In my last article I shared two of my life truths, (read here if you missed it) and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of messages I received from other women cheering me on and sharing their own experiences with me. Thank you everyone!
Today, I will share with you my journey to feminism and gender equality and how I have been able to make a sense of it all especially in a patriarchal society like Nigeria.
Here it is!
In 2004, I started a monthly email series to my friends, their friends and basically every woman who had an email address I could grab and add to my mailing list.
After I wrote the first one, I read it over and over and I still wasn’t confident it was good enough. So, I sent it to my friend, Akin, to help me have a look at it and give me a feedback.
When we had a chat on yahoo messenger, he said my piece was good, but he was concerned about my closing remark. Below my email I had put something along this line “Please, note that this is not a feminist initiative.“ It was written in bold red letters.
“Why did you write that?” he asked. I said, “Because I didn’t want people to think this is a feminist thing.”
He didn’t think there was anything wrong in being a feminist, so he struggled to see my point. He later sent me some links to some articles on feminism and told me I needed to understand what feminism is all about.
It didn’t take me too long to figure out what he meant – I had written a piece about women rights and yet I didn’t want to be called a feminist.
It has been 12 years since we had that conversation, but I will always be grateful to him for helping me find a world I never knew existed.
It will be so lovely to say I lived happily ever after as a feminist, but to be honest, the more I read about feminism the more confused I became at the time. There are different types, ideologies and movements but at the root of them all is one main goal I have been able to identify with – women should have political, social, and economic equality to men.
Being equal to men does not mean becoming men – because I want a girl child to have access to education like a boy child doesn’t mean I want her to grow a penis.
Being equal to men does not mean I want to take the place of men – because I want a girl child to have access to education like a boy child doesn’t mean I want to take away the boy’s access to education.
Gender equality does not say women and men are the same, it says they have equal value and should be given equal rights and opportunities.
No family member should be able to take a widow’s husband’s property away from her when it has not been willed to them.
No family member should stop me from inheriting my father’s property JUST because I am a woman.
If I marry a foreigner, he should be able to get citizenship in my country just like a man who marries a foreigner can get for his wife.
I should not be forced into marriage as a girl child.
I should not be denied education because I am a girl.
I should not be paid less than a man who I do the same job with JUST because I am a woman.
I should not be stopped from owning or renting a property because I am a woman.
I should have a right to be free from all forms of violence against women.
When any criminal act is committed against me, the justice system must not be partial or dismissive because I am a woman.
I should have control over my body, my reproductive health and sexuality.
If I am qualified to hold a political office, I should not be denied opportunity to contest.
I should have a right to vote and to political participation.
I should not be silenced because I am a woman.
I should not be hindered from progressing economically because I am a woman.
I should not be subjected to cultural beliefs and practices that are harmful to me because I am a woman.
I should have a right to sexual pleasure, so don’t cut away my clitoris or labia in the name of circumcision!
If you believe in what I have said so far, then you believe in Gender Equality. It is that simple.
But, in a country like Nigeria, it is extremely hard to talk about Gender Equality without putting it in the context of marriage. Here are my thoughts on that;
Two consenting adults have a right to run their relationship/marriage the way it works for BOTH them.
In some relationships, the man takes the lead and they are both okay with that.
In some relationships, the woman takes the lead and they are both okay with that.
In some relationships, they are are equals, and they are both okay with that.
Marriage is not a one size fits all thing. So whatever works for BOTH of you is nobody’s business.
It only becomes the Law’s business when there is violence and abuse of any form.
And if for any reason what worked for you in a relationship yesterday has stopped working for you today and you want out of the relationship, you should have a right to make that decision.
So here is the thing, Gender Equality campaign is not here to tell you who should cook, who should hold the DSTV remote control or who should be on top when you are having sex.
Gender Equality is about demanding that men and women should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against in the society based on their gender.
So, women – whether single, married, divorced or widowed – should have equal rights and opportunities as men in the society.
My name is Shola Okubote, I am the Publisher/Editor of Woman.ng.
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org and read my past articles here.