Well, it’s March 8, 2021 – the International Women’s Day and going by this year’s theme, I #ChooseToChallenge you, my dear African women. What you’re about to read (if the title doesn’t already give it away) is certainly not what I know you’re expecting to read on International Women’s Day, and definitely not from a woman at that.
But, that’s exactly my intention. I am hoping this piece provokes you because sometimes, there can’t be a change until there’s a provocation.
Before I even dig into this post, I’d like to start by saying, For the love of God, can we please normalize getting epidural!
I don’t know what it’s like in other climes but I know for a fact that in my beloved continent (Oh Africa!), women who give birth through Cesarean section or receive epidural during vaginal delivery are considered weak.
No, I’ve never had a baby before and neither have I ever been pregnant, but after the recounts I got from some mothers, I couldn’t help but wonder why any woman would want to go through so much pains during labor and delivery, just because they don’t want to be considered weak when there’s an effective method for pain relief. It beats me!
I mean if you must, do it because you choose to fully experience labour and not because you want to be seen as strong as the proverbial Hebrew woman.
Hian, suffer no dey tire you?
Now, let’s get into it…
Truly, I am repulsed by the notion that black women are the strongest group of women in the world. It’s a proclamation I’ve heard a gazillion time and I’ve come to believe it’s just something we say to explain away the hardship our women (particularly) have to go through, no thanks to inequality, failed government, lack of infrastructure, patriarchal system, domestic violence, etc.
I hear mothers advising their daughters on how to be a true African woman using words like, learn to endure, be quiet, try, tolerate, you just have to cope, persevere, bear the pain, don’t share your struggles, live with it, do it for your children, don’t bring disgrace to your family, you are not the first and you won’t be the last, what will people say, and so on.
You do not have to agree with me but tell me, what makes you think (and say) that African women are stronger than women of other races?
Would it be wrong of me to say we call African women the strongest because they often have to step in and/or step up to take on more than their share of the parenting responsibilities? Like any mother, they obviously can’t bare to watch their little ones running around the streets in torn clothes on their hunger-ridden body and flip-flops tacked at different parts.
Would you disagree with me when I say the reason many of these “strong women” who toil day and night, all year round, to see to it that their children get a better chance at life don’t live long to reap the fruit of their labour is because they had jeopardized their health while making those selfless but harmful sacrifices.
Wouldn’t it be because they work five times more than their counterparts to provide basic needs for their family seeing that the politicians they campaigned and voted for constantly fail to do their damn job and nobody calls them out on their bullshit?
If only Africa had good governance, better policies, good infrastructure and selfless leaders who respect basic human rights like what women of other climates enjoy.
My point is, a woman’s strength isn’t only defined by how hard her life is, which is something we so often do in Africa. And that, in my opinion, is a wrong yardstick. A woman does not have to be poor or to have survived an abuse to be described as strong.
Invest ten thousand dollars in a reasonable African woman in a working economy and watch her multiply it easily, while an equally reasonable African woman living in Africa will struggle a bit with the same capital.
Why? She lives in a society that continuously makes moves and policies that are hell-bent on frustrating and stiffening her efforts.
Same capital, different results, because… different hurdles.
Someone says, “Bring a Western woman to Africa and see if she’d survive what our women do”.
I say, “Yes, she will!”
Agreed, it might not be easy at the initial stage for a woman uprooted from a better life to easily adapt to such a tough and hostile environment as ours but that does not mean she can’t and won’t if she has the will to.
Isn’t WILL the only reason African women living in Africa find strength to pull through?
We’ve gotten so used to surviving hardships that we consider people living where things work as they should weak. Skies! I’m guessing that’s why we loathe and call Africans born and raised abroad “butty” and “half-baked”, because they haven’t had to endure the level of suffer-head we go through here on a daily basis?
We all need a mental shift, abeg.
Stop calling people who are enjoying the rights they’ve fought for weak.
Stop thinking you are stronger than others just because they are not tilling your ground.
Stop shaming women who choose to employ helps so they can have more time for themselves.
Stop looking down on women who have the guts to demand for what’s rightfully theirs.
Stop considering yourself better because you choose to suffer more.
Stop putting yourself through hell just to be called strong.
Please, STOP IT.
Dear African woman, you and I can and must redefine what our strength is.
I’m an African woman, a very strong and independent one at that, but please, do not insult me by calling other women who fought and still fight for the seemingly good life they enjoy weak just to make me feel better.
I am strong but not because I’m an African woman.
I am strong because I have a mind of my own and I‘m audacious.
I am strong because I do not let my battles hold me down.
I am strong because I keep showing up in spite of the obstacles.
I am strong because I fight for what’s right and just.
I am strong because I do keep silent in the face of oppression.
I am strong because I am compassionate, loving and caring.
I am strong because I allow myself to be vulnerable.
I am strong because I do not consider myself a victim.
I am strong because I believe in helping and lifting others up.
I am strong because my strength is not dependent on another’s weakness
These are some of my reasons and they sure as hell have nothing to do with being an African (or even a woman) enduring hardships.