The African Woman:Breaking the steroetype

Antego2010
Posted October 29, 2012 from Nigeria
a young african male child
a young african male child
a young african male child (1/2)

One of the most monumental moments of my life took place when I was 14 years old. It was a hot sunny day in kabba, the biology teacher Mr. Adeoye walked in and the topic for the week was reproduction, the only thing he said that week that stuck in my brain was the theory of XY chromosomes. Whereby women always produce xx chromosomes as a constant homogametic sex, the distinct heterogametic sex chromosomes produced my men xy determines the sex of the child, if it is x chromosome it was a girl, if it was y chromosomes it was a boy. I was elated and filled with joy to find out that the sex of a child is scientifically determined by men. THE CRAZE FOR MALE CHILDREN In African context the pride of a family used to be, and to a large extent still is embedded in the number of male children a woman is able to ‘produce’. A woman is mostly considered a failure if she cannot have male children and the anguish and heart ache that women who do not have male children go through cannot be explained by mere words alone. My aunt has six children all of them girls, you may wonder why… My uncle’s family kept pressuring her for a male child from the time she gave birth to her first daughter till she gave birth to her last daughter, she would cry, pray, go through sleepless nights all for a male child, but each child turned out to be a girl. I love all my girls; they are beautiful, brilliant, energetic and loving. I never understood why my relatives gave her grief over her inability to have a male child. I felt like walking up to each of them and explaining that spiritually we are made to believe that children are gifts that come from God and genetically the sex of a child is determined by a male so if they wanted to torment anyone they should turn their efforts to my uncle!!! My efforts would have proved useless because they were blinded by ignorant beliefs passed down from our forefathers and the illiteracy that clouds their judgement have blocked them from thinking like people of the 21st century. I also contrast myself here because I have a friend, a very close friend who told me he would divorce his wife if the first child she gives birth to isn’t a male; I sat down there, right in front of him, listening to an educated individual speaking like a cave man from centuries ago!!! The crux of discrimination between a male and a female begins at home, in the family, where before birth prominence is placed on the male child over the female. It takes away from the joy of motherhood if the woman cannot bask in the coming of a new baby but worries over the sex of the child because she knows that is what is going to determine the state of the happiness of her marriage.  This discrimination spreads to the type of education male and female children receive while growing up, the type of attention showered on them, the expectations put on them; all of this differs. It begs the question of:  Are male children and female children different apart from sex? Why should they be treated unequally? Why do women have to fight harder to achieve everything worthy of note in Africa? What has the government done to bridge the gap in discrimination? How has societal stereotype affected the psychology of African women? What are African women doing to break the stereotype? How much of a role is played by African women in governance and decision making? HOW AFRICAN WOMEN POLARIZE EACH OTHER It would interest you to note that the foundation of discrimination stems from women. The psychological effect of stereotype is so great that women believe that THINGS ARE THE WAY THEY ARE BECAUSE TRADITION DEEMS IT SO. An example is of the mother-in law putting pressure on her daughter-in law for a male grandson instead of sympathizing with another woman who just happens to be in a different situation. The key antagonist and tormentor that my aunt suffered from were from her unmarried sister-in law. Stories abound about women in high places who have failed to use their power of position to empower other women for fear of these women dominating them in future. The practice of injustice and abuse of widows  is another example of unfair treatment from one woman to another. Shaving of the head with razor blades that might be infected, washing of the dead body and giving the water to the widow to drink, confining a widow to the same living quarters with the body of her dead husband, torment based on accusation of murder of the widow’s husband, all these are inhuman acts that go against the basic human rights of an individual are crimes carried out by women against each other. The reason is not farfetched in FEAR, the singular, controlling factor that gives African men power over their women.  Sarah Jubrin came out as a candidate for the PDP presidential primary election, it was appalling and shameful when the votes were counted and she only got one vote!!!! There were scores of female delegates in the stands and more women who undermine their power of conviction over their husbands to canvass for votes for a fellow woman. Yet we speak for equality and cry against discrimination but we take no action towards effecting the change that we so desperately need. A man doesn’t have to prove himself twice, the fact that he is a male is reason enough for society to believe that he will not fail and he is capable. If he loses his wife he can mourn her for a couple of months and remarry without any problems whatsoever. Women need to rise above fear of what has been ingrained in them as norms; we need to open up our minds to visualize the possibilities of change in our society if we stick together against maltreatment, gender inequality, abuse and unfair societal stereotype. RELEGATION OF AFRICAN WOMEN IN SOCIETY We do not have enough women in governance. Government can speak all the big grammar they like and give inflated statistics but the reality of the situation remains that women are not represented in government. This can be either because of lack of qualified women for such positions or the refusal of a male dominated cabal to involve more women in key governmental sections of the economy. This is the largest and most pronounced way that stereotype can be taken care of, when women are seen proving themselves in offices or positions that have been previously dominated by men more people will feel compelled to employ more women and treat them with greater respect. As the ‘weaker sex’ we have to fight extra hard, push further , struggle even more to be seen, heard or taken serious. The number of women in parliament and occupying ministerial positions is still less than 25% percent. Government has to do more to increase female representation. Patricia Etteh was the first female speaker in the lower chambers of the National Assembly, her position was heralded as the starting point of change and the dawn of a new era in the development of female participation in governance, but that hope was put out quickly when she shamefully abused the powers of office and lost her seat before she could affect any change. It will take a long time for another endeavor like this to see the light of day. Women need to start being more socially conscious of themselves by attempting by all means possible to avail themselves to opportunities of education and IT development, we must reject the old and archaic norms of being just housewives, petty traders and the silent partner of Mr. & Mrs. We do not only loose sense of our identities but we increase gender stereotypes when we fail to see that there is more that we can do. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates aren't called Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates but Mr. Bill and Mrs. Melinda Gates, same as the Iwealas', Who are not referred to as Mr and Mrs Ikemba Iweala but as Mr. Ikemba and Mrs Ngozi Iweala, this is because these women have risen to such prominence in society that their identity cannot be hidden behind their husband's name. It may seem minute, but by undermining the identity of a woman by referring to her with the name of her husband she looses her identity as an individual who exists only with her husband It would be unfair for me not to mention the fact there are African men who treat their children equally and give them the same opportunities for development. My father treated us equally, he always said to us that the difference between men and women was purely physical and that anything else was left to us, we could go as far as we wanted, reach as high up as we could and to never let anyone treat us as anything less than equals, thus the reason for my feminist tendencies. Women from a sound educational background and upbringing have gone on to achieve great things because they were made to believe that the only limitations that exist are the ones we put on ourselves. I laud the efforts of some women who are the catalyst of change in African countries;

