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Kome Agulonu: Righting the Gender Wrongs is One New Year Resolution that Matters

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From a young age, I realised that there was something different about being a girl. Though I couldn’t have explained what set genders apart at my age, it was clear to me that not only were we different, being female was the less glamorous of the two genders.

What gave me that idea you may wonder?
Maybe it was the fact that every time I mentioned in conversations that I had three sisters and no brothers, the look on the other party’s face usually changed from that of mild curiosity to something closely resembling pity.  At first I did not understand why not having brothers was such a big deal. Then one day when I was in primary 6, Nnenna our class loudmouth casually asked what she must have heard from an adult. She said
“Who would carry on your family’s name seeing as you don’t have a brother and who is going to protect you when your parents are old?”

I cannot remember exactly how I replied Nnenna all those years ago, but it was something along the lines of: I do not intend to change my surname thank you very much and I am sure I can take care of myself too.

Even though I had proudly and properly shut up ‘little Miss neni, I began to describe my sisters with adjectives, every time someone asked about my siblings. Beautiful, intelligent, very smart, amazing. But as you probably guessed, those words did not change the reality, nor the reaction I got, and soon afterwards I got a brother. A gorgeous, gentle, baby brother; so I too was able to give a satisfactory answer when asked about my siblings.

As the years went by and I grew older I continued to notice how differently boys and girls were treated. It was everywhere around me. It was there in the little subtleties and even big ones. It was there in the way people asked straight away the gender of a newborn baby and proceeded to celebrate loudly if it was a boy and a bit quieter if it was a girl.
I saw it in the way my teachers at school always chose a boy as class captain and a girl as his assistant even though the best ten pupils in my class were females and the boys were left to trail behind us.

On one very vivid occasion, my class teacher flogged all the boys in my class for letting the girls do better than them. In his opinion, boys had to be smarter, more intelligent and essentially better at their studies than us girls because they would in future have to provide for their families. He went on to explain how we girls would grow up, get married and have children.

What he did not say, which I heard anyway was that, it was okay for girls to be at school, it was okay for us to listen attentively in class and apply ourselves to our studies. It was even okay for us to be intelligent and smash our examinations. In fact, education was okay as long as:

a) we were not more intelligent than the boys in our class
b) we understood that no matter how brilliant we were, we were only going to end up being wives and mothers
c) While it was expected that the boys go on to greater heights, make a living, slay some dragons, run the world. There was no real expectation for the girls save (b) above.

I have thought of that talk many times later especially when I was old enough to hear stories of wives who were thrown out of their homes by their in-laws for failing to have male children or men who had had affairs in the hopes of getting a male child with their mistress. It was a theme I heard so often that the righteous anger I felt every time I heard such incidents was slowly watered down to plain pity.

I felt pity for the women who lost their homes, husbands, and security in one go by no real fault of theirs and I felt pity for the children – girls who by the acts of their father or relatives were told that they were not good enough and most times were swept out into the streets along with their mothers.

I remembered my teacher’s words and I knew deep inside me that our society was very quick to write off female children because they did not expect them to amount to much. They did not expect them to be too intelligent nor did they expect them to become presidents or ministers or ambassadors or pilots or great leaders or lead surgeons, great writers or anybody significant.

It is almost funny sometimes that the women who have against the odds risen to high positions in our society seldom get the accolade they deserve for their expertise. Instead you’ll hear some silly people attributing their success to their husband, father, brother or any man they can pin it on.

Alas! You would think that by now we would hold our children – both boys and girls to high standards. We would expect them to be the best version of themselves and pursue their dreams with equal vigour but it seems that many ethnicities are yet to get the memo that irrespective of biological programming, both genders are equal. Giving birth does not fry your brain after all.

Recently too, I have had an epiphany of sorts. I now have a clear understanding that while many women have experienced a pre-programming that tried to teach them that being female is being second class, we all have the power to shake off those teachings and decide to shape positive futures for ourselves and daughters. It may not be easy but we have to try. Come out of the shadows knowing that you have something to contribute to the world.

