When I set out to write this article, I was plagued with a memory. I had to memorize all 17 sustainable development goals as well as the millennium development goals while preparing to write my professional exam in November last year. Guess which ones stuck without any effort? Numbers 5 and 3 of SDG and MDG – Gender equality and promote gender equality and empower women- respectively. Gender equality has been on my heart since I realized although humans, we are sometimes treated differently.
In the last few years, in 2018 especially, I learnt, unlearnt and relearnt some narratives that I grew up learning. Every person I came into contact with – feminists and non-feminists – played a role in this re-education and I am grateful. I do not claim to be a repository of all wisdom. I am not an expert in feminism and all the matters arising from it but I have been around the block for a bit to know some things.
This is a treatise to encourage my fellow feminists on the cause we are championing. I also hope that will win some not-feminists on our side.
Growing up, I felt different. My ideals were tagged different and weird because such beliefs were unheard of. I was branded too knowing and disrespectful – someone who would not submit to her husband when she gets married. Now, I know I am not weird after all. There are a lot of people like me. It feels good to know that I am not alone. I hereby reach out to everyone who feels differently about the status quo and wants to do something about it to come out and join us. This side of the discourse is not the easiest place to be. However, you will not be alone when you choose this path of speaking up about the unequal treatments women are subjected to in our society. I remember rejecting the tag feminist because it had some bad connotation to it. Now, I wear the tag proudly because I know what I am about, what the cause is championing and the impact we are making. It is also important at this point to give shout outs to all the people ahead of us who walked this path and left prints for us to walk in. And also, to the millions of people around the world who have committed their lives to ensure that there is equality, thank you. Posterity will be better because of us.
I am impressed by the progress feminism has seen over the years and I dare say, as much as the task is arduous, the future is bright. There is a sign of life in the conscience of the indigenes of this country. The surface of their seared consciences has been scratched and blood is moving into their hypoxic blood vessels. We did this and we should be proud of ourselves. The social media activism has proven worthy in the end.
One issue I will single out and commend us on is sexual harassment. Due to how deep-rooted the canker is, it keeps resurfacing more times than I can count. Which is a good thing, people have become more sensitive to issues that affect everyone irrespective of their gender. I like that everyone is talking about it. Soon, perpetrators will have nowhere to hide. There is more work to be done on the harassment of men because this scourge knows no gender. Our hands are already full with matters that affect women, I know. Our detractors use all kinds of tactics to discredit our work and steer our attention in different directions. It is my hope that we do not let them get into our heads and derail our focus so we can champion all-around advocacy for everyone abused – male or female.
Realization is dawning on a lot of people. Let’s keep up the momentum. One person at a time, one social media post at a time and one flipping the script at a time, we will get people to appreciate the injustice in our society and have them also speak about them. The mountain we are climbing is a steep one. It’s even more difficult because we have to pull others with us. We will require a lot of tact to achieve our goal.
A valuable lesson I have learnt is to respect the views of others who have conflicting ideologies to mine. As much as we are in this to teach and effect change, let’s be willing to listen. I will be the first to admit that it is easy to be caught up in activism that I do not hear anything the other person is saying. We can only properly address the issues around us if we listen to know what they are.
To draw curtains, feminists are one of the toughest people I have come across. The insults hurled at us every day makes me wonder if we are superhumans. Personally, I feel the antagonism in my marrow. I know it is for the good of all human race that we bear the darts thrown from every corner of the earth. But I worry. I know the cost associated with this cause. It’s not an easy cross but we carry it because — the greater good.
Let’s continue to fight the good cause. Read. Read. Read. Learn. Mature. Be tactful. Believe in yourself. Do not be boxed into a frame by anyone. Speak the truth. Do not be influenced or pressurized to respond to anyone or any issue. See traps and avoid them. Watch out for hyenas and stay a million miles away from them. Let no one define your feminism for you. Be true to yourself. Be true to the cause. Be free. Soar.
Every now and then, which is more than often, in our discourse, we come across different groups of people who react differently to our message. There are those who are okay with the status quo and are passive about all the discussions which come up. Then, there are those who are confused. They are reading, listening and taking down notes so they can make a decision later. Some also claim to believe in equality or female empowerment or any other similar description that supports this cause, but they don’t agree with our modus operandi. There are also those who downright hate feminism, feminists and whatever they stand for. For the purpose of this article, I will refer to all these groups of people as non-feminists. Here are my thoughts to you if you fall into this category.
First, thank you. Thank you not because you make the work of feminists easy. However, thank you because you make the stress worth it. Yes! Like the placebo effect, you make the difference as clear as day.
I would like to say equality is an everyone – male or female- issue. Now, take a moment to imagine a world where everyone is treated alike – equal rights and equal opportunities and equal pay. A world where females are given a promotion for their competence and not what they have to offer and males are promoted because they deserve it, not because they are men. This would boost productivity and confidence. People treated fairly invest their time and efforts because they know their efforts will not be in vain. A lot of women will realize leadership is for everyone and push their way to the top while helping other women. In this same world, men will not be intimidated by the successes of women by accepting that it is a human world, thus must be shared by everyone.
Imagine a world where men will not be expected to carry all the burden of providing money for the home. A world where men are allowed to be their emotional self, where you are not expected to be dry-eyed when all you want to do is bawl your eyes out. Imagine a world where women provide a quota for the upkeep of the home. A house where the man performs house chores without thinking he has been emasculated. Imagine a world where your daughters can dream as big as they wish and not be limited by societal norms and expectations. Imagine a world where no devil thinks because they are males, they have the right to the bodies of women. Relax and let all of these sink in.
Will you be happy with a world like this? Do you think these are attainable? Don’t you want to be part of bringing this change to fruition? If your answer is still no to these questions, take time and read the preceding paragraph. If your answer is still no, issokay – small small.
However, it is important for you to know that before ideologies, we are humans. Be a humane human. You and I know that there are a lot of injustices in the world we live in. Find a worthy cause and champion it. Generate funds for a student who needs it. Men have been ignored for a long time. Start advocating for their rights. Fight for the women at the Gambaga Witches Camp. Provide stationery and other basic needs for students. By all means, stand for something, be there for someone. The harvest is plenty but the labourers are few. Immerse yourself in whatever you believe is right for the improvement of the society.
We must not be fighting against each other. Rather, we can all attack a piece of the monster of injustices against humanity. Do not wait for feminists or any other activists to come do it for you. Whatever you believe in, fight for it. The world can be a better place if we all put our hands to the plough and fight for a better world – for yourself and especially for your children and their children. This lessens the load on humanity. If our tomorrow begins today, then be an agent of change today. Start it now; start it right.
I dream of the day when we will acknowledge that although different, humans are equal. Humans should be treated as humans. At the end of the day, equality benefits everyone.