My friend’s furious post on Facebook was my first clue that women had been dissed by none other than our Dear President. I quickly dashed to Linda Ikeji Blog only to discover that the President had, in a few sentences, relegated his wife to the kitchen, the bedroom, and the other room. His sentence was considered gender biased and derogatory, and something women took personal. Now I know that statement was obviously an attempt by the President to belittle his wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari for her controversial interview with BBC. But this is the twenty-first century for goodness sake. Girls education ends in the kitchen was a debate I had in primary and junior secondary school. That was in another century. I would suggest that Nigeria’s first family be schooled in the art of tact. President Buhari’s statement was in very bad taste. It was an insult to women like Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, Prof. Mrs. Dora Akunyili, Chief Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Omoni Oboli who were (are) game changers and whose heroic efforts and sacrifices impacted greatly on our history and our nation. I was saddened by President Buhari’s comment. Until I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest piece.
Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is one thought provoking, power packed manifesto from a woman who’s speaking loudly and clearly even though our President is still of the opinion that women should be seen and not heard. With the power of words, Adichie has earned a place of honour in the world and that place is definitely not in the kitchen. Dear Ijeawele embodies her suggestions on how to create a balanced world through raising feminist children. Although I do not share all of Adichie’s opinions, I love that beautiful piece of common sense. But I also know that in the gender-based society we live in, many will consider that epistle highly controversial. Hey, this is a country where the life was nearly snuffed out of the gender equality bill because our senators felt it was an attack on religious beliefs and the constitution.
Anyway, here is my take on Adichie’s Manifesto. I agree that Chizalum and indeed all children should be taught to read and to question language. I equally agree that children should be given a sense of identity and that they should learn to embrace the principles of honesty, equality, and individuality. But I also think that that they should be taught that even though men and women are equal, they are equipped to carry out different functions. Children should also be taught that although the male and female roles differ, it does not diminish our equality before God. God gave man authority over all created things, except his fellow man. With the exception of children who are under their parents control until they reach the age of consent, the only other legal control that man has over other human beings is that which has been submitted to him by those individuals. Employees, for instance, submit to the authority of their employer. That said, children should be raised to reject dominion. But they should also be taught to submit willingly to those in authority and to their spouse if they get married. Submission in marriage is about mutual exchange of respect and esteem between spouses. It is also about commitment to God and to their respective responsibilities in the home.
Finally, I’m aware that only a cultural revolution can change centuries old traditions and customs. But I also know that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The revolution we need can begin today. Only if parents make a conscious effort to raise children who are not restricted by gender or customs.