Nigerian Women’s Emancipation, The Beginning of our Cultural Evolution

You were told in the book of the ages that thou (women)
should keep silent because thou aren’t permitted to speak in the assemblies,
but ought to be in submission. And that if there is anything thou desire to
learn, thou should ask thy husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to
speak in the assemblies. But I say to thee, never thou keep silent, not even
in the assemblies but thou should cry out loud, and if there is anything men
wish to know, let them ask thee in the public.

Women freedpmWomen have
always been from the ab
initio
indexed. In the
history of the creation, it was said that she was created with one of Adam’s
ribs. And to mask the situation, the hagiographers made Adam cry out, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of
my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of the man.

In this very culture, the woman was just
but a helper necessary to the man who couldn’t find any suitable helper among
the animals. Lucky enough that we have learned not to read the Bible literary for it
would have been a scandal to have a creator who sees nothing important in the
creation of woman other than to satisfy the ingrate Adam.

In Ancient Greece, the
situation was not better. The opposing stands of Aristotle and Plato are good
examples of that. At the morning of the Athenian philosophical culture, women
had not yet crawled out of the cave which the Hebrew and other ancient cultures
had caged them. They had no right to authority and could not even attend formal
education. Unfortunately, at the demise of Plato, Aristotle, one of the greatest
thinkers ever lived, fall into the trap of his own combat. He denied the women
the right to formal education placing them not far from the slaves. He closed
his eyes to the teaching of his predecessor, Plato according to whom, if
well-educated, women should be among the philosopher kings (Queens). And even
though there have always been very important women philosophers, as early as the
time of Socrates, their memory remained in the background when not in oblivion.


Women freedomDuring the medieval
era, women were once more systematically made to exist as auxiliaries when they
were not persecuted. Today, mainly in the western society, a lot has been done
to ameliorate their situation. But of course, a lot must be done again for women
to have the same right in a world that is not only meant to be for the men. It
is, however, necessary to remind ourselves that it is not like women asking to
be respected is something extraordinary. It is just a right they should have
like every other individual created by God. It is just their fundamental human
right that is being denied.

However, in our own
society – African in general and Nigerian in particular, already before the
arrival of the western and eastern religions, we, just like every other society,
accorded little or no position to women. They were meant to raise kids and
nothing but that. Their position was to be in the background and assure that men
are well served. And even in those African societies where women had a place,
the eastern and western religion got rid of them too. In Northern Nigeria, for
example, Islam quarantined women and made them second class citizens. And in the
West, South, and East, a colonial
form of Christianity perpetuated the norms of the society. Their
Christianisation program which took little or no interest in the promotion of
people’s culture phased out the little liberty that few hard-hearted women had
in those regions. They were regularly reminded that they should respect and obey
their husband but the later was never
told that respect and obedience are reciprocal. The traditional religion was not
also women freedom-friendly. It had unwritten rules that subjected women to
unnecessary rituals and norms.

And in the face of
such systemic religious motivated women exclusion, the society forced the women
to desert the public arenas. They were slowly made to disappear. And in the name
of being good wives, they became objects
of decorations, appearing just to please their husbands and always sanctioned
for any slightest infringement of those rules that men think not twice before
breaking. And in the name of good manners, they also ended up inventing laws
that seriously alienated them.

And even among
themselves, they feel it is normal to make life hard for themselves. A good
example of this is observed among female religious groups. They make unnecessary
laws to checkmate one another. And this continues to be perpetrated among them
today.

And in households,
women train their little daughters to be submissive. “Sit down like a girl or dress like a
girl
,” they continue reminding them throughout their young age that they
grow up forgetting to be human. And in many cases, the society breeds them for
only one single objective – to be wife materials – as if being a husband
material is inherent to the genes of men. And even married, many of them give up
their careers and dreams to satisfy the society. Many are assaulted and even
aggressed by their husbands, pastors, priests, professors and their superiors
but being the product of their society, they are trained not to complain but to
obey like a sheep being led to the slaughter. And at the death of their
partners, they are subjected to ordeals by their fellow women whereas men even
before the burial of their own partner begins already to plan for their future.

Nigerian women, I
think it is time for you to get rid of this chain that keeps you down. It is
time for you to appropriate this declaration and recognition of your feminine
identity that this brave Innu Poet, Natasha Kanapé Fontaine is
prophesying
:
«
A voice resounds in me and transfigures me.
The world waits for the woman to return to her original state: standing
straight, strong woman, revived woman
(and I add, a transfigured woman). A
call awakes in me and I have decided to say Yes to my birth.
» For
though you
were told in the book of the ages that thou (women) should keep
silent because thou aren’t permitted to speak in the assemblies, but ought
to be in submission. And that if there is anything thou desire to learn, thou
should ask thy husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in the
assemblies, I say to thee, never thou keep silent, not even in the
assemblies but thou should cry out loud, and if there is anything men wish to
know, let them ask thee in the public.  

Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Writer & Blogger

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