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.