Though I would very much love to smack that my daft teacher for his stupid impartation that day, I am aware that time travel is still impossible, so I have decided to settle for writing this and hoping that even one female out there who has been cowed by society will see this and make a new year resolution to chase her dreams and believe in herself even if no one else does.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year in advance.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100

Kome Olori Agulonu is a writer and trade finance analyst. She is also the CEO of Chunky Jewels, a brand of unique, African inspired costume jewellery sold online in the United Kingdom. You can read more of her writing on her blog: www.shedarestosucceed.com Connect with her via twitter @komeolori or email her at [email protected]

43 Comments

  1. bgreat

    December 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    best thing I’ve read all day! a wonderful write up and more inspiring. kudoos to u! sure next yr is abt me and my dreams all the way

  2. Undeniable

    December 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Great Article. I have been always aware of the different treatments allotted to the sexes and even as a kid I rejected them. I have never for one second in my life felt that any man deserved more respect than a woman on his level. The truth is society has conditioned us to adopt an unfair system where men are put on a pedestal, unfortunately that has led to an unfortunate reality for men. While women are fighting against enforced gender roles and striving to be successful, some men are embracing mediocrity and still feeling entitled to hero worship. There is a current imbalance between the sexes. Women are really striving and earning their respect from society and men are being left behind conditioned by an old timey mindset. The truth is that in a couple of years more women will realize what I have always known. Men are honestly the biggest problems women have. Their expectations are too great and they mostly don’t match up to what they think they deserve.What we women need to do is keep working on our sisterhood, keep striving to encourage our daughters to be more than the status quo, and raise our sons to never feel entitled but earn their respect through developing character. God didn’t bring me on this planet to serve anyone but him,.

  3. chi-e-z

    December 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    beautiful 🙂

  4. Tunmi

    December 28, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Wow. I’m glad I attended an all-girls school for secondary school, Reagan in Yaba. It helped until we had to get out in the real world. We were encouraged to be brilliant. I realize that I’m lucky, I do. Of course, the solution is not to separate the genders. But we are making progress in speaking on it. Fúnke Akindele’s music video also touched on it. Her character, Jenifa, also touches on class and gender. I do believe that we can make progress in this area. We have gotten slightly ight better in how rape is discussed, so I have hope for Nigeria.

    But then I think, who knows how many girls have been silenced and how many boys have been forced into roles they never wanted. How many captains we could have had, how many geniuses we could have produced.

  5. Mary

    December 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Kome, you speak the anger in my heart.

    Last week, I was driving through Lagos traffic when a Keke napep decided that he had 4 heads and could jump the queue. He encountered a police post ahead and was told to turn back. He then decided to ask the motorist on his left hand side (me) to please give him the opportunity to get in front of her car. I said no.

    A male passenger in his vehicle not only told me I was wicked, but also said he was sure it was a man that bought me the car I was driving.

    I don’t know which was more confusing; that the passenger was angry I told the driver to do the right thing by joining the queue, or that I should have allowed the driver get in front of my car because the car was bought for me by a man.

    It’s 2015 and sadly, there are people who still believe that a woman cannot do certain things by herself, including buy a car.

    I also recall that when I asked my boss for a pay rise, he wondered what I needed it for since I was a woman and my needs ought to be taken care of by a man.

    I also recall that when I got married and did a name change, my female boss (one of the leading experts in my field) asked why I didn’t change my signature to reflect my husband’s name. That was the first time I heard that women change signatures after marriage.

    But women must continue to rise. Still I rise.

  6. Bukky

    December 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    We seriously need to change this mindset, and I have always said that the country needs a well laid-out plan to eradicate this gender caste system. Gender equality classes should be entrenched into the syllabus right from primary schools. and teachers should attend training programs too. Religious houses will need to get involved and educate their congregation, and PSAs addressing this issue should be distributed through different mediums. It will take eons for us to wipe out gender bias, but at least there will be hope for our unborn children.

    • Natu

      December 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      I agree but parents should also enforce gender equality.

    • Bukky

      December 28, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      @Natu Yes, yes… and most importantly parents!!!!

  7. Unbeatable

    December 28, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you honey. It’s so refreshing to read this. In a society where women are minorities and most of us have consciously or subconsciously bought into that. They call me a feminist and i dont intend to apologise for it. I’m only a woman who is disturbed by the heavy weight of the pains of an average African woman who’s destiny has been crushed even before her life began, all because she’s a woman. Maybe it’s because of sentiments, having to watch one of my loved ones cry everyday of her 10 years marriage because she has 5 girls. Our society is unfair to women and we all have a role to play. Don’t allow anything less than your best. You are a woman not a minority.

    • Naomi

      December 28, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      know someone that kicked the wife out and divorced her for having only daughters….

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      December 30, 2015 at 1:05 am

      And the real irony here is that the illiterate man probably doesn’t realize that the only one to blame for the birthing of all those girls is his own chromosome-producing self.