Ory Okolloh: A Kenyan activist who has utilized the power of social media to enable people post incidences of violences online across Africa

Chimamanda Adiche:One of African’s leading literary voices, her stories put women as heroes who are capable of doing more than is expected of them.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: The epitome of a true female African hero who has broken the norm and forced her critics in acceptance of her abilities to change the Liberian economy, awarded Nobel peace prize in 2011 for her efforts in uniting the warring factions of war torn Liberia and securing debt relief for the country.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala: The economist who proves that there is no difference in the mental capabilities of male and female, secured a debt relief for Nigeria, helped Nigeria obtain a sovereign debt rating, former vice-president of the world bank and African nominee for the post of world bank presidency. The road to equality and breaking down of stereotype is a long one, my friends used to ask me why I was searching so hard for a job since I was going to get married someday and stay under a man; I told them, I’m searching for a job to have a sense of independence, pursue a career and provide for my family same way a man does. We just need to open ourselves to the opportunity when it avails itself to us and see ourselves as equals for the same positions in an unjust world.

Ending Gender-Based Violence 2012

Comments 18

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sarahgustavus
Nov 03, 2012
Nov 03, 2012

Thank you for sharing the account of what you have seen in your family and how their experiences connect with broader issues for women in Africa. You raise many important issues in this essay. I like how you connect discrimination against women to larger cultural values that can be adapted to better integrate women into government.

I am curious - where do you see yourself? I appreciate that you have introduced us to some of the women you see as leaders. Some of those women are new to me and I will read more about them online. What would you like to be your contribution in your community? Do you see yourself breaking some of those barriers in government?

I can see that you have a great passion for women's rights. Keep going!

Sarah

Antego2010
Nov 03, 2012
Nov 03, 2012

@Sarah...i appreciate your comment and i thank you for taking time out to read my journal. I want to be more, i want to be the voice that encourage young women to reject stereotypes .....i don't know how i can do any of those right now because i am trying to keep my head far above water economically, but at some point in the future, i would like to be involved in some form of vocal women support group.

Kadeen
Nov 06, 2012
Nov 06, 2012

'Weaker sex', "fairer sex" vs. "strength", "provider" - where did this come from? If women are the "weaker sex' and men have the responsibility to care for his wife and children why is it that women and children are suffering. If we believe the stereotype then I would conclude that men are failing in his responsibility. As Antego notes, they are also failing in their responsibility to create male children. Just saying!

