And it is this “different type” that is the object of my thinking on this International Women's Day. This type of African woman was born of parents who in most cases had basic education, but beyond basic education, also had a thirst to train their daughters. These parents educated these girls to know, understand and appreciate how education is precious. These women have “liberated” themselves from many societal “enslaving norms”. They have gone beyond the “Oh this is not for women” clichés. They believe in themselves, their intellectual capacity, their expertise, their ability to excel.
The different type of Africa woman has scaled many hurdles: religious taboos, sexist barriers, cultural limitations, traditions dos-and-donts, professional chasms…..to be where they are.
And that is the dilemma.
Since 1977, the United Nations have been celebrating International Women's Day. Emphasis has been regularly put on the need to better the life of women.. the life of African women. Literacy rates are rising, and more women are getting better lives and living standards. From the Millennium Development Goals to the current Sustainable Development Goals, there has been a shift in the lot of the African woman. Since Beijing.. the clamour for our rights, the constant push for equity.. and the increase in knowledge available to the African woman are paying off.
And that is the challenge.
African men are having to “deal with” the “different type” of the African woman. No, she wont sit and wait to be married off. She will decide how many children she wants. She owns and operates her own bank accounts, cars, houses, and stock. She has a career. She hops planes, appears on TV, and pulls serious professional weight.
And that is the problem.
While the women's socio-economic landscape has been gently shifting.. not much has moved on the other side. Young boys continue to be socialised as they were 100, 60, 40 years ago! To look at the woman as the weaker sex, to think of her as needing help, to believe He is more intelligent than Her, to grow up thinking :
He has to provide
He has to decide for
He has to teach Her
He has to protect
She has to depend on
She has to count on
She is waiting for
Him to decide for Her
She has to “submit”
Our current situation, therefore, is that of more African men who do not know what to do with the “new type” of African women. African men find themselves in this mix of fear, low self esteem, ignorance, wounded egos, fear of traditional and societal rock-solid norms, and societal givens that do not seem to change for them. While the girls were being encouraged to go school and achieve.. we may have forgotten to educate our boys on how to respect and share with educated girls. While we were happy that many more women are getting professional and leadership opportunities, we may have forgotten to train the men on how to woo, marry, and live with a financially-Independent intelligent African woman.
And the future is scary.
Because African women are not going to give up on their education. Neither will they give up on their careers. The Internet is opening up a gazillion opportunities for learning, networking, and multiple ways to better a woman's life. Life is looking up for the African woman.. and more and more of them are turning out to be different.
Where will be in 2030? What will become of the African man? His ego? His handed-down traditions. As we celebrate women today, you can do a thing or two:
- Let a man in Africa know that it is okay for an African woman to be rich, intelligent and Independent.
- Dissociate the existence of a woman from the perceived roles of childbearing, care giving and that of a lesser being.
- Purpose to help both men and women accept and adapt to the changing landscape.
Have a wonderful International Women's Day.