August is women's month in South Africa, a month specially dedicated to focusing on the contributions of women, young and old. Celebrating who we are and what we have achieved in various sectors. It makes me think about the many seemingly small milestones womankind has surmounted and the long road ahead of more hurdles to be overcome, more victories to be won. But we are always hopefully and bravely trudging on.
As a woman in the 21st century, I proudly acknowledge where we are today, I have much more options than my mother, grandmother and great grandmother did. I am proud of what women have achieved today in terms of the rights that I am enjoying but I am also aware that it is a man's world and in most cases their rules apply.
Women have to work twenty times harder to gain respect and recognition in the corporate arena, even more so in the political arena where we are so few in number. And yet we actually perform better in political office, not just in terms of our work and dedication to effecting positive change but because we are fully aware of what is at stake. If we don't effect that change that will improve the lives of our constituents, it will impact on the future well being of our children and their offspring, which will definitely have a domino effect on society as a whole.
There are a lot of women that I look up to, women I know and have interacted with intimately. Women I have never met but who have had a profound impact on my life, friends, family members, my mother, my sister, my closest girlfriends. These are all women who have shaped who I am today and I pay homage to all of them.
I come from a country where the female is protected, loved, treated with dignity and respect by the males in their lives. It starts with the father who is undeniably regarded as the patriarch, the provider, the protector. My father obviously shaped and had a profound influence on my view of men. Perhaps I am speaking from a sheltered point of view but I am confident that a majority of Nigerian women will support my claim. I am of course not so naive as to claim that all women in Nigeria are equally protected and loved by their fathers or husbands but in general the culture supports the role of the male as a patriarch, protector and provider.
For me the role of the male and female are distinct but complimentary. I say this with all the power vested in me as a cosmopolitan woman of African descent born into a highly patriarchal culture. The role of any male in my life is as a protector, provider and patriarch. My husband will be treated as a king in our house because that is what he is to me, a king to my queen. He will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity because he deserves it. This is not to give the impression that I will be the docile wife waiting hand and foot on her husband like a slave. I refer to the kind of partnership where a wife supports her husband, nurtures his potential and nourishes his emotions and vice-versa. I don't know any normal man that is treated with respect, dignity and care that will not give back the same in return. It is really quite a simple recipe, avoid confrontational encounters, leave your egos aside and learn to communicate as man and wife. Hold your husband up to a higher standard in a non-abusive way, show him that you and the children look up to him and he will try to live up to those standards.
I am not a feminist, I don't believe that it is constructive to be a feminist in the 21st century, it is not a realistic approach to take certainly not in Africa. Perhaps for Western women it has worked after a fashion, in Europe and America but it is still very much a man's world even in those parts. I view myself as a realist with the positive outlook that the potential for the female to continue to grow in voice and relevance in the socio-economic and political arena is a given. I hold this view because the world continues to change and the level of accessibility for the female child keeps increasing. I can see it in the current generation of teens and pre-teens.
I am very proud to be an African woman in the 21st century, living in Africa. I salute all the female children, young and mature all around the world. I salute the resilience, doggedness and fierce protectiveness of mothers, sisters, aunts, wives the world over. I stand proud to be a woman and I would not change my gender even if I were to reincarnate in ten lifetimes.
The wind of change continues to blow and gain momentum, let us all embrace that change.
Happy Women's Month!!