Last Sunday, the priest in my home church announced that a church member had put to birth. Before he could complete his statement, some church members finished for him “Boy! Boy!” After which the priest got angry and announced that he would no longer mention the sex of newly born babies if people could not respect all sexes. Sitting in my corner towards the back of the church, I was pleased with the announcement, still trying to recover from my annoyance at the church members; most of whom were women.
What happened at church last Sunday got me thinking about our attitude towards the female child especially in this part of the world. In the ‘other’ part people hardly care; Obama has two daughters, Bill Clinton has a daughter.
In fact, most of the great men of our time are blessed with only daughters. They are not beating themselves over it. In fact, you feel a twinge of envy when these great men walk down red carpets with their daughters on their arms. In many homes in Nigeria, if you do not give your husband sons, they will say your womb is probably made of cotton wool.
Coming close to home, my parents have five children – four of whom are girls. Before the birth of their last child and only son, my mom told me that her mother-in-law called her one day and mentioned casually that one of us would have to remain in the family and bear children for my father’s lineage. Being the woman my mum is, she rejected it and swore it would never happen even if she had to fight for it. My father was not complaining. In fact, he seemed too busy showing off his little girls, who almost always topped their classes, to the world. A few years later, my parents had a son. This time, my overjoyed grandma chipped in a name for her grandson. She wanted him called “Iheanacho”. My mum, once again, rejected it. No one had been searching for a boy. He just happened to have come along.
My family is the average Nigerian family, and while my father was patient and quite content with his blessings, many have not been as patient, going through hell and back in the quest to get a son.
To what end, I ask?
Perhaps, the underlying reason our men have not come to appreciate the beauty of a girl child is that their wives and mothers have not seen themselves as pillars of the society themselves; therefore, they find it difficult to appreciate others. A woman who has never owned a diamond in her life cannot appreciate the true beauty of a diamond until she discovers how much it is worth. The same way, a woman who has not been treated as a queen for just being who she is cannot appreciate a girl child until the child grows to be the leader of the society. When I mean leadership, I don’t just mean in politics or house-keeping or even her career; I mean in discovering her potential and harnessing herself to make a difference in the world around her, no matter how little that world is.
For a woman to discover her amazing capabilities, it would be difficult to have such myopic mentality that subjugate rather than glorify her sex. She would know to surround herself with people who appreciate her as a human being first, then as an amazing woman who has been blessed with strong shoulders.
In case you haven’t noticed the shoulders of women are built strong. Those shoulders are not just meant to rock children to sleep; they are designed to bear the weight of the world. As a woman, you are so much more capable of what you can imagine. You can handle children, family-in-law, relationships, marriage, career, volunteering, hobbies, etc and still appear beautiful anytime. If only you know the weight those shoulders can bear and the difference you can make in the world, men would want to have little yous running around the living room. I know many men who would wish they had women like Michelle Obama in their lives. Can the people around you say the same?
Finally, for all whose argument is that sons are better than daughters because men keep a lineage alive, let me ask you very simple questions:
What is your father’s name?
What is your grandfather’s name?
Now, what is your great grandfather’s name?
I’m quite sure you don’t know the answer to that. You may even have a great-grand something who comes from Jerusalem or Czech Republic and you wouldn’t even know. Who cares anyway? People marry and inter-marry; generations come and go; tribes mingle and disintegrate.
But here’s what doesn’t change - that you know who you are and you know what you are capable of.
And that's what makes you a woman.