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Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe: How You Might Be Contributing to Societal Pressures on Women

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Have you said these prayers recently: “In nine months’ time…”, “This time next year…”, “Ti e naa a de laipe (yours too will come shortly)”? Have you ever asked your friend, niece, daughter or daughter-in-law these questions: “How far? Are you pregnant?” “Has any man showed up?”

I’m sorry to break it to you dear brothers and sisters that you are part of the problem.

This is not to say you don’t mean well, but rather to say prayers, well wishes and genuine concerns, as innocent as these may seem, can be pressures. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Every society has its norms and expectations, which are often not written in fine prints, but have been the standard for measuring success for many generations. These expectations vary based on a myriad of factors including age, gender, religion, culture, etc., resulting in varying degrees of pressure, some stemming from genuine concerns (albeit misguided), others, not so innocent. Unfortunately, these pressures have scarred many, and have caused more heartache than joy.

It beats me every time I reflect on the childhood lessons our society taught us, on being at peace with ourselves and our status, and then witness the same society turn around to tell us it’s not okay to have some peace because we haven’t met certain expectations. “Don’t base your race on another man’s race,” “God’s time is the best,” they said, but when the expected time for us to be married is at hand and we aren’t, then something must be wrong. Yet, we were told everyone has their own “clock.”

The pressure to be married is much worse for women, especially in our society. These pressures increase exponentially with age, after all “the woman is like a flower that blooms one day and withers the next.”

Marriage-related pressures include the pressure to marry, remain married and raise children. Concerned relatives begin to ask questions and mount pressure on a woman when she is deemed to be of a marriageable age, causing many women to marry wrongly. They have panic attacks on her behalf and conversations hover around the subject as if that’s all that matters. They preach, teach and match-make her with anybody and if she thinks he is not right for her, then she is “unserious and picky.” More often than not, she becomes the prayer point at religious gatherings and family alters.

To make matters worse, a woman in an abusive relationship is advised to remain in the relationship because of her children. What the world would say. Where will she find a man to marry her with her children? As a result, these women remain in abusive relationships, causing many to suffer from depression, untimely deaths in the hands of spouses who have killed and maimed them, while some have even committed suicide.

And the pressure to bear children. On the wedding day, the popular prayer is that in nine months she would have a child. Yes, these are well wishes, but the ignorant assumption that the couple wants to start having children immediately after the wedding has never ceased to baffle me. What if the woman genuinely has fears concerning child-bearing? What if she doesn’t want to bear children? What if she truly has some challenges in getting pregnant?

Several women have been subjected to “womb watchers” who stare at women’s midsections to see if there is a bulge. Status updates on social media where women look beautiful and are glowing are immediately interpreted as the “pregnancy glow.” Social media has made it worse as people throw jabs at women for not bearing children when they think they should have, thereby hurting and mounting more pressure on them.

These pressures are stressors and have caused much more harm than good. Besides causing and increasing depression, societal pressures could result in serious health risks like increased blood pressure, migraine, weakened immune system, insomnia and increased difficulty in getting pregnant due to fluctuating hormones amongst others.

So, when next you attend a wedding, pray that the couple have children when they so desire. The next time you call or visit your unmarried aunt, sister, neighbor or friend, don’t focus your discussion on what she has not “achieved,” rather, focus on the abundant blessings she’s been showered with. Ask about her goals, her dreams and what steps she is taking to achieve them.

Ask about her challenges and give your opinion on how she could overcome them. Connect her with those you think could be of help to her. Inquire about what she does in her spare time and make suggestions on activities she might enjoy. If you must touch the subject of her unmarried status, then ask her first if it’s ok to speak on the subject. Let her ask you for help in finding a man before you provide your advice on how to “hook” a member of the ‘Sweet Boys Association’ or their older fellows. Seek her permission to match-make her with an eligible man and if she isn’t interested, please drop it. This way, we would be reducing societal pressures to have a “perfect life” and doing more good to those we love.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe is an Organizational Development Specialist. She is an avid writer who is passionate about addressing issues affecting girls and women in the society.

36 Comments

  1. Fisayo Ajiboye

    September 27, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Well written. Even the pressure added to young families to bear other children. You will hear ” E fun omo yi mi aburo kia kia”. Like they will help cater for the child’s needs or education. Thank you for this eye opening article.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:19 am

      Fisayo,
      That’s another major pressure ooo. Junior needs a sister! but the responsibility to nurture and train the child is on the parent who might not be ready for that. Follow your plans, do what’s best for you and leave the rest

  2. Abiodun Adedoja

    September 27, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Beautiful piece. Well said. No truer words have been spoken. Thanks for this.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:19 am

      Thank you Abiodun

  3. Tutu

    September 27, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Lovely and insightful piece.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:42 am

      Thank you Tutu

  4. Jito

    September 27, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Its too simple to say one is the problem for asking a question. It is not what is said but how it is said and in what context it is said. A good friend asking any of these questions will be welcome but a noisy neighbor/family member etc will not be welcomed. It is a complex situation.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:42 am

      Jito,
      You are very right. The manner of presentation and the existing relationship between the parties is a key determinant on how such questions would be welcomed.
      However, these questions, although unintentional, could put more pressure on the individual who is already stressed out on the issue. If we must ask these questions, its best to know the time and place for such discussions

    • Jito

      September 28, 2018 at 10:05 am

      I agree with you totally. Thanks for this brilliant article.

