Actually, it is not one tale. There are two tales. But do you really care? Let’s go!
I had some business to do at the residence of a senior citizen, an accomplished woman. She lived in her own home, a decent edifice in a quiet section of town. It wasn’t my first time there. I arrived just after dawn, parked my jalopy on the street and when I got to her gate, found her gateman missing. He was always at the gate. This time, he wasn’t there. After she let me in, she hit me with what was up: the security guard had misbehaved consistently over a period of time and she had given him the boot. But she told me that he had just looked at her and without saying a word, strolled to a nearby building along the same street where his friends congregate. She had shouted and waved to get his attention, but he simply ignored her though he heard and saw it all.
She was a single lady, retired, in her 60s, and lived alone.
Naturally, she was distressed. I asked her to show me where he was, and so we both stepped outside. When we got to the street, she pointed out his location and I called out to him. To my hostess’ surprise, he promptly got up and walked over without a fuss. I asked him what it was his “madam” asked him to do, and he replied that she wanted him to go. “So, why your things still dey here?” I asked. He replied that he would come and get them when he was ready. I replied that she wanted his things out now. He said “Okay,” walked in and began to pack his things.
My hostess was shocked beyond words. She went on about how the man had not even acknowledged her at all since she told him off. Nothing she had said or done seemed to bother him. It took a man showing up for him to be galvanized into action. She owned the house, had paid his salary faithfully, yet the fact that she was a woman meant that she never commanded his full respect – and I suspect that was why he had consistently misbehaved. She was a woman.
A friend of mine needed an apartment once. But everywhere she went, the landlords kept asking her for “uncle” or “daddy”, and as long as she told them that she was single, she had no chance of getting an apartment. She had her money and was a decent person, yet I had to become her escort before she could secure a place. I had to show up with her to inspect the apartments and be a part of the negotiations for her to stand a chance of finding accommodation.
In both stories, these women had their incomes. They were both educated and presentable people. They were not destitute and in need of sustenance. But in both cases, they were more or less second class citizens simply because of their gender. It is a travesty. A woman should never need a man by her side to have her instructions to an employee or subordinate carried out. A woman should never need to have a man by her side to obtain accommodation from her honest earnings. A woman should never need to have a man by her side to get help from the Police or any other government agencies. A woman should never need to have a man by her side to book a hotel room. A woman should never need to have a man by her side to get respect from anyone.
Sadly, we are not yet out of the primitive woods completely here in Nigeria. In many places, a woman is still less than a man. But I dream of a Nigeria where our sisters, mothers and daughters can be all that they desire to be without being held back by gender prejudices. As a father of a growing a girl, I would hate to see my daughter suffer just because of her gender. If I were to drop dead today (yeah; I know: God forbid, abi?), I would hate to think that my wife would find certain things tougher, not because she is incompetent, but just because she is a woman.
What can we do? I think that our strongest strategy is education: we must start by training and teaching our young ones properly. A woman is not less than a man, and so is entitled to the very same privileges that men enjoy in the society. Education, both formal and informal, is key. And we must start now. Yes; we have to fight discrimination anywhere it exists now, but if we want to see this change happen on a wholesale basis, the best place to start is with the next generation of children.