The trouble with being a girl

 

you can be anyone,anything,anywhere!

GROWING PAINS

Being a girl child in a traditional African setup is no easy thing.By the time you reach a certain age you are expected to know how to run a household. One should know how to cook for a household of as many as 10 people while you are 12 years old yourself.By now you should know how to sew your doll’s clothes, occasionally to sew a button onto old ones.Meanwhile the boys will be outside playing with their toys.On that subject,boys get the toy cars, the planes and the guns.The girl is placated with simple dolls.

I still vividly remember one Christmas when father came home with presents. “Please let it be a toy car,” I prayed in my little girl voice. To my dismay it was another doll. How many dolls does one little girl need though? Chido got a toy aeroplane that day. Needless to say i was quite disappointed. My older sister seemed immensely happy for me . “Dolls are for girls Rose,and cars are for the boys,” she said attempting to comfort me.

Not to say I did not like my dolls.  I’m just saying maybe if I had been exposed to other toys even as a child I would have been more ambitious.

By the time  I reached my  teenage years, domestic training continued with “exciting”  new dimensions. These included learning to effectively do large volumes of laundry. My cousin sister had a baby around that time and I had to include looking after the baby to my new duties.  Meanwhile, father  would go out with Chido. He taught him how to drive before he was even 14 years old. My father was an entrepreneur, just starting his own boiler making company.Sometimes he would go with my brother to the office and show him the ins and outs of the business. I did not know what it was about but I was intrigued by the few things Chido told me.

One day and I asked father what his job entailed. The narrative he gave me was very short. Although i had further questions I could ask as his tone had shown some degree of irritation. My mother laughed it off and told me not to worry about “men’s business.”I thought my interest would make him invite me along.Alas that day never came.I started to wish i had been born male.So that I would be able to see the exciting new world that lay beyond the walls of my house.

Growing up this way  subconsciously taught me to take the back seat in life. That my job was to simply take care of the mundane household chores and do the bare minimum. The more challenging,technological tasks were to be done by my brother.  And my job was to sit back and focus more on the social aspects of life. Subconsciosly as girls we are taught that we are not equal to the males.As evidenced by disparities in the way we are brought up even in the same house.The male child is taught to be dominant,enterprising and entrepreneurial whereas the female is indoctrinated to be submissive and carry out less challenging work.This model of upbringing encourages complacency in the girl child.

The result of this is evidenced in the career paths shown by the two genders.  Females are underrepresented in mentally challenging disciplines such as computer science, engineering and mathematics. Within the medical field in itself men tend to choose the more challenging and higher paying specialties. These include orthopedics,cardiology and gastroenterology. Females opt for the less paying ones such as gynaecology and psychiatry.

WIDENING GIRLS’ HORIZONS

I feel that perhaps it is time we taught the girl child,from formative years to be innovative and hardworking. Charity begins at home so they say. Parents should encourage their daughters to be creative. The same way that mothers in society train girls to be efficient house hostesses,we ought to train them to become CEOs and CFOs. To not be afraid of challenges. Let us assist them to evolve into assertive, successful women. Gone are those days when the football playground was no place for women. It is just as important to mentor the girl child as it is the boy child. Give her mind the freedom to grow and be more imaginative. While being nurturers is nature’s role for women, we have the potential to do so much more. It is imperative that we widen the girl child’s horizons in order for us to create better leaders of tomorrow.

 

Nothing without a man?

The night before

Old man sleep refused to visit me last night.Although I felt a lethargy like no other i couldn’t get myself to sleep as the day has finally come. That which my whole family and neighbors had been anticipating for years. Ladies from church had all bruised their knees in prayer on my behalf. Pleading with an unknown greater force to grant me the most coveted price of all. A husband.

The dreaded question!

By the way my name is Ntombi,doctor Maya to most I am a medical doctor. I have a house to my name, a car and a bank balance that is flourishing most of the time. The day I graduated was one of celebration.My whole neighbourhood went crazy. Father even slaughtered a cow for me and planned a party. After the whole speech giving part my aunt Clotilda followed me to room and asked the foreboding question first. “Congratulations Ntombi my dear you have made us all very proud.So when are you getting married?”

To say the question surprised me would be a lie. All I could think of was why she couldn’t be satisfied with the achievement I had made so far. After that night i got that question from all kinds of people. Even my own mother started dropping hints about how she now wanted grandchildren.

In time my boyfriend Sipho proposed. I was thrilled to be honest. My mother’s excitement however seemed to be even more than mine. I could tell from the radiance on her face that my marriage announcement pleased her immensely. It was as though a secret shame had been removed from her. The unspoken of shame of having an “old” unmarried daughter. I was astounded by the haste with which my family wanted the marriage proceedings to go.

And so here I am today sitting at the edge of my bed waiting anxiously for Sipho’s family to come with the bride price. I cannot lie and say I’m not happy because i do love Sipho after all. However  I cannot get over the thought that everyone thought i was half a person before Sipho decided to marry me. It is as though Sipho is the validation I needed to finally get acceptance into society. My father looks at me these days with a new kind of respect in his eyes. As though I have finally done the one thing that could please him more than anything. Am I to believe that my commodification is what makes me whole?

Owning it!

Personally I find the whole notion ridiculous.Academically I exceeded my parents’ expectations.Professionally I have one of the best jobs in the country.Prestigious men and women have even sought my advice on several topics concerning health.Recently I joined a charity club offering help to orphans and vulnerable children.Not to toot my own horn but I believe I am making a difference  in the community.As I am.As Ntombi and not Mrs so and so.

It is part of my culture that once a woman reaches a certain age one must get married.But times are changing now.With more ladies involved in running businesses and even furthering studies.Some even opt to not get married.Ladies out there should own their success!Be proud of what you have achieved so. Life is not a rehearsal where you get a second chance try. So my advice for those who are still not married is to live a full life.Don’t waste your youth waiting for someone to come and swoop you off your feet.Or give in to society and get hitched to the wrong person.Live now! Chase your dreams.And remember,you are enough.Never let anyone bully you into thinking you are nothing without a man.