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Beijing +20: What Do Nigerian Women Want?


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HONESTLY, I never planned to write anything on this topic until late last Sunday, when a friend sent me a text message.

Tahir happens to be the image-maker of PZ Cussons. And for over a year, it has been his tradition to send me an SMS, commenting on my copy on Sundays. He was even the first person to alert me when I was shortlisted for an award in London, last year. He had seen the news on the Internet and immediately sent me a congratulatory message.

His SMS, last Sunday, however, wasn’t about my work. He actually greeted me on the occasion of the World Women’s Day celebration.

He wrote: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’. In my reply, I wrote, ‘Thanks. I hope you will continue to take care of us. Cheers’. He replied, ‘We have no option; it’s our divinely assigned role. We take the occasion of this special day to thank you for your streaming, even if grudgingly rendered support. God bless’.

I did not see his reply on time. My phone was already in silent mode because I slept the most part of the afternoon. When I eventually did, I decided not to reply because that was the time this idea of writing something on the World Women’s Day flowed in – on a lighter note though.

I don’t want to pre-empt Tahir. But I guess he thought he had given me one below the belt. He is someone I play on words with, a lot.

As you read this, Nigerian women, led by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zainab Maina, are in New York for the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). There are lots to be discussed during the 11-day conference. Topmost on the list is the appraisal of the Beijing Conference, held two decades ago. Nigerian women and their counterparts, the world over, want to know their level of freedom from the shackles of men.

In 1995, Nigerian women joined others in Beijing to demand equal right with men, not putting into consideration the culture and patriarchal nature of the communities they had emerged from. I have heard women speak at different fora and accuse the Nigerian delegations to such conferences of not fully understanding what was contained in the instruments and protocols they appended their signatures to. Such speakers also claimed that these women were always on shopping sprees while the meetings went on. As a result, they were never on ground to know what they were getting themselves into.

I was not at the Beijing conference, so I would not know if women from matriarchal societies were represented and what their position was.

Honestly, when women talk about their desire to be free and be at par with men, the only question that pops up in my mind is: ‘Who put them in bondage in the first place?’ Really, I don’t understand. My position has always been and will always be that men are the heads, while women are the necks. And without the neck, I doubt if the head will turn in any direction.

A very special Oga of mine once said to me that he told his two sons they would be in trouble if they married someone like his wife. His position is that if his boys married someone as submissive as their mother, they would end up serving the women all their lives, like he is doing his wife at the moment.

The tricks and antics of turning men whichever way we want is all we require in this matter. I am not against freedom from oppressive men, because, honestly, most of them can be overbearing. But I strongly believe that it is only women that can set the agenda for men and set themselves free.

The cry making the rounds now is that Nigerian women are not well represented in elective positions. Women are lamenting that men scheme them out when it’s time to pick up tickets. But my question is: who does most of the voting? Women, by nature, are too envious and jealous of one another. Hence, they don’t vote for their kind. They make up 51 per cent of the country’s population, yet they cannot leverage on that advantage and ensure they dominate the National Assembly, state government houses and even the Aso Rock Villa.

Now, back to Tahir. Don’t imagine I have let him off the hook. His accusation that women assist men “grudgingly” was what informed this write up, anyway.

Now, what percentage of men can boast that they have not borrowed from their wives money for the children’s school fees and sundry domestic issues? What percentage of them indeed refunded such loans? Yet women assist “grudgingly”.

How many of them can boast that what they find on their dining table, daily, is commensurate with the money they drop for housekeeping? They always have more than expected to eat. I guess that is “grudging” cookery too. How can men quantify and qualify efforts of women in the upbringing of their children? Could we say that too is “grudgingly” done?

The world will definitely stand still without women.

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