Short Stories

Being A Nigerian Woman

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.

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?”

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34 thoughts on “Being A Nigerian Woman”

  1. The very same way a colleague told me I couldn’t work in the A&E unit because I’m a female. Can you imagine? I’m probably more capable than my male colleagues, but what the hell does he care when I’m just a woman. It’s everywhere, and as long as I can I’ll do my every and very best not to aid it. Especially as I have two daughters and I don’t want then to learn what I was taught.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Lizzie's Default and commented:
    I pledge for parity today and I’m committed to advancing the rights and casuse of the girl child and women, beginning from my sphere of influence.
    I will deliberately lend my voice to the campaign against education and career disparity, intimate partner violence, rape and all forms of abuse, female genital mutilation and ciurcumcision, stand for sexual and reproductive health rights awareness and equality and all other issues directly affecting women and girls worldwide.
    #Africa4Her #IWD2016 #PledgeforParity #Planet5050

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For three consecutive years, ladies have topped their classes in my department (Geology Department of Unibadan), yet it is still being wordlessly referred to as “a man’s job”

    A classmate once besmirched my academic prowess because I am a lady.

    Like you rightly said, the stigma has started since our tender ages, and our silence aided it.

    I really believe it is time to show the world that we are not second-class citizens, not by struggling with men as it were, but by consistently putting in our best and bringing forth the very best to undeniably prove our capabilities.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We consistently put in our best. I think we need to start owning our achievements without being ashamed of them. Be vocal about who we are, what we’ve done and how far we intend to go.
      No woman should allow a man to shame her for achieving the same thing as him. Stand up. Speak out. Be Woman.

      Like

  4. Oh wow.. Very nice write-up. My dear you got me thinking of all the times I encouraged the “boys are better” attitude in people or insinuated such with my actions and inactions. It’s shameful to even admit. Chei

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am actually just getting to know that men earn more than women in most organizations!. What???. Please are the CEO’s of the organizations bound by the Constitution on this or it’s just a norm in the corporate world?. I’d really like to understand please!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the norm in many private corporations and unfortunately, many people don’t press charges. Others who do are fired before they can and alas, enforcement of justice on issues like this is a mirage on our nation.

      Like

  6. Hi Eketi,

    Well written and thought-provoking post.

    I can relate with the points raised in this, I recall when I planned to go for post-graduate studies a male colleague advised me to delay the program until I was married. Laughable really.

    When driving on the battle field that masquerades as Lagos roads, I am always annoyed when I hear that condescending “Na woman dey drive”. 😀

    I refuse to accept that I am less because I am female.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A classmate once told me not to let men know au ‘intelligent’ I was. According to him i will be ‘unmarriageable’! I simply told him that i would pray for his daughter to be an imbecile so she can marry by his standards. My mind is something i will never feel sorry for having. I wont be blaming God for making me smart.
    When i view d disparity i just look at my son and i strengthen my resolve not to raise a half-man, but a full fledged one. I pledge my parity. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful write up. Sadly, we women are our greatest enemies. Until we can start to stand by each other, we can’t change the status quo.

    Like

    1. True.
      But many of our sisters are merely acting the way society has conditioned them to act. With Patience and love, we can change their points of view and mindsets.

      Like

  9. I remember Primary 6, we had that boys are better than girls debate, and I chose to speak for, I just wanted to win and so I did, one point for the male team again.
    Now that I look back that debate wasn’t necessary. How do you argue over the importance of a child in a home, all because of gender?
    I am all for gender parity in work places and homes.
    Eketi, you write really well.

    Like

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