      Sounds like he should have kicked himself out and into the streets and handed the keys to the house over to his unfairly persecuted wife…. ??

      Ignorance is such a dangerous disease.

  8. l

    December 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    nice one!!!

  9. Quest

    December 28, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    I still remember being beaten and scolded to do chores that my only elder broda shld have done, all in d name of a male child. It left a psychological scar. I have vowed that such gender inequality wont have any place in my family.

  10. Tayo

    December 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks for the beautiful write up Kome. I’m an avid Bella naija reader but this my first time commenting. I just had to,cause this is something that is close to my heart. When I was younger, I never really understood what gender equality was or why people used to call Chimamanda Adichie a feminist until it happened to me this year. That was the most embarrassing day of my life, especially because my elder brother was there when the man was saying the rubbish he was saying, my brother didn’t even defend me, he actually kept on leading the man on. To be honest I was more disappointed in him more than anything because he went to school in England and one would expect he would talk with “sense” when he opens his mouth. To make matters worse,he constantly says things like ” you are a girl, you should be able to cook”, “you are a girl you should be able to clean the house” you are a girl this and you are a girl that. He talks like that is all I was born to do and he even told me he knows it annoys me when he says those things and because of that he is going to continue saying them. I honestly don’t know what is wrong with him and why he says these things, maybe the black man blood in him is just really stong lol. Its very hurtful because its coming from my senior brother but more surprising because my dad cooks really well and my junior brother likes to clean so much, sometimes I think he even has OCD lol. I think gender equality is something we need to discuss alot more and bring attention to more often. I think if we start training boys and girls the same way, it will go a long way in making the world a better place for everyone.

    • Californiabawlar

      December 29, 2015 at 4:16 am

      Annoy your brother by becoming successful….not ‘the wife if Mr. lagbaja’ successful o, like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey typa successful…that my dear is the sweetest revenge…

  11. Ijeoma

    December 28, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    This is a very beautiful piece! Growing up in a home where my mum had to give birth 8 times just because she wanted a male child, made me wonder if I and my sisters were deformed.

  12. Sherri

    December 28, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Beautifully written!!
    It is my hope and deepest heart desire to see my generation of females actively rise up to this challenge.
    what a beautiful time to be born female!!

  13. zee

    December 28, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Growing up, I had a neigbhour. Whose wife had 5 daughters…..sigh…what’s the point jare. To each his own, let ’em keep criticising the female child and let ’em keep watching girls slay!!!

  14. Ba

    December 28, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    No gender disparity on my part and I guess a lot of men are getting awaken by that. If I have twin girls like Mikel and my third child a girl, I will accept it that way because that’s what God want and biologically, I am the cause.
    The cars we use today was propel by a woman, if not the idea will have die. Women have great attribute that men lacks which makes the whole balance.

  15. gradii

    December 29, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Quite a piece, I think its the family orientation Vs the society norm.
    thanks for putting this out here kome.

  16. Daiva

    December 29, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Thank you very much for the write up… I have a lot to say buts it midnight so I wud leave it, I was thinking of organizing a campaign hopeful I get to do it soon. Wud keep u informed

  17. Kelechi

    December 29, 2015 at 12:23 am

    The gender equality situation is very evasive, as one doesn’t necessarily know where to draw the line. When unequal are treated as equals that is inequality. The issue about treatment of male child as a privilege is not always true, most family that I know treated female child like an egg, that is meant to be protected and guarded at all time, while the male counterparts are left to fend for themselves most times. Women are way better in culinary skills than men, and i don’t think it demeans women in any way. Even when it comes to cooking, i know families that men are required to do the pounding of food stuff, as it is more suitable for male. The major inequality that female child faces today, is from women.

    • Bukky

      December 29, 2015 at 3:56 am

      ” Women are way better in culinary skills”. That statement is false. Women and men have been conditioned to think that the former is better at cooking. It is a mindset that has been brought about by our culture. Even if a male child enjoys cooking, he is often disxcouraged by parents and society.

  18. dee

    December 29, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Ok, so being a wife and giving birth is somehow regarded as a role that makes you less than a man? Snd beinga banker, ruling the world is the great “in” thing for women to pursue to prove that they are equal to men? What hogwash!!!! While I understand her train of thot, me thinks it needs to be toned down becos it reflects her own bias and poor understanding of the influence of those roles for the woman. I am a woman by the way, a 34 year old physician with 4 children and a handsome husband. Inspite of my career, I respect the role of wife and mother cos I know it is an avenue of great influence, not only on my children but their friends and my neighborhood if I choose to. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, remember? We women should embrace and proudly revel in that special ability given to us by God instead of attacking people becos they dare to remind us what the primary role of a married woman with kids should be. It is like the disdain Nigerians have for the teaching profession. Poorly paid and ill appreciated.

