By Francis Ewherido
Last Saturday the world celebrated the International Women’s Day with pomp and pageantry. Wonderful; but what about the continued dehumanization and degradation of the womenfolk? What about girl-child discrimination in our society?
We are not there yet; the discrimination against women is still clear and present, not as bad as Saudi Arabia or Iran; you would say, but it is there — sometimes obvious, at other times latent.
I remember when I was growing up, that the reason many women (now dead or in their 80s) gave for not acquiring formal education was that their fathers said it was a waste of resources. Their parents reasoned that the education of daughters was like investing in another person’s family because the daughters will get married, move to new families and adopt new names.
So their parents spent the available resources on educating the male children. The number of women (my mother’s age) who were educated in the Midwest when I was growing up was so few that I had a cultural shock when I came to Yoruba land, and to some extent Igbo land, and saw comparatively large number of women ( my mother’s age) who were well educated, some of them professors and medical doctors.
My first personal taste of the discrimination against the girl-child happened when I had my first child, a girl. I was over the moon as a first time father. Moreover, the girl child had become such a scarce commodity in my father’s household that we were all yearning for baby girls.
My elder brother had a daughter three months prior to mine, the first in decades. So you now know where I was coming from. I went to the top of NECOM House literally (Still the tallest building in Nigeria) and announced to the whole world that I have a daughter.
Listen to the responses: My mechanic said, “e still good.” My tailor: “why you go start with woman? Next time, born boy.” From another: “Na so you lazy?” And yet another, “madam don defeat you.” Generally the responses that greeted the arrival of my daughter were characterized by a monumental lack of enthusiasm.
I am embarrassed to say it, but the final product of this barrage of negative responses was a disoriented and depressed Francis.
I was happy to give my parents, who did not have a daughter, a granddaughter, but at the same time I was saddened that the world will not share my enthusiasm over the arrival of my daughter. The negative comments really got to me. There and then, I vowed that next time I will have a son and prove to my traducers that God has given me the powers and I determine the sex of my babies.
Those around us (my wife and I) know we naturally planned our family.
Family planning and the vogue of millennium babies initially informed the birth of my first son in the year 2000. What I was too ashamed to tell people, including my wife, was that there were other reasons: I wanted to silence my “distracters” who did not celebrate the arrival of my daughter the way I expected and also get a very chauvinistic society off my back.
When my son was born, the reception was different: my tailor said, “Oga Frasis, na now you come.” Another said: “you be man.” The congratulatory handshakes were so firm and strong that they almost broke my fingers and pulled off my arm from my shoulder.
What I have found out is that we are a very chauvinistic people. Forget about the “daddy’s girl” stuff you see or hear about. “Daddy’s girl” is only sweet when daddy also has sons who make him feel complete. About 99.9 per cent of the men who have daughters only will change the situation if given the opportunity.
Some have gone ahead to either marry more wives or have children from other women. Others with Rhino-skin simply hauled defiance at a chauvinistic society and moved on with their lives. Yet others only keep their cool because they cannot handle the disruptions and fallout of their actions, not that they are happy having daughters only.
A friend who has three daughters once narrated how her husband was lit up when a family friend suggested a recipe for having male children to them. He advised that their legs should face east, west, south, or is it north, during their conjugal act (there is no nonsense you do not hear when people think you need help). The husband claimed to be satisfied with his “three angels.”
If he was, why glare at the friend with such a laughable proposition? Why not laugh it off? I have come across only one man who seemed genuinely contented with his daughters. “I’m done with baby making,” he told me, with an air of finality after three daughters.
I had a pre-marriage class of about 50 participants last Sunday. I asked the men especially how many will be contented having only female children? Not a single person responded!
It is probably impossible for former and current American Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, to be Nigerians, the latter’s African roots notwithstanding.
How can the president of a powerful nation have only one or two children and girls for that matter? Who will control his vast wealth and perpetuates the family name when he is gone? Unthinkable, or is there such a powerful Nigerian out there?