Through her leadership and achievements, Clodine proved to her father that girls are a worthy investment.
In beer parlors, funerals, and celebrations, my father speaks about the need to empower women and girls.
In his wildest imagination, my father never considered himself a feminist. He viewed feminism as a Western concept to avoid. He saw women and girls as “weaker vessels” and believed advocating for women and girls was a deviation from the norm.
As the patriarch of our family, my father was a faithful believer in male superiority and the concept of the male breadwinner. These beliefs led him to treat his male and female children differently.
The birth of five female children was no event. We were considered “additional” blessings while his male children were the “real” blessing. According to him, we would eventually get married and be part of another family so there was no need to invest in us. My father proudly celebrated the birth of his three male children, his heirs. He believed that at last, with the birth of my brothers, he would die smiling because the family was now in good hands.
Unfortunately for my dad, life unfolded contrary to his expectations. His male children did not live up to his dreams. They neither prioritized education nor committed to family well-being. They exhausted family income. My father barely survived the heartbreaking challenges they brought.
Many patriarchal families in my community believe, like my father did, that the male is the king. They disregard the contributions of female children. I’ve heard stories of male children who sold the family house when their parents were still alive, leaving the parents to die in misery. Even after tragedies like this, families continue to put the male children first.
Fortunately for my sisters and me, my father rose from slumber early enough to rescue our situation. It all started when at 18 years old, I excelled in advance level examinations which qualify students for university. While my brothers used their tuition fees on things other than their education, I graduated from university with distinction and later enrolled for a master’s degree.
Reality dawned on my father that unlike our brothers, the females in our family were succeeding beyond his expectations. He had no choice but to redefine his priorities, which he did with humility. At last, the scales fell from his eyes.
My father began consulting with me as the most educated member of my family. He told me his frustrations with his male children and explained details of our family property, trusting some to my care. He valued my contributions. Instead of the voiceless child, I became a partner in family affairs.
My father has since committed to deconstructing stereotypes about women and girls. In line with the adage that “charity begins at home,” he explored all opportunities to foster the empowerment of his female children. He sent us to good schools, provided for our needs, and sacrificed all he had for us. Then he proceeded to advocate for equality between women and men, boys and girls, in our community.
My father became radical and unstoppable in his fight. In beer parlors, funerals, and celebrations, my father speaks about the need to empower women and girls. He said NO to early/forced marriages, NO to sexual abuse, NO to preference for male children, NO to all forms of discrimination against women. Defying the customs in our community, he willed his property to all his children irrespective of sex.
My sisters and I have excelled in our education and in male-dominated spheres like arts and crafts. We are seen as a pacesetting family known not just for our excellent performance in education and work, but also for our relentless effort to empower our fellow sisters.
We train adolescent girls in bead making, traditional attire, make-up, manicure, pedicure, and fashion. We give workshops in youth groups and hairdressing salons where we provide counseling and talk about things like social ills and career opportunities.
Our father is our team leader and he is key to our success. He uses his position in the community to influence local development actors including religious, cultural, administrative authorities, and family heads. He speaks out against cultural malpractices that promote inequality and he advocates for equal opportunities to all without bias. His testimonies have empowered many.
My father has never regretted being a feminist, and he has become unstoppable in his fight for equality and emancipation of women and girls.
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