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Womenfolk— As own enemies or friends?

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It is an age-long perception in some quarters that women find it hard forging a common front to attain laudable goals. To this category of people, women are their own worst enemies, as they only come together to scuttle one another’s lofty ambition. But against the backdrop that women are considered to be naturally kind, supportive and protective, is this notion true or arose out of a misconception? Is there really anything in women’s psychology that prevents them from supporting one another?

Respondents’ views are as diverse as they are interesting. They told The Guardian that women are unique beings, who exhibit their feminism and peculiarities in such a way that could be misconstrued by a casual observer. In some respondents’ opinions, men use this as a ploy to prevent women from using their innate abilities to rise to destined heights.

Tolulope Osadare, a businesswoman, seems to agree with this saying and attributes it to the fact that women’s moods are quite unpredictable, which makes it difficult for them to support one another, especially in an office environment or in the market place.

“The different behavioural patterns exhibited by women include, but are not limited to rivalry, competition in terms of educational qualification, physical look, social status and dressing. Some have strong personality, which is good in a way; as such women don’t care about other people’s opinions. On the other hand, however, they tend to think that others around them are inferior,” she says.

Envy and upbringing are two other factors responsible for the problem, in her view. Parental care, especially during childhood also determines how a woman perceives and relates to others. And if this is negative, then it will definitely affect her readiness to support fellow women, when the need arises.

Dr. Nkechi Asogwa, a director at the Doctors Health Initiative and a medical practitioner does not share this opinion, as she feels it is women’s proverbial keen intuition that makes it seems as if they are antagonistic towards one another.

“I have heard people saying that women shoot down things that are for women and that they are their own enemies, but that has not been my experience. I have worked with women all my life. The Doctor’s Health Initiative women, which I manage, is dominated mainly by, as we work with only a handful of men and we are running a common cause. I am yet to experience such with my female friends at the university and colleagues,” she explains.

To her, what might have probably led to this notion is the fact that women have an eye for details.

“A woman will talk about really little details, which sometimes might be useful, but which can delay a project and at other times can be irritating. This is unlike men, who are straight to the point and move ahead. They say women have a sixth sense and this probably is responsible for all this perceptions, which I do not believe are right. For instance, there are things you don’t need to tell your mum, because she had already discerned it just looking at you. But you have to explain the same thing to dad. Men are more pragmatic. There is definitely a difference in the way we handle things as women.”

Lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode also disagrees that women don’t support themselves.

“I think it is a wrong notion,” she says. “If you check the history of movements that have worked in this country from the time of the Aba Riot, the era of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, when they had the Egba Tax Riot and even up to the discussion around the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which is the most recent movement, where women have organised themselves, as well as the Nigerian coalition of affirmative action among others, you’ll see that the saying is not true. All these groups are predominantly women working in solidarity to achieve a common cause and they have been able to scale the hurdles together and are still pushing on.

“That notion often comes up around women in politics and high places, which is as a result of the patriarchal nature of our society, where a woman is seen as the other’s enemy because of the fear that if women bond together, it might obstruct existing patriarchy. So, it’s a deliberate plan to place women against themselves.

“It can also be said that men’s solidarity is only apparent and not genuine. For instance, there is presently a big crisis between the Senate leadership and some group of men, which in a way is distracting their goal in the Senate. Women are not part of it. And people will likely see this as political, but if it had been women involved in such, they would see it as personal. Women are homogenous in nature and have different characteristics. We operate in the same environment and so have the right to compete with one another, and when we do so, it should be seen as positive and healthy competition and not negative.”

Dr. Babatunde Gaudonu, a Psychology lecturer at the Lagos State University would rather consider the issue from a spiritual perspective.

“Right from creation, women are created to support men and provide needed companionship,” he explains. “God used Deborah, a wife, a prophetess and leader to rescue the Israelites and not until Christ’s coming were women reckoned with. Whenever there were head counts, women and children were usually excluded. It was Jesus’ Ministry that brought women to limelight. Yet, those women were supportive of His ministry. Political and civilization have changed the order of things in the society. Women are now clamouring for equality with men in all ramifications, but the truth is that this is Africa and we still believe in our culture and traditions to a large extent.

Gaudonu believes it will be difficult for women to have a common front and speak with one voice.

“This is because those women that are politically inclined are seen as going beyond their boundaries, while those agitating for women liberation are considered irresponsible. It is very easy to have women pursuing a common goal in religious organisations than in political arenas.

“Foreign culture has dominated ours. Hence, educated women are tending towards Western ways rather than ours. But this, the female Muslim and Christian believers will never support, for religion preaches moral and submission to the headship of men as husbands. That is why it will be difficult for women to fully support one another. And this will continue to be inasmuch as the Bible and Qur’an continue to preach submission and headship in the family.

“When you attend women rallies under a religious canopy, either by Christians or Muslims and see the support they give to one another, it is because something binds them together, which is the Bible and Qur’an. Anything out of this may face lots of opposition from the women folk generally.”

On her part, Dr. Mrs. Kehinde Ayenibiowo, of the University of Lagos, thinks it is the inability of forming team spirit on the part of some women that gave rise to such idea. She believes there is really no need for rivalry at all levels among women, especially those at managerial and leadership positions, who should endeavour to mentor and guide younger women.

“People have different personality and behaviours, which account for their approach to life. And this is not limited to women. For instance, some people read meaning to little things and magnify them in such a way that they are blown out of proportion. That you greeted someone and she did not answer doesn’t mean she’s proud or pompous. She probably had things on her mind that prevented her from hearing and acknowledging your greetings.

“Again women are very special beings in that there are some apparently insignificant things they sometimes hold on to, and then refuse to let go, because of their psychological make up. It is not like that with the men, who tend to take things in their stride. Women find it hard to overlook things and believe you have done something purposely even when you don’t mean harm.”

Mrs. Olubunmi Agbana, a lecturer at Kogi University hinges women’s psychology on their peculiar nature.
“Women are wired as dependent beings, which is why they naturally depend on men. It is only a small percentage that lives independently. And even these were conditioned by their circumstances, which made them somehow independent, but deep down in their hearts, they still feel the need to depend on men,” she explains.

And so, when this category of women find themselves in the gathering of other women, their independent ‘nature’ comes to the fore, which makes it difficult for them to cooperate with others. And because of their goals, some of them have learned to shield themselves from others’ opinions, which becomes detrimental, when the need to work with others arises.

Nonetheless, there seems to be unanimous belief that there is no harm in women showing more love and support for one another to better their lots, especially in today’s world, where there is need for self-actualisation.

“Cooperation helps to achieve goals easily and quickly,” says Ayenibiowo. “If God has brought women together in an organisation, then they should be able to work together and support one another, instead of giving room to rivalry. You don’t have to pull someone down to climb up. You don’t have to remove someone so that you can take over his/her place. We should just be careful. We should be of help to one another in all ways.”

Mrs. Tolulope Osadare would want women to improve themselves by joining causes that support and uphold women. “Women should build healthy relationships with the mindset that we need ourselves in one way or the other. No man is an island; supporting each other should be reciprocal. Women should also learn to mentor others and have a teachable spirit. When we work together as a team, we achieve more,” she says.

Other suggested ways to forge unity among women include, organising and joining women society, attending women seminars for proper sensitisation, which is a very important tool that can help to build up women psychologically.

“Women should choose to see and believe the best. They should also have good impression about people around them so as to enjoy their company. Dare to be different and be a good example in your own way, which helps to motivate others,” she says.

Agbana would want women to focus more on their strengths than weaknesses, which will enable them become more accessible, as well as raise their self-esteem.


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