My anticipation about writing a post on international women’s day (March 8) has been building up so much, but now that I’m here, for some reason, I can’t decide which route to take. I kid you not when I tell you that I have written and rewritten this at least 3 times! First, I was thinking of talking about feminism. But I think that deserves a post on its own. Then I thought about writing about how exasperated or “overdosed” I’ve been feeling about all this “woman” or gender business in development, but that started sounding too textbookish. So now, I’m just going to go with the flow. I’m going to talk about what being a woman means… to me :)
Going with the norm, I probably shouldn’t be here. I should probably be married by now, maybe onto my second, third, or even fourth child. I shouldn’t be living alone, miles away from my parents and family. Heck, how dare I make certain “important” decisions on my own without consulting a man. Going with the norm, there are countless things I shouldn’t be able to do, say or think. But thanks to Allah, I grew up against the norm.
Both my parents are educated and educationists, so the question of whether or not I or my sisters should go to school never arose. There were four of us, with my brother smack in the middle and me being the eldest. I realize quite often that having the kind of parents I do is an immense blessing. Some people barely know their parents or even if they do, they don’t have the necessary parental support.
Having my parents support me in whatever venture I decide to pursue has helped build up my confidence and self-esteem. And yes, I think it is perfectly okay to acknowledge one’s confidence. My dad tells me I was always quite adventurous, and now that I think about it, my willingness to try new things and to keep an open mind is because of my upbringing. My parents taught me to roll with the punches, make lemonade from lemons and learn from experiences. I was also quite the tomboy…for a while. And even now, I don’t consider myself a “girly girl”.
For most of my early school years, I had mummy right there with me. In school and sometimes in class. She taught English, Social Studies and Religious and Moral Education. I felt it was my “moral obligation” to excel in those subjects if nothing else. Hence, even though I was in a co-ed school for my elementary and junior high school education, I never actually felt threatened by the boys in my class. Quite the contrary, I thrived on the competition and was actually quite disappointed to