The first time you realise that life as a woman may not be so easy, is at debate club in primary school. The topic is male children are better than female children.
You listen as the lead speaker for our opponents says, “So with the these few points of mine, I hope I have been able to convince and not confuse you, dear co-debaters and impartial judges, that male children are better than female children.
The boys win, but that’s no surprise; they always do. As long as they make sure to mention that female children will get married and take on their husbands names male children will carry on the family name, they will win.
You grow up and each year brings you face to face with more disparity; it’s no longer debate club, but the boys are still winning, and unfairly so.
It’s stares you in the face at the workplace, where in a random office discussion, you find out that Mr Bassey is earning more than you do.
“But isn’t Mr Bassey an assistant manager like me?” you ask Joy, your colleague.
“Yes, but he’s a man nah,” She replies, giving you a look that says how can you not understand this little truth.
The first time you realise that life as a woman may not be easy, is at debate club at primary school. The topic is male children are better than female children. I listen as the lead speaker for our opponents says, "So with the these few points of mine, I hope I have been able to convince and not confuse you, dear co-debaters and impartial judges, that male children are better than female children. The boys win, but that's no surprise; they always do. As long as they make sure to…. Read the complete story on my blog. Link in bio.
You decide to challenge this; perhaps there’s been a mistake, you think. So you lodge a complaint with the boss’ secretary. Days later, you’re summoned to his office.
“Ms Adinye,” he says, his voice gruff and unfriendly.
“I read your complaint. What problem do you have with the payment schedule?“
His tone tells you you should probably pretend there’s no issue, that you made a mistake, politely excuse yourself and walk away. But you’re not built to walk away. So you clear to your throat and say, “Sir, as I stated in the memo, Mr Bassey and I have the same email qualifications and are at the same level in this company. But he’s earning more than I am and I was wondering if that error can be corrected.”
For a few minutes he says nothing, only stares at you, his eyes filled with disbelief. When he eventually speaks, his voice is coloured with disdain.
“Young lady, you want to be paid the same salary as a man? You must be joking. See, if you’re not comfortable with the way we do things here you can tender your resignation.”
With that, he dismisses you and turns his attention to the screen of his computer.
You return to your office and think of the many other instances that you’ve faced this gender disparity. You recall the week before, when another driver bashed the bumper of your car. You came down and asked him to pay for the damage. But he said you were a woman; that he wouldn’t talk to you. That you should go and bring your husband, so they can talk man to man.
At that moment, a scary thought occurs to you. You wonder how much you’ve been conditioned to accept the inequality. You begin to to worry about the times you’ve aided the disparity by your silence. Like the time you’d boarded a cab and the driver had shouted at another driver, simply because he was being careful.
“See as you dey drive like woman!” he’d yelled and you’d joined in, in spite of the fact that the annual statistics for accidents show women to be careful drivers.
You think about your cousin Cynthia who wanted to get a PhD last year. How everyone in the family, including yourself, had said she didn’t need a doctorate at 28. That she was already too old to be a single woman and needed to get married and settle down, rather than aim for the peak in her career.
As you sit there lost in thought, your phone rings. It is your friend Ladi, the one who runs an NGO. Beauty and Brains, or BABRA, as she calls it. She goes to the slums and villages every year to look for girls who are unable to go to school, wither because they don’t have money or their parents won’t let them. She gives them scholarships. She also helps some start and own their own businesses, so they can care for themselves and their families.
In the past, you’d been a donor, giving any pittance you could spare; she is your friend after all and you wish to support her ministry, so to speak.
When she’d started out, you’d told her that NGOs are a dime a dozen in this country.
“Yes they are. But in the long run, this dime will be more valuable than a pound of gold.”
This morning, as you stare at the screen of your phone, you know that you should do more; that you will give more. More time, more money, more of your knowledge and skill.
And you hope that someday soon, it’ll pay off and those girls will reach the same places as their male counterparts.
So you pick up the phone and say, “Hello, Ladi. What’s up?”