Today is the International Women’s Day and i am certain that there are people who do not understand what the day is about. International Women’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate the achievements of the ordinary woman. It is a day set aside to promote and support women by bringing to light the need for women’s rights and participation. Women are by this, being encouraged to aspire to achieve their dreams irrespective of their background, beliefs and barriers. Women have been ascribed gender roles and so when some people fall out of the specifications they are considered wayward despite being morally sound. Our societies have set limits that when a women tries to push past this limits, comments starts flying helter-skelter. It’s like the world must be coming to an end for men to be equal to women .
In this whole scenario we women, are found as both the victim and the victimizer. We need to bring the change we want by looking on the inside. One of such ways it to highlight stereotypes and tell stories that dispute them. We also need to point out the ills of women toward other women and promote love amongst each other.
Let me share my story:
Flash back to 2012 when i had my first child, I was a youth corper doing my NYSC – National Youth Service Corps. On the day of delivery i went to the hospital after about 14hrs into labour, 4 cm gone, labour had progressed slowly. Things started to pick up and one nurse had come to check the baby’s heart sound. It was manually done and so the nurse will have to feel for the baby’s position, place the instrument on your abdomen and put her ear on the ear piece to hear the baby. This means that both instrument and her head weight will be resting on your tummy. This nurse came at about the time i was having a contraction and i asked her to please give me a minute for the contraction to subside. It was obvious that she was not ready to be nice to me from the first time she came.
She outrightly went ahead without any empathy to do “her work” according to her. Thankfully that was the last time she came around till some else took over. I have forgotten what contractions feel like but i can never forget the pain i felt in that episode. I felt like my feelings did not matter whatsoever. She made it look like the strength of being a woman was tested through childbirth and i was nothing but a weakling at it. It was like i am not permitted to feel pain or even express pain. Well, i am forever grateful to God for that delivery.
Now as i said earlier i was serving at the time and so i had to get a maternity leave. NYSC picked the wrong time to repost people who where not working in schools as teachers to send them to schools to teach. So i was taken out of a corporate office to go and teach. I had to wait till the schools resumed and so i was able to buy off 2 weeks before the schools resumed. Well i put to bed on the day that schools resumed and obviously did not report that day. I told a friend to put in a word for me at the school until i settled in from the hospital for at least that week. The following monday i went to the school to report and that same day the principal assigned biology and chemistry to me, introduced me to the students and gave me the books i will be needing to work with. Waaawu! Guess what! The principal is a woman.(At the time of the reassignment the principal i met was a man. He was replaced by the time school resumed)
Meanwhile i had applied for a maternity leave through NYSC secretariat a month before my due date (i had my baby girl exactly 2weeks after), so i waited for them to get in touch with her through a memo or something. I had to go back to her and ask for the leave or see if she will allow me to come in when i had classes, teach and go but she refused. She offered me an advise instead. She said that i could get a nanny so she can come with me and the baby to school everyday. The baby can stay in the car with the nanny and i can go attend to the baby when i need to. (How nice of her! This was one of those typical public schools without a fence)
I went home and just like i thought, hubby was not ready to entertain that thought. He advised that i go to NYSC office and see if they could talk to her directly. When i went back to the secretariat, they advised me to get a school that is willing to work with me on my terms so they can try to repost me there. What that meant was that i had to get this principal to reject me (basically give me a rejection letter because i won’t be available at all times )and request for someone else, so that i can be reassigned. When i went back to her with the request, she was not willing to play ball. She pointed that she really needs a corper and so she cannot be rejecting the one that was sent to her (but i wasn’t particularly what she needed). In my presence, as if to confirm that she was in her rights, she called an NYSC official (someone in position i guess).
She complained about the situation, in a bid to find out if i am supposed to get a maternity leave as a corper. She spoke Hausa ( an indigenous Nigerian language) not knowing that i understood Hausa too. From her responses, i could tell she was not getting the kind of feedback she expected. She went ahead to insinuate that 35years of public service she puts in, is not comparable to a mere 12months NYSC to warrant a maternity leave, no matter how short. (It was like a response she gave, for being asked if she was never given a maternity leave). I could not believe my ears mehnnn!. The person on the other end was a man and i could tell that he was on my side. She had no choice but to write the letter but that was not the end.
In the letter,she hinted that she was rejecting me because i asked her to reject me. I received a packaged letter and it did not occur to me to read the letter. It was until i got to the NYSC office that the person i submitted it to, read it and found that sentence implicative. She asked me to get her to re-write it and told me how lucky i was to have met her. Had i, given that letter to someone else, it would have been a different story for me. At this point i was frustrated, I just went home jeje jeje…(i had a baby less than one month old at home with my mum).
The next day i had to go back to her, with all their property. By now hubby had found me a place that was willing to let me come in at the times when i had to teach. This time it was only Biology too. I took the letter back and asked her to please re write it and she said “what do you expect me to write?”, “I obviously need a corper, so i can’t be saying that i don’t want you”. Well i had to come up with a better way for her to write the letter and request for someone who was going to be on ground all day. Everything eventually feel into place and i finished NYSC in one peace.
Fast forward to 2016, i had my 3rd child in school. My Gynaecologist said to me “You have to drop out of school to have this baby and figure out what you want to do with your life afterwards”. This one enter shaaa! I was depressed for the rest of the day. This one na Oyibo woman ooo! Well i chose to ignore her. With hubby’s support i went ahead to have the baby. Thank God for other people that encouraged me through their deeds, words and personal stories. I wrote my second exam for the semester on friday, had my baby on Sunday and reported for school on Tuesday. It would be at my own discretion to decide to take certain days off at the expense of my class attendance points, how much more other heavily weighted assessments. Basically, nobody cares if you just had a baby. The system is fixed, you either run with it or fall out. I chose to take the risk, run with it and i came out on top and fulfilled. Thank God for God. He showed off. My Gynaecologist at last said to me ” You must be brave, welldone.”Women must rise for other women to rise, leaving the men with no option than to accept the new norm. Click To Tweet
As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, there is still a part of the problem that comes from within. Charity begins at home. Women are being victimized by women and that is part of the change we should preach. Women are defining other women and setting limits that make difficult demands of the them. Can women be nice to women? Are there no women in these committees that approve these policies? Can’t there be special cases to allow flexibility?
Policies should make accommodation for our needs. Women should not be made to see Pregnancy and Nursing a child as the highest they can attain or as a setback to pursuing their dreams. Empower her by making the options available and leave the decision to her (and her partner). Support her no matter what choice she makes and respect the process. She is not out of her mind, she just chose to be happy and enjoy her journey by forgoing those alternatives. Even organization and office buildings should be planned with women in mind. Play areas and nursing rooms for kids and rest room for pregnant women too. We should not be made to get by with more difficulty and expect the husbands to be the archangel. There should be equal distribution of burdens and benefits. Create the enabling environment and allow us aspire to play our parts towards nation building.
Women support each other. The odds are already against us and until things take a 360 turn we must be each others backbone. Raise your girls to see beyond obstacles and aspire to be superwomen. It is our inherent nature to multitask so yes we can be wives and cook and still be bosses in boardrooms if thats how they want it. People are already doing that so there is no stoping us. Incase you have not gotten the memo, Ambitious is the new sexy! Women must rise for other women to rise and by extension, we leave the men with no option than to accept the new norm.
Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you, It is you who can change the world – Malala Yousafzai