    • Bukky

      December 29, 2015 at 4:01 am

      Dear physician and wife to a handsome man, you have totally gone off on a tangent here.

    • Nutellalover

      December 29, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Love you!

    • Californiabawlar

      December 29, 2015 at 4:50 am

      Nothing needs to be toned down….it’s not a in thing and finally, some hands down want to rock the cradle….they want to rock a screwdriver or a keyboard….who are you to dictate? God also put the passion in them…why must they be like you?

      I don’t know how brainwashed educated females can still disrepute the occurrence of gender inequality and how the effects trickle down to the most innate parts of our societal fabric. Little excuses like yours lead to bigger problems like rape and assault.
      Madam physician, how do you maintain or justify your stand to a woman who got hit by a male driver who then refuses to produce his insurance papers because ‘things like that’ can’t be handled by women….then she calls the police and they also insist that she calls her ‘husband’. ….my blood is boiling just thinking about it.
      Most women don’t want to fight anyone. I just want to exist and be seen as human. Whatever role I then choose to play in my personal like will be just that, personal. Not because someone dictacted it to me.

    • Californiabawlar

      December 29, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Too many typos (more than the usual)….this madam vexed me out of my holiday igbadun mode ni. I don’t even know who sent me to open this article sef…I shoulda known some sister Marthas and brother Pauls would be one here preaching about the invisible place and the magical/mystical things God ’empowered’ women to do….keep in mind it’s never anything that involves using your brains to contribute to the society…
      Abeg peace to the middle east….the devil cannot steal my joy! Make I continue my jolly dey go o jee. Turn up!

  19. It's annoying

    December 29, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Great article ! Recently, I met a guy that was going to help me fix my computer online. He was supposed to give me the instructions through chat and before we began he said “I hope you can comprehend this as a lady”. I was hurt and the reality of how females are usually looked down upon actually hit me. I just let it go because I was at his mercy; I would have given him a piece of my mind. Eventually he couldn’t fix the problem and I ended up fixing the computer myself and the guy was shocked and actually said henceforth, he respects me.

    I have made up my mind to treat both my male and female children alike when they come. No preferential treatment or any of those nonsense.

  20. Mz_ danielz

    December 29, 2015 at 6:23 am

    This gender matter is tricky as while men and women are equal, they are different. In my house, my father was strict on the boys, they had to do lots of manly chores and defend their sisters. Their allowances were sometimes delayed and they didn’t get as many clothes as we did, I actually remember my younger brother crying once abt it’the girls always get new clothes’ my father’s sharp response was ‘because they are precious now be a man and stop crying’. Till today, my brothers have that mindset of giving to and protecting women.

    I’m car hunting right now and to be honest, I’ve heard lots of rubbish about what car a woman can drive but I’ve found out that men are more open to negotiate car deals with other men which is okay really, I just need a good deal.

    Until, being a woman is the reason I don’t get a promotion, i think I’m fine.

    As women, we should work with what we have, the exciting dates, being spent on and protected and then weed of the chauvnists. I can’t tell you how much being a woman has helped me financially oh, I’ve been able to save and invest cos there are guys who will take care of some basic needs until they start wanting more and you cut them off moving onto the next. If I meet a traditional old school guy depending on my mood, I either cut him off or turn him to an ATM till he either gets the message or I’m tired. Enjoy the ride and don’t let people’s ignorance ruin your makeup. And then ensure you marry a guy who has absolute regard for women and together you both can laugh at bush men.

    Until it affects your promotion or your business deals, no need to sweat it just know you were created equal to men, believe it and live it. The world will stand still for you. The thing is, some women are waiting for men to acknowledge them as equals forgetting that once you start thinking like that, you have admitted that you are inferior.

    • Corolla

      December 29, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Mz_danielz, in essence you are a gold digger. Ok.

