BY Obianuju Iloanya (Nnamdi Azikiwe University Debate Community)


Meet Katherine….

She’s a twenty five year old  graduate of History and International Relations. She has completed her Masters  (M.Sc) and Ph.D in International Politics and is gunning to become a professor at least at age thirty.
Fast forward to seven years later, she’s a mother of three, married to a fine young man, who works as a federal government parastatal and receives a six figure paycheck every month. Not bad, right? Oh! By the way, she’s now a stay-at-home mum too and her children are adorable.

Meet Onyinye….

She’s sixteen and just graduated from high school. She wrote UTME (JAMB) and got a good score of 262. She’s awaiting the post-UTME screening, so she can get to study her dream course – Civil Engineering.
She hopes that in ten years, she would have completed her M.Sc in same course, and would be working with a reputable construction company, spearheading super projects, creating engineering marvels etc.
Six years have hurriedly elapsed, she’s done with NYSC. She’s pregnant and planning her wedding to one of the young lecturers in her department. Lest I forget,  she studied microbiology and barely graduated, but not for the aid of her “would be spouse”, the fine Lecturer in the department. Fair, don’t you think?
Meet Zara…

Somto and Chizaram (Zara) are a twin of six years old. Somto is a boy and Zara is a girl. Somto dreams of becoming a big time medical doctor in future, owning a big hospital and marrying a very beautiful wife like the actresses he sees on TV.
Zara wants to be a politician with dreams to be the governor of her state having escorts follow her. She likes the sound of the siren that heralds the passing of the governor and his convoy in their area. She wants to marry a fine Yoruba man like Desmond Elliot.

Twenty years later, Somto is a doctor not so big yet but he’s getting there. Zara on the other hand owns a boutique, she studied mass communication and is married to a young enterprising guy of thirty that “imports and exports”. He’s based in China and Lagos and learnt the trade from his uncle in Balogun market, Lagos.

This is Vera…..

Mrs Vera Ikedi is the forty-two year old wife of chief Ikedi who is fifty two. She heard about a “Women Empowerment Programme” and convinced her husband to allow her attend. Now she’s the woman leader in her local government for the leading political party in their state. She’s widely known as “Mama V” by young and old alike. She intends to run for Councilor in her ward or Local Government Chairperson in her Local Government Area sometime in the future. Eight years later, her husband is late and she’s sent packing from her husband’s house and is blamed for her husband’s death. According to rumours, she’s been sleeping around with politicians and killed her husband to gain freedom to be wayward. She now stays with her daughter who is now married and is no longer active in politics.

Sandy Ono is a social media celebrity. She talks about feminism and liberation of women and advises that women be allowed to attain the levels of successes that they aspire to achieve. Sandy is now Sandra Onome and is married to pastor Paul Onome – a General Overseer in one of the known new generational churches. She’s a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology and had wanted to be a lecturer but now she’s a full-time Mummy GO and minister in the vineyard of God.

These and lots more are stories of women whose dreams and aspirations where thwarted or redirected because of societal norms and expectations. These norms and expectations have always been barriers to the actualization of set goals of women. Even with the great strides and awareness feminism and women empowerment programmes have created, these barriers are still at work and are yet to be upturned. This is mostly because of our cultures and traditions.
Civilization has done a great good by shining educative lights into the dark crevices of customs that were oppressive to women. Yet women are still shackled in their pursuit of personal goals.
One might wonder how this is so, after all most of these women are fine and doing well in life and happy,  (or are they not happy?)  Let’s look more into their lives.

Katherine after her Ph.D was summoned home by her worried parents. They needed her to remember that she’s a “woman” and her “time” is counting away. Simply put “she needs to get married as soon as possible”. All her cries and fears of not achieving her dreams upon marriage were assuaged with the idea of marrying an educated man.
She married an “educated” man, but her literate husband felt threatened by his wife’s achievements and future goals. He began complaining about her over-ambitiousness and her busy schedule (always writing articles and attending conferences etc). This was just months into the marriage.
Being a submissive wife, Kate decides to tune it down a little, after all what’s the hurry? Some become professors later than thirty and its cool and of course she needs to take care of her man or another lady outside would. Her friends drummed it into her ears that there are young girls outside, desperately waiting to usurp her role if she ‘dulls’.
To secure her marriage, she gets pregnant, bears her first child as her mum and mother in-law take turns to visit her for omugwo.
She tells her mum about her desire to resume her lecturing job in six weeks. Her bewildered mum scolds that six weeks is too short emphasizing that a new born baby needs time to bond with his mother.
On the contrary, Kate’s mother in-law was of the opinion she resigns from work and take care of her first child properly adding that she’s a ‘hotcake’ and any University will kill to have her even after one year at home.
Katherine runs to her “educated” husband but he sees sense in what his mum said, he advises that she take that option and when she reminds that they have a nanny that will take care of the child and he explodes stating that “a nanny won’t bring up his first child”.
This is her child too right? Kate defers to her husband as the “head” of the family and stops working for a year that leads to two years and then three and when she tries complaining her husband asks her if she lacks anything and if his salary is not enough for them? That’s how Kate is seen with three adorable children and a fake smile. She lives a lie.

