Ever since I was a young child, I have been told, “you are a girl, you are beautiful”. But I looked at myself and saw a woman waiting to be recognized. So, each day, I acted play lets in my life’s drama, scripted, directed and produced by me: I was a little mother when I cooked with sand, and petted my baby, a teddy bear, to sleep or carried him around on my back. I admired every pretty young woman that came by my house, and in them I saw myself but, in the eyes of my society I was still a young girl child.
Growing up, I began to step into shoes as occasions demanded and now I find myself again acting in dramas and playing a woman’s roles but now in my society’s drama. I am expected to humbly accept the role of a supporting actress (not even the lead). I am told, “without a man you are not complete”. Everywhere I turn, those who have appointed themselves as directors/producers of the live drama, that is my life keep prompting me: “Who is the lucky man? When will we eat rice?” When I give no satisfactory answers to these questions, then they conclude that I have a problem. The pressure is as though I should go ‘husband hunting’ and get myself a husband as a good woman should.
I refuse to accept this. I am a woman because that is who I am and not what a man will make me to become. I am a woman and complete person. I like my beautiful, smart unmarried myself, and will not bow to the idol that demands that I must find or be found by a man to make a woman of me. I say get married if you chose, but on your own terms and conditions and not out of pressure. I just don’t understand how to get fulfillment in someone else or in their opinions and expectations of me.
The ‘husband hunting’ is only just an introduction to the challenges faced by the African woman. If she should venture into politics, she is told to go and take care of her home, that politics is a man’s game and not some women’s play. Her culture intimidates her if she is not strong enough to go for what she wants; men take up major leadership positions and the women are expected to be silent spectators, watching. Her capacity to lead is locked inside if she cannot fight for what she wants. Her society forgets she has managed the home for many generations and succeeded. The politically willed African woman is left to fight her society but, she must first win the fight in her mind, not to be limited by her society.
The typically well educated African woman must not be too successful in her career, that is, if her culture permits her access to education. If she achieves success and is married, she must moderate her success, striving to always remain a few paces behind her husband. Why? That society may not perceive her to be a disloyal and disrespectful wife, that her husband may not feel threatened by her success. And if still unmarried and desirous of marriage down the line, she is told to slow down; , too much success, fame and money will scare away suitors.
Regardless of how educated she is, she is told her education ends in the kitchen. No doubt, the kitchen is part of her education but not the end; she is a cook indeed, but she is not only cooking meals. She has a secret recipe and she is cooking the society, she is a major player in her home, bringing up her children who form the fulcrum of the larger society, she cooks their behavior by what she teaches them and her cooking never ends. She is the society’s indispensable cook.
Her voice is silent, though she has much to say. In social gatherings, she is only to speak when spoken to, in the home, her response to her husband’s words are “yea” and “amen” (so shall it be). And if she dares to speak up or beg to be different, her upbringing is questioned; she is the daughter of a bad woman.
The African woman is blessed beyond measure, gracious in all her beauty but in dire need of a free society where she can express herself, and until she is given or she fights for one herself, her true capacity may not and may never be known!
Womandla (woman power)!!!