  5. Margaret Oyewole

    September 27, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Tell me about it 🙁
    Well written Ike.
    Keep up the good work

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Thank you Margaret

  6. Anne Fisher

    September 27, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    It’s unfortunate but you speak the truth. I can only hope that the younger generation have a better experience and are not forced to succumb to these societal pressures.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:26 am

      Anne,
      The younger generation must decide what’s best for them and pursue such desires. Looking to society to tell us what’s best for us is the reason many fall under these pressures. Know who you are, what you want, and go for it. Peace ✌️

  7. Lollysmallz

    September 27, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Way to go fam….. deep but true

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:20 am

      Thank you Sis

  8. Oluseyi Adebiyi

    September 27, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Interestingly one of my uncles called me last night in a bid to bring up the marriage topic. Me that I had already had a long day. The manner in which I harried him off, I’m not sure he would want to call back anytime soon. Everyman at his appointed time.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 12:12 am

      Oluseyi, I feel your plight?
      Indeed, the pressure is on both men and women. But there is an appropriate time and place for these issues to be discussed. I hope our uncles and aunties get to read this so they can understand the pressures they put on us

  9. Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

    September 28, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Thank you

  10. Gold

    September 28, 2018 at 3:36 am

    This is so eye-opening. This is basically what people need to know instead of mounting pressure up and down. Our time and choices are different.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Time and chance happens to us all. Thank you Gold

  11. Obayomi Abiola

    September 28, 2018 at 6:23 am

    This is well written. Kudos Ike!

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Thank you Abiola

  12. Ada

    September 28, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Beautiful piece..
    Well written and analysed.
    Keep up the good work love.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you Ada

  13. Ibrahim

    September 28, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Nice piece

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you Ibrahim

  14. Onyx

    September 28, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Are we not tired on regurgitating same topics? There’s nothing earth shattering revealed here. I like the writer and I see all the comments are all “kudos” but criticism should be welcome so my two pence is this. The writer seems like a brilliant mind that should be writing more thought provoking pieces and not repeated basic stuff on marriage, pregnancy etc

    • abby

      September 28, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      No we are not of writing/reading topics like this just yet…because this issue is persistent, until people(mostly in this part of the world) learn to leave people alone and understand that things happen for people at different times..This “nothing earth shattering” topic has driven many people to depression and bad choi9ces that end up ruining their lives.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Abby,
      Indeed it has. Sadly, I’ve heard some tales of woe with origins linked to societal pressures. Often, we are unaware of our part in contributing to the stress on our friends and loved ones. I can only hope this piece enlightens many on how to approach the subject.
      Thank you for your comments

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      Onyx,
      Thank you for the comments. I do agree with you that the topic is not exactly new, however the issues raised are very real and recurrent. We should not quit speaking up until we see a difference in how women are treated in our society. I do hope these write ups provoke not just deep thinking, but caution and good action. Peace ✌️

  15. amara

    September 28, 2018 at 11:19 am

    it never stops. Even when you do have the child, some people put pressure on the way you are expected to feed the child. Even from The current hospital i use, three different paed doctors have given me contradictory feeding advice. DrA said, common this baby is 7 months, he should be swallowing eba by now. Dr B told me at 9 months, no stop that, no swallow till 9 months. just introduce cereal and fruits. Then today gangan Dr C told me, how can you be feeding a 9 months from the bottle

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      Amara,
      I must confess I laughed when I read your comment. I can only imagine the confusion you are experiencing right now. But it’s quite sad because you are only trying to do what’s best for your child by seeking expert opinion, which as it is, turns out to be contradictory and confusing.
      Thank you for your comments.

  16. Yetunde Oni

    September 28, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Very true! Felt like you were sharing this over a cup of coffee… welldone!
    Even after having two boys the pressure is on about having a girl “don’t you want a girl?” “Who Will be your confidant?” “Female children take better care of their parents o”….. the real question is, do I want more?
    All these issues reveals a side of society called “the cover up” rather than deal with the real issues that we face. The need to present a perfect picture of our lives causes people to deal with untold pains and sufferings, deceit and abuse just because we don’t want “people” to talk about us.
    Society is an aggregate of people… people who below the surface deal with real issues of life and suffers from this same societal disease as well.
    Until we all open up about our imperfections, we cannot truly understand the pain of others.

    • Ikeoluwa Oyewole-Akanfe

      September 28, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      Yetunde,
      I should have included your comments as part of this piece! ?? Brilliant and aptly said ??
      Thank you

  17. Temidayo Ajayi

    September 28, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you Sister. One major thing is not be self-pressured not matter how the pressure around seems to be, cos the society will not live ones personal life. God bless you.

  18. Cocoa

    September 29, 2018 at 9:34 am

    No one can weigh you down with what you REFUSE to put on top of your head. Please my sisters leave other people’s load for them.

    Words don’t take away from you…Words don’t add to you. Stop hanging on to compliments…..Stop shrinking from unpleasantries.

    Only one opinion matters in your life because it can actually TRANFORM IT….THE WORD OF GOD.

    “When God says it’s time” is a universal answer to all questions.

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