    • Mz_Daniels

      December 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Chai, my life. Nooooo, I don’t have the energy to dig Biko. Ask those big gals who have sport rides how they do it. I just take what is freely given by those who believe they are the superior gender and move along building my career, loving my life and hoping to find someone who sees women as equal but different

  21. Blackbeauty

    December 29, 2015 at 8:52 am

    My hubby said he wants a boy for his first child so when he isn’t around, the little boy will step in and take care of his sisters and me. A little boy to protect and take care of me?? I honestly couldn’t believe my hubby uttered those words and I told him in very clear terms, that if he ever said that to our son…
    I do not blame him, it’s the society we live in. I am the first child and I was in charge whenever my parents travelled and I did a damn good job of it. In his opinion, my younger bro should have been given that responsibility because there are certain things I wouldn’t be able to handle eg PHCN comes to disconnect power.
    What’s wrong with my mouth that I can’t go out, paid Nepa bill In Hand, and argue my case which I must point out I have done.
    I told him I plan to raise our children equally and no one i.e him should undermine my efforts.

    • Amy

      December 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Edakun tell him to prepare his Y chromosomes and stop acting like it’s your genetic composition that’ll determine the babies sex?.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      December 30, 2015 at 1:23 am

      @Blackbeauty, I’ve long thought you were someone else (a PH somebori I had fixed you as being) but with the husband mention, I’ve now been thrown for six as you’re definitely not her. ?

      And your husband should meet my brother. It might help him rethink any notions of how children of different sexes tackle family responsibilities…

  22. TB

    December 29, 2015 at 9:42 am

    This article really struck a chord in my heart.I was lucky growing up because my parents never used that you are a girl card on me and so this is your role or you can’t do this because you’re a girl,instead they encouraged me and my brother to strive to be the best.it was when I got older that I really saw gender inequality and most disappointing was some of it came from my extended family which is saddening. I do hope that the mentally of the “presupposed” role of a woman is washed out of our minds by knowledge and exposure because even some females suffer from this mentality.

  23. fulfilledlaidy

    December 29, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I think we should transfer all our anger to Eve, Adams wife. Men being in control over us is a curse God laid on us in Genesis 3:15-20. To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception. In pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall bring for your husband and shall RULE over you. And in the new testament in 1 corinthians 11:3 the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man and the head of christ is God. We women lost it when we failed to recognize our own unique power. Instead we get locked into a power struggle. We have no idea the power we are blessed with which is the power of influence.

    • whocares

      December 29, 2015 at 11:23 am

      *sigh* and as we cannot find Eve because she is erm biblical and I will throw a wild guess in here dead,why don’t we direct that energy and anger to our society and reality instead #justsaying. Yes there is a power struggle because for all intents and purposes the majority of women in this world are powerless compared to men.. yes we are unique, the bible created us etc, but how can we realise that potential when women are deemed to be second class citizens and are not given any opportunity to shine. Yes, women are unique, but it must be difficult to be unique only within the four corners of your bedroom if the world will not give you space to stand as an equal and a proper human being.

  24. fulfilledlaidy

    December 29, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Sorry for the typos

  25. molarah

    December 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    As much as I agree with the author on majority of the issues raised, I feel there is a place where this gender equality discussion can really go overboard. And this has become so obvious in the comments above. Please what exactly is so bad about a guy harping about your inability to cook or keep a home? Wouldn’t you do same to a guy that was acting the lazy bum and not showing a desire to go out and earn a living to care for his family? Abeg, both partners in a marriage are expected to bring something to the table: if the expectation is for the man to go out and bring in the income then it’s only fair for the woman to take charge of the home front – it’s the same equality we are talking about, abi?. There are some issues where we definitely need a change in the cultural status quo: girl child education, and the way rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, school, community and the like are handled. But when it comes to gender dynamics on the home front – who does what, what is expected of whom, abeg let’s take those feminist boxing gloves off, and approach with wisdom.

    • Corolla

      December 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      ….but in these day and age the man is not the sole provider. Many women are also going out to work and bringing in income. So “when it comes to gender dynamics on the home front”, both parties should rise up to the responsibility, instead of putting the burden on just one person.

    • Mz_Daniels

      December 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      When I say a woman should proudly spend her husband’s money, people will be prophesying perpetual singleness into my life. Work because you want to be productive and build a career but edakun, It’s your God given right to be spent on and pampered.

  26. fulfilledlaidy

    December 29, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Who even said anything about being unique in the four corners of the bedroom??? *sighs* I recommend you go and read Power of being a woman by Michelle McKinney Hammond. I don’t need to roar to be heard. The more we fight, the more it get worse because we are going about this gender thing the wrong way. Wisdom is the key in all things. My opinion though

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