MY UGLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE AND GENDER DISCRIMINATION IS THE WEALTH THAT IGNITES MY PASSION FOR EMPOWERING WOMEN

florence kekong
Posted July 8, 2018 from Nigeria
Processing the locust beans into Dawadawa as it is eaten takes long

It is not strange that women are intensifying more efforts in calling for radical change in all its ramifications. The suffer they go through, daily to make ends meet and the psychological torture they face in order to gain some levels of recognition and sense of belonging at in both the home and society remains a huge challenge to Humanity.  I wish it could only be imagined but, it is sadly real.

Women in rural Nigeria still work in very harsh conditions with the burden of injustices hitting hard on them, even as they spend long hours labouring without getting any pay or significant reward.

I have suffered the same fate. From the time I became my illiterate mother's helper and errand girl as we struggled in life, to the time I got married and faced eventual eviction from my matrimonial home, life was hard on me.

My father was a teacher and so he moved from one village to another, leaving my mother with the huge burden of performing the many tasks in the home. I began to bear this burden with my half-sister. My mother would wake us up as early as 4 am to begin the house chores. I grew up to see other women and girls go through the rigorous tasks of waking up this early to assist their mothers in fetching water from the drinking streams which were far from home. We also assisted in cooking the beans cakes that was sold to early morning farmers. Sincerely, I didn't see it as a problem. I had no awareness of the existing ugly circumstances surrounding my growing up. All the children in our locality grew up to see it as a way of life designed for us to follow. We knew our responsibilities and so, we carried on without grudges.

My other sisters and only one brother lived with our Father at the place of his assignments. I was left with my half-sister to do all the farm work and the unending dearie chores. We planted the cocoa nurseries and other economic trees which our parents depended on to cater for us.

As a girl growing up in the village, I went through all the ugly times, working without rest, all in this manner that has done us more harm than good. I recall how mother would detail us immediately she wakes us from sleep, to rush to the farm to bring yams before the  breaking of the day. Sometimes we were detailed to rush to the cocoa farms to pick up the bush mangoes , before other women could rishi pick.  We were given kerozine lanterns that we used in picking the fruits. We did all the work at home and in the farm. We went late to school, sometimes, only washing our face and feet. We didn't even know that we were not bathing clean. My brother would only come home with my father on weekends. Now I don't remember him holding any farm tools or going to farm. He was treated like a "man" and we, just as, "Women".

My father didn't discriminate on who should have an education and who should not. He made sure that we all went to school and have an education. He saw in me, a very promising future, and as such, did all he could, to encouraged me. He surprised everyone when he rode a motor bike for some 358 kilometers to visit me in school. He did such for me not things changed when I got married. All the girls in the house had gone away, leaving only my brother. He married and had children. Ours was a happy home.But I got the surprise of my life when my marriage crashed and I ran back to them.

Things had changed. My elder brother felt threatened by my presence and my children. He made life unbearable for us. My parents didn't care how hurt I was. To my greatest surprise, they stood my brother. I was not the male child but only female. My children were not allowed to pluck even cocoa I laboured to plant.

But I did not allow that to weigh me down. I stood up for the women and my children. I couldn't put my children in school so I adopted a working strategy. I began to offer a free education lessons for the children so that my children could also have  an education and other children to be with. This also failed after one month. My brother showed his  envy and made sure tha there was no space allocated to serve as a classroom. I was more or less chased out of my father' s house.

My regret is that I was too blind to notice the gender discrimination worm that was growing up silently in the house, waiting to rear its ugly head at the appointed time. I loved my family. I loved my only brother but never knew that he could be this wicked me and my children. It is most sad that I have lost two of my son's in this my life's unpleasant struggles.

There is so much to wrote about but I believe that this short brief about all I have  gone explains why I am pushed to to empower the rural women and girls.

I chose to carry out my "EMPOWERMENT WALK"project across villages where women and girls are still largely discriminated upon.

 It is sad that the process towards changing the plight of women have been relatively slow, and perhaps, nothing to write home about. When one considers the laborious and routine domestic and over-burdened workload that keeps marginalized women in a perpetual state of hopeless. For this reason and also, the fact that even political leaders voted into power have not recognized the latent powers of the women. I am poised to strategically position women to bring out their innate capabilities and showcase their potentials for the world to tap from their rich resource/ wealth.

This is time to work against gender discrimination/abuse from all angles. The call for radical change to the way we define our ways is apt. Like  one-time United States President, Roosevelt, puts it, "It is the task connected with the home that are fundamental tasks of Humanity-- if the mother does not make her contribution, there would either be no generation, or the next generation; that is worst than none at all".

All of us can do much more for women

In my own way, I have chosen to empower women and girls in the communities whose conditions are really bad.

I am working mobilize support and work with rural women themselves, working to change their living conditions by themselves. The way they work by embracing best practices that can add value to the numerous and unending tasks they perform daily.

Looking back at the way we worked, it is clear that women work and suffer with no value addition to all they worked for. They spend all their time doing domestic chores that restrict their movement and time. While their male counterparts take decisions that often times affect them, women have no time to make contributions in the communities' decision making processes.

This condition can be changed for good when our leaders, parents and neighbours do not just fold their hands and hope that any one else would change the situation.

My "Empowerment Walk" which I initiated on Match 8, 2018, using the International Women's Day as an entry point is on-going and cross-stitching support for a better life the rural women and girls. Rhe Initiative is but upon the World Pulse strategy of " ,No One Speaks for Me, I Speak for Myself."

The government and international community do not see what goes on in our localities. They do not see the poor abused, stigmatized and debased. Those of us living and interacting with them, can. It is therefore, our duty to project these most vulnerable group. Our actions would encourage others to join in the campaign to empower them and enhance livelihoods everywhere.

I am not rich. I am not waiting to be given political position before I can add my contribution to make life better for some poor woman living in my neighborhood. I have registered Cooperatives Societies for them. 

The Cooperative would boost their economic and nutrition status and encourage Team work amongst them. This way, they would no longer spend all their time working aimlessly but would be having enough time to rest and get engaged in other activities I'm the communities. Some of women are already getting enrolled in our adult and non- fomal education program.

The project also affords the women and I, including other stakeholders, opportunity to interact with each other, share experiences and learn different skills in home management, confidence building and menstrual hygiene Management, among others.

Empowering women in all its ramifications, is key. But this can be achieved when we work together to fulfill the needs to realize our potentials without discrimination and disadvantage. We all need to work together to teach women how to add value to their work.

This post was submitted in response to #WealthofWomen.

Comments 6

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  • jlanghus
    Jul 09
    Jul 09

    Hi Florence,

    You may want to add a video, and social media page(s) to your submission, so that you have the strongest submission. Good luck, once again!

  • florence kekong
    Jul 13
    Jul 13

    Thanks. I wish I could add a video but the phone makes it difficult. May be I will just post some photos. I will try. I am thinking of making a better story but big I can't, I will just let this one be. Thank you very much.

  • jlanghus
    Jul 13
    Jul 13

    Oh:( You don't have a computer or someone that could add it for you?

    Okay. Your story is already good/strong. Don't feel like you need to do more. It's perfect just the way it is.

    You're welcome.

    Have a good one.

  • Tarke Edith
    Jul 09
    Jul 09

    Hi Florence thank you for elaburating your childhood experemce on our forum you can see that because of your obedence you are up there today

  • florence kekong
    Jul 13
    Jul 13

    Thank you, Edith. God had been gracious to me

  • florence kekong
    Jul 13
    Jul 13

    Thank you, Edith. May God bless you equally, amen