Iwuchukwu: Women empowerment is key to self-actualisation through Focu-Feminism
With increasing violence against women globally, experts are proffering different solutions to tackle the menace. Associate Professor of English at the National Open University, Onyeka Iwuchukwu recently came up with a concept she called Focu-Feminism, which aims to establish the fact that each act of violence is prompted by various motives and therefore different other experiences. Her solution is that each should identify and understand her peculiar solution in order to deal with it. IJEOMA OPARA reports.
What is Focu-Feminism all about?
The society was originally meant to be harmonious with the man and woman complementing each other. If this had been achieved, the home, which is the bedrock of society would have fared better, resulting in more happiness and stability in the society. Unfortunately, however, many men tend to see women as second-class, imbeciles, robots, zombies or even slaves that should be treated as such. And this, over time, has culminated in the perpetration of violence against women being witnessed globally now. This is wrong and the woman has the duty to resist this trend and shake off whatever yoke being hung around her neck. With different women, these yokes also differ, just as the solutions also differ. So, it lies with each woman to decide the best way to tackle the problem, taking into consideration her circumstances. In this regard, women should rally round and support one another; they should find ways of helping one another live more fulfilled and meaningful lives. Personally, I believe women empowerment is the key to self-actualization and fulfilment for every woman.
In the Nigerian society for instance, with few exceptions, a woman is considered important only after the man. As a girl-child, she is constantly reminded to properly comport herself and is restrained in her desire to explore her environment, as well as actualise herself. In terms of education, the male child is given preference. The woman belongs to her father and later to her husband after marriage. A woman’s position in the Nigerian society changes immensely, once she gets married because in marriage, she is considered a possession, with relatively no rights in her husband’s family.
Indeed, her husband’s mother and sisters have more authority and influence over him than his own wife. So, a woman must submit to her husband’s relations. Although many women resent this situation, but they are incapacitated in the face of tradition and culture. Yet, there is no justification for this discrimination against women. In the end, you discover that women are harassed, exploited, and abused in various forms in the family and society.
A woman does not enjoy equal rights and privileges as a citizen with her male counterpart at the national level. Let’s take politics for instance. How many women are in the national and state Assemblies? How many of them are governors, ministers, special advisers, directors and heads of parastatals and other government agencies? All these point to the apparent marginalisation of women by men.
At communal level in some Nigerian cultures, especially in the South East, the inheritance system is such that the woman has no right of inheritance. So, at the man’s death, his wife and daughters are abandoned, homeless and helpless, if he had no son – the heir. This society is hostile to the barren, divorced or unmarried woman and treats these groups of women with contempt, as second-class citizens. The woman is mostly blamed in a childless marriage.
Don’t you think some of these patterns are changing, as a result of Western education?
Yes, some of these issues are being modified with the acquisition of Western education/judicial approach, urbanisation and other forms of contemporary socialisation occasioned by information technology and globalisation. More women now have access to educational opportunities, which have expanded their scope for self-actualisation. Gradually, men are also beginning to see the value of higher education for their wives and daughters. Even in the Northern part of the country, where culturally, women were not supposed to be seen. Times are also changing, as more women are now encouraged to actualise themselves and even occupy high positions in various professions.
How does your concept affect Nigeria?
Nigerians abhor the concept of feminism, so much that some women actually deny being feminists, which is also not helping matters. So, Focu-feminism postulates that the society is dynamic and cultures evolve, as they undergo transformations. This means that some of the inimical cultural practices will gradually fade away, but those who understand it must tackle it differently at its own level. Although several scholars have diversely expounded their views on gender issues, specifically on how best to liberate the woman. But there is need for self-assertion and empowerment of women geared towards her liberation from all forms of oppression, exploitation, marginalisation and subjugation.
Unfortunately, no shade of feminism has addressed the oppression of women by fellow women or the woman’s role in this perceived bondage and oppression. This gap necessitates the need to redirect the searchlight, culminating in the birth of Focu-Feminism. Nigeria, as a heterogeneous community, has diverse cultural practices, which affect women differently. So, no one concept can take care of all the problems affecting Nigerian women in their different locations and circumstances. No one recommended solution could resolve or eliminate these diverse problems. If it is, therefore, difficult to create a monolithic voice for the expression of the woman’s experience in Nigeria, one can then agree that proposing such for the whole of Africa is utopian, and practically impossible, except for mere academic exercise.
Each woman should try to identify her challenges first and then devise survival strategies. She should not wait for any feminist movement or theory to help her goals, based on her abilities and circumstances. Challenges differ and so should be tackled differently. This applies to all women— in their work places, families and communities. Each experience should be handled differently to achieve the desired result. The concept of Focu-feminism does not, however, disregard collectivism in the drive for women emancipation and empowerment, but that it is not needed in all cases to avoid the over-generalisation of women experiences, which may not help in resolving specific challenges or problems. There could be a collective fight for equal representation of public institutions but, even at that, such representatives should earn such posts by merit and not be given out as handouts to them because they are women.
Women should, therefore, strive hard to excel in whatever task they undertake. Focu-Feminism emphasises individual understanding and perception of a problem and the need for individual search for solution, which calls for a dependence on self, based on individual strengths and weaknesses. There is need for sensitisation and this is where collectivism comes in. The need to create awareness is no doubt necessary, but each woman understands the cause from her perspective, relates it to her experience and decides on her survival strategy based on her peculiar situation.
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