I remember an occasion in my 3rd year at primary school. The class teacher wanted a new class prefect, so she decided to organize a maths test. Whoever scored the highest was going to be the class prefect, while the person with the second highest score would be assistant.
The maths test was done and the results were out. I got the highest score, a girl got the second highest, and a boy got the third highest score. But what did my teacher do? She made the boy the perfect, while she asked me to be the assistant. Even as young as I was then, I knew that was unfair, so I told her I wasn’t interested in being the assistant, hence the girl with the second highest score was made the assistant.
You see, I worked so hard to top the class. I spent the previous day and night doing my maths, I wanted the prestige of being the class prefect, and not assistant. But no matter how hard I worked, I just wasn’t good enough for the real deal, I was told that I was only good enough to be assistant to a boy.
In the secondary school, my sisters attended, they had the majority of the prefects as males, while the girls were the assistants. It didn’t matter whether the girls were better, being female made them only good enough to assist the males. As a matter of fact, the post of the “senior prefect” was exclusively reserved for the best boy, while the best girl was always his assistant, that is “assistant senior prefect”. In many cases, the best students were girls, but they were still made to aspire for the second best position, no matter how good they were.
The majority of the SUG presidents in Nigeria are males. It is actually only in recent years that females started aspiring to hold positions in their student unions. The first time I saw a female president was in my universities in the UK. It felt strange at first because of what I had been used to back home. There, girls go head-to-head with their male counterparts, and we the voters voted based on credibility, and not based on genital type.
From a very young age, the female child is being told that she can’t be better than a man, she is being told that the best she can be is second to the man. This indoctrinated mentality develops as she grows, and it becomes embedded over time. She gets told by family and society that she that “a man is a man” and “a woman can never be a man”, as though a man can be a woman in the flip of a finger. She gets told that being a wife in a home where the man will be her “head” is the best she can aspire to be. Do you still wonder why the higher you go, the fewer females you see?
There are fewer females at the top because the zeal and enthusiasm to succeed, compete and beat the male counterparts have been killed from the very start. A successive destruction that went on over her years of mental development. Only a few are able to break free from this societal-inflicted mental incapacitation and go higher. And these few are most of the females you see at the top.
There are even cases where people have refused to vote for a particular candidate just because she is female.
I know we have come a long way from where we started the cause to break the gender barriers, but there is still a lot to be done. We are still very far away from where we should be. We can do more as individuals and as people, we can start in our little capacities.
-Let us stop giving boys the impression that being males automatically entitles them to be better than half the world’s population.
– Teachers and head teachers should allow the most deserving students to be the prefects, irrespective of gender.
– Vote the people who you genuinely believe are best suited for a particular position, irrespective of gender.
– Encourage girls as much as you encourage boys to aspire for top and leadership positions.
– Do not give female children the impression that the best they can be is second to a man.
Let every individual have a fair chance to compete, and let the best person (not best male) win.
When it comes to choosing, appointing or electing a leader, we stand a better chance of choosing the best from a whole population than we do from choosing from half the population.
Leadership is a human quality which actually cuts across both genders.
Nkechi Bianze is passionate about advocating for the rights of children, the elderly and women.She is a feminist who advocates and believes in the need for a gender equal planet. She is willing to inconvenient herself in her cause to leave the world a better place than I met it.