kept circling through my mind was this thought.
Do we do the concept of financial independence for women a disservice by continuously centring the subject around the insecurity of boyfriends or frail egos much like how I thought the idea of self reliance was purely limited to my own survival?
Through my observations, I notice we still view a woman’s money as backup or just extra disposable cash. Her job and career are merely to support the household or as we like to say ‘let her have something doing’.
The fear, for me, is that if this is where we still are in the conversation, when will we move to talking about wealth creation, building legacies and sustainable empires. When do we start discussing trans-generational wealth, which goes beyond our personal security, backup money but that of the future? Money in itself is only a tool for creating and building wealth so it really isn’t the thing itself.
How do we ‘make it happen’ if we are still operating like subsistence farmers when the paradigm has shifted to a point where we can go mechanised, build infrastructure for processing, package and become global players. I know I sound pessimistic, when at the end of the day there are tonnes of women changing the game; they are being recognised daily and celebrated so what is the problem?
I suppose I am hoping that the conversation will change, albeit a little faster.
I hope to one day have fellowships in my name, and the names of many other women, that will continue to give generations after me the tools they need to live their dreams and contribute to the world. I hope to own buildings that will serve as an incubation space for people with ideas that can transform the way we live, experience and consume. I hope that whatever money I earn will be able to go beyond buying household consumables or vex money in case my husband pulls a fast one.
Someone once said that only when a population is empowered do they become human resource. A part of me feels like a huge chunk of us are still census counts, when we can become so much more…by just ‘making it happen’.