Nollywood actress Omotola Jolade-Ekeinde was recently quoted as saying she did not believe in Gender Equality. Feminism and Gender Equality are controversial issues in Nigeria. Mention either of these in an after-dinner conversation in a Nigerian party and you are bound to get some of the guests going. Each time I see a Nigerian female try to distance herself from the idea of gender equality, I shrink a little for the sadness that I experience at their lack of understanding of what Gender Inequality really means in the life of many Nigerian girls and women. The Nigerian female walks that tight rope between the lack of protection for her human rights and the confines of what the 'respectable' Nigerian female is supposed to be. Her rights are not protected within the oppressive patriarchal system that exists in Nigeria. She could be given less education or none at all, be denied promotion at work or sacked because she refused to sleep with the boss, be abused or raped (often with no recourse to justice), married off early or trapped in an abusive marriage - all because she is female.
Effective Social and political systems protect human rights. This is what Gender Equality is about. These rights give us the freedom to make choices as we see fit in our personal lives. Rights - Freedoms - Choices - Individuals. We should all learn the differences between these important concepts. Gender Equality is not about anyone's personal preferences or ideology. It is about a society caring enough to protect both genders from discrimination and oppression in all facets of life. It is about stamping out cruelty and prejudice and the idea that women are somehow inferior to men.
I feel like I have been fighting gender inequality my whole life...my right to make life choices without deferring to what Nigerian culture says I must dutifully do as a 'respectable' Nigerian woman. It is an ongoing battle of wills versus the prejudices one learns to live with. One day I will tell my story...maybe.
Like Publisher and Writer Myne Whitman said on her Facebook page, if you reject the idea of Feminism and Gender Equality, you cannot in the same breath express surprise when a man beats his wife. Sums up the argument brilliantly, I believe. We must care about Gender Equality because we want a fairer society for all individuals irrespective of gender.
***Please note...none of the examples given here bear any resemblance to my life experience.