Onyinye ends up studying Microbiology because its more feminine than civil engineering as her parents would explicitly imply.
According to them “Civil Engineering is a man’s world/work”.
Even at that, Onyinye had hoped to go back for a degree in Engineering after studying Microbiology.
While she was a Microbiology student, the young staff adviser, Felix, fell for her beauty and having made several failed attempts to get her, decided to make her indebted to him by ensuring that her scripts misses in some courses and then acts like a knight in shining armor to her rescue. He repeated the process till he was able to get a “more than a thank you” and the affair blossomed.
Onyinye graduates and is about leaving for NYSC. Felix becomes paranoid that she will meet another guy in camp and jilt him, so he decides to get her pregnant as a way of sealing his chances with her.
So she appears at the NYSC camp with her now protruded belly and a “to buy” list of things needed for a wedding. Will she ever go back to achieving her dream of being a Civil Engineer with a man who would go lengths to keep her to himself? She hopes so and I hope so too.

Zara is told that a woman in politics is a wayward woman and that politics is a dirty game meant for men alone. So when it was time to get into the University, her mum advised, “you talk a lot, you should study Mass Communication” and Zara agrees. She can’t disobey mummy right? While in school, 300 level, she meets Bolaji and they hit off but mummy reminds her that she’s Igbo and CANNOT marry a Yoruba man.
The next Christmas, they travel to the village, her aunt tells her father about Obiozor, the hottest and richest young man in the village.
Zara was then convinced that he’s most eligible for her. She agrees. She can’t disagree with her parents; can she?
She now owns a boutique opened by her husband for her and is few weeks pregnant. She still envies the Governor and his convoy but that’s a Pipedream she cannot achieve because politics is for men and women who venture into it are wayward.

Mrs Vera is just a victim of jealous minds. She’s a woman loved by her husband dearly.
Her husband has a heart problem but no one knows except his immediate family.
So when he gets the news of his goods that perished in the sea, he develops a heart failure and dies before getting to hospital. Vera is accused of killing him and to let sleeping dogs lie, she doesn’t fight the accusations because a woman does not have a say in the presence of men and even when she says that he (Chief Ikedi) had a heart problem, she gets lashed that it was her wayward life that triggered the latest attack.
Her brothers in-law throws her out of her husband’s house and claims the properties.
She goes to live with her daughter, vowing never to venture into politics because people will accuse her of being nonchalant about her husband’s demise.
That’s how her political dream dies on arrival. She’s resigned herself to being contented staying with her daughter, with a suffocated political ambition!

Sandra aka Sandy knows all about feminism or so she thinks yet she finds herself a victim of the patriarchal society.
She was in her late twenties when societal pressure was mounted it’s toll on her. Being a graduate assistant at the time, she got married to pastor Paul whom she met while attending a programme for singles in his church.
He had told her the holy spirit directed him to her, and she had accepted the Holy Spirit’s match-making in good faith and they got married.
But Pastor Paul will not tolerate her working anywhere else apart from the church. Winning more souls for God and being a good and supportive mummy GO.
Working in the vineyard of God is an honourable task; Isn’t it?
She constantly advises that women should be free to be who they want to be so long as they are submissive to their spouses, parents and religion.

Going over the stories of these women, one will see that even going to school, attending empowerment programmes and even knowing the tenets of feminism have not been able to unshackle women and set them free for real and the most painful part of the failures of women in attaining their desired heights is the role of other women in ensuring that this failure continues. This includes, the wise mum that advise and decides on the better course of choice for a girl child. The mum that tells her girl child to aspire for marriage. The friends that advise fellow women to give up their ambitions for fear of losing their marriages. The lady pastor who preaches submission to the point of being a slave to the whims and caprices of the husband etc.

These women need better reorientation or better still be made to stop because they sabotage the dreams of many other women because of their myopic patriarchal upbringing.
Our norms and culture should also be looked into. Oppressive, subjugative, dehumanizing views about women should be weeded out. Those beliefs that place women as second class citizens that do not amount to anything but just to be used as MEN deem fit should be redressed.
These would be huge strides and essential ones at that, that will aid the fight for the liberation of women.