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‘We are poorly rated, not only as women but black women’

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Edun

Mrs. Iyiola Olatokunbo Edun is the Executive Director of Grace Schools. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a Masters of Arts Degree in Comparative History from the University of Essex, all in the United Kingdom. She later obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Lagos. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day under the theme Choose To Challenge, she spoke to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on women’s roles in society, some unpleasant experiences she faced as a black woman during overseas trips, parental responsibilities, and others.

With all the issues affecting society, are there specific roles women should play to salvage the situation?
WITHIN society, women have important roles to perform. The roles of women are primarily recognised in the social, political, economic, cultural, and religious spheres. In these spheres, it is necessary for them to possess efficient skills and abilities to be able to render their services effectively.

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My own mother had strength in talking, which she used in passing across key messages. My mother didn’t give me anything on a platter of gold; she ensured that I worked to earn whatever I deserved. She ensured I had the basic fundamentals of becoming a woman of repute.

It has become imperative for women to create an enabling environment and monitor their children. The role of women cut across the home and society. It is also important for women to discover the peculiarities of every individual child. Women should engage in profitable ventures and gain inspiration to live a fulfilled life. It is important for women never to be discouraged in any way.

There are myriad challenges facing women in our society, but women should not quit. I have had strong women in my life who have also provided the platform for me to rise beyond my challenges. My Master’s thesis was on women and how they cope with challenges and life in my life generally. It is important for women to have confidence in themselves. Women should strive to be independent and never be a burden on society.

In Nigeria, being a woman is a disadvantage because we are referred to as second-class citizens already. Women should also endeavour to obtain sound education, which no one can take away from them. They need to have the courage and confidence to face life. They should not see themselves as inferior in any way. A lot of women are undergoing stress and they are unable to seek professional counsel and this causes a serious threat to their health. They should belong to a network of positive women who can tackle challenges together and discuss issues.

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Women should seek help when they have challenges; there are professionals to seek and find people, there are professional counselors in churches. They should also engage in hobbies and some activities that will give them inspiration. The older women should also provide counseling for the younger ones in order to support them in life

Can you tell us about your experiences as a black woman abroad?
I am sad at the way some black women are being treated all over the world. I have had terrible experiences in the hands of airhostesses. I usually travel Business Class, but to my utter dismay, one airhostess thought I couldn’t afford a Business Class. I was made to use the general toilet and when I came back to occupy my seat in the Business Class, she apologised. She said she thought I was flying Economy Class; this has been my consistent occurrence. I felt bad. I think it is just because I am a black woman and she thought I could not afford luxury or I should be so poorly treated as an inferior being.

I was also embarrassed by another airline. I was told to queue on the Economy line and not on the priority line by the Airline employee, a man. This same incident also happened in Spain when a woman believed that I could not be on the priority line when the announcement was made for propriety category passengers to queue.

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We are poorly rated, not only as women but black women. I was also embarrassed at Atlanta Airport, alongside my son, when we were asked whether we missed our way on the priority line. These are serious issues that being a black woman has created, as if we are inferior. This is one major reason I always encourage women to rise to any challenge and seek to overcome the odds against them

What’s the role of parents in all these?
Parents need to be alive to their responsibilities. A lot of Nigerian parents have abandoned their functions to the school. It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children basic values such as politeness and courtesy.

It should be emphasised that the school is meant to reinforce the training parents give their children. Parents should not abdicate their responsibilities to the school. Parents should teach their children basic values so that schools can deliver qualitative learning. Charity actually begins at home.

Parents blame schools for performance, but they also need to be involved in the learning process. It has been observed over time that parents are nonchalant about the performance of their children academically. The other side of it is that they (Parents) blame the school while neglecting their own roles and responsibilities. Parents need to exercise patience in rating schools and this is more of a Nigerian mentality, as parents are quick to blame schools for poor standards. Teachers need to be accorded respect, as we are more like parents to the children.

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