I don't buy the argument as I believe these stereotypes are damaging to men, women and children as they call for unrealistic ideals that put undue pressure on the human being.

Antego2010
Nov 06, 2012
Nov 06, 2012

Tnk u for reading the write-up and posting your comment,1st of all I do not like to refer to women as weaker sex,thus the quotation marks on top of the term 'weaker sex'.....I personally mock that term because it defines me before I have a chance to,you obviously do not live in Africa or you would understand better what I am talking about.non of my relatives who are married and are women have a career... Except one..... And her case is a huge exception,its like african women have no identity, we don't care that we have no identity,we go along with things as they come. So please tell me how this is bad for men and their children. I do no like steroetypes, I will always speak against steroetypes on african women, what is wrong with a society where everyone has an equal opportunity to excel? I wish you visit my part of Africa someday (Nigeria),only then will my argument be made clearer to you.

Kadeen
Nov 13, 2012
Nov 13, 2012

I was agreeing with your point. I was wondering who named women or stereotype women "weaker sex". I believe this is an excuse for men to hide their insecurities and shame for their act. I want to assure you that marginalization of women not only happen in Africa, it does happen all over the world. I also understand that the marginalization of women in Africa is far more outpace that of women in western society but our men still try to tell us how women should behave and even ridicule women when they try to achieve certain jobs that they feel that women is too weak to do.

One example of abuse of women often happen in the military where is a female soldier is raped by her fellow male soldier it is often covered up and if she decide to report this she is marginalized and is accused of trying to cause trouble in the squad.

Antego2010
Nov 13, 2012
Nov 13, 2012

this is a whole new angle that i have not heard of, victimization and rape in the military???? i would really appreciate it if you could shed more light on this Kadeen

Antego2010
Nov 15, 2012
Nov 15, 2012

i really appreciate this, the links have been helpful, right now i am about to watch the movie...the invisible war...and i advise everyone one who wants to know more about rape in the military to see this documentary....send me a private msg and i will give you the mobile link to the movie there. it is a really good movie

Ma. Guzman-Callano
Nov 06, 2012
Nov 06, 2012

Antego, I am impressed by how you critically analyzed and spelled out the dominance of the male sex over the female sex in your country. If it is any consolation, we Filipinos have been where the Nigerians are now. For many centuries, many Filipino communities, thought that the males were the superior beings. Thus, the men were the masters, advisers, initiators, inventors, leaders, administrators, heirs, and so on. They could engage in vices and be excused because it was OK for them but not for women. Education was only for the males because females would just stay home and become mothers or caregivers anyway. Males were spared from housework and could play anytime they want.. It was the eldest male child who would administer family inheritance. In short, the Filipino males enjoyed a lot of rights and privileges while the women quietly endured the anguish, pain, hardship, sorrow and frustration.

It took centuries for the Filipino males to respect and esteem women. It was hard for them to accept that women too have the right to education, suffrage, public office, assembly, speech, and make choices. They thought that giving up their position would be diminish their manhood. It took generations of, education, conscientization, and prayers for male Filipinos to overcome this belief. Today, the ratio of male to female leaders in government and private sectors is still lopsided in favor of the males but we are improving.

As for you personally, I believe that you could be a successful writer,sociologist, conflict manager, corporate officer, diplomat, or president of Nigeria! Why not? You are young, analytic, wise, compassionate, and articulate. Take time to develop yourself as you desire and according to God's plan for you. Just know yourself, determine your resources, and study your environment. Then if you are sure where you are going, REACH FOR THE SKY!

Barbara Bracewell
Nov 07, 2012
Nov 07, 2012

Your writing goes deep down into analyzing the realities of what it often means being male or female in a nation like Nigeria and indeed most parts of Africa including my country, Liberia. As West African neighbors, most of what you espouse here sounds very familiar. It is unfortunate that women have to always be the "lesser", "weaker", "less important" or "disposable" sex in our African societies. The story of women being blamed for not being able to have boy children is ridiculous to say the least. The fact that scientifically the burden of what sex the child is depends solely on the man is ironic but, also hilarious since that may be one area where they cannot "boss" women around. I have a friend in Liberia who was married to this man for six years and did all she could to conceive a child. It just never happened. Of course Mr. Macho husband blamed her for being "barren". This poor lady went to hospitals, clinics and all over the place including spiritual advisers and traditional medicine men. She took all kinds of fertility tests just to have a kid. She was ridiculed by her in-laws and her husband put her down every chance he got. I asked her whether or not her husband had been tested as well? She responded in the negative saying he said he did not need to since she was the one that had the "problem". Eventually, he divorced her due to his belief that she could never have a child and from undue family pressure as well. He remarried within a year. In two years, my friend also met and married someone else. The very year after marriage she got pregnant within six months! She has since had four kids. Him? Zero kids! After three years of marriage, his second wife left him and when she met another man she too had a child by the new husband. Seems there is a pattern here, right? Turns out he had a very low sperm count plus they were not viable and just never could produce children. My friend suffered for all those years in that marriage beating herself up, being belittled by her husband, in-laws and society, and feeling utterly useless as a woman. A lesson for all women. We should be able to stand on our own two feet and advocate for ourselves. We must believe in what we can accomplish. Your story adequately reflects that clearly. As women, we should be the support system for our fellow female sisters, mothers, friends and not be the stumbling blocks or help bring them down when men and society do. We already have difficult battles to fight on a daily basis and the last thing we need is other women pulling us down instead of lifting us up! From reading your posting Antego, I know that I will hear about you in the future as a strong woman advocate for whatever cause you chose to represent. Keep up the great work!

Antego2010
Nov 08, 2012
Nov 08, 2012

Thank you so much for reading my write up, I feel such relief that finally I am hearing the viewpoint of another african woman who has someone that has experienced some of what I am saying, please ensure that in any small measureyou can, you support women around you who might be going through distress,because I knwo first hand what a living hell marriage can be for a barren women....Have a wonderful week

Antego2010
Nov 07, 2012
Nov 07, 2012

Tnk you so much for reading my write up and commenting, I am very interested in fillipino politics and governmental affairs...especially because this country is opening itself up to female leadership and participation in governance,women like Gregoria de Jesus and especially the cunning Corazon Aquino......I believe with time more women will be on the forefront of filipino politics......the role of women in society is increasingly becoming fundamental....the only way to go is up........Have a wonderful week

Ma. Guzman-Callano
Nov 08, 2012
Nov 08, 2012

The Filipinos are very accommodating, generous and helpful. If you want to learn from our us, we will be very glad to tell you about our past, present and prospects. Unlike during the Martial Law period (1972-1986) when only the beautiful information about the Philippines were made known to the public, we are now free to speak to the world about our good points as well as our weaknesses and mistakes. Praise God for this freedom of expression!

So do throw in your questions. It would be my pleasure to share and exchange information with you and the rest of the Pulse Wire family.

Antego2010
Nov 08, 2012
Nov 08, 2012

great!!!! i am hungry for inside information on the Ampatuan massacre, what has the judiciary done towards bringing that evil family of the Ampatuan to book? why is it taking so long for justice to come? Do you think Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had anything to do with it? because honestly that woman just gives me the wrong vibes The issue of martial law in the Philippines is another issue i am trying to wrap my head around, could you address this? I would be very grateful for any information you can share with me

Barbara Bracewell
Nov 08, 2012
Nov 08, 2012

Your response is highly appreciated Antego. I am indeed a person who always tries to help women in whatever way I can, big or small, especially as it relates to educating and informing ourselves to become empowered people. It is clear that we are two African women who have experienced very similar problems and issues that women have to face in society. However, as we both can attest to, there is no mountain high enough that we cannot conquer if we hold hands together as women working toward achieving one common goal- whether it is getting rid of domestic violence; prosecuting rapists or others who perpetrate crimes against women; better health care including maternal and child care; discrimination in the workplace including the disparity in pay between equally qualified males and females, job promotion and the way sexual harassment cases are addressed; these are just a few areas in which women face daily challenges and are more often than not denied the requisite justice they deserve. It is time for us to continue to make our voices heard and push ahead no matter what the hurdles are that we have to overcome to attain our goal. Thank you my African sister for shining the spotlight on issues pertinent to women in Nigeria and by extension women all over the world.

Antego2010
Nov 08, 2012
Nov 08, 2012

Yes.....there are so many issues I wnt to address......especially rape and victimization in work place....our judicial doesn't reconize these issues enough......the police considers this domestic voilence....its almost like if we have all agreed to turn a blind eye to these pertinent issue

Kadeen
Nov 14, 2012
Nov 14, 2012

Rape was once widely considered domestic violence. In organization it was usually thought that women who moved up in the organization is having sexual relations with the boss. Also a few decades back there was a culture of the secretary having sexual relations with the boss. The US and other western society have grown to recognize this issue as sexual harassment and it is a compulsory in many organization that all employee attend sexual harassment training. I hope that your country come to acknowledge this sooner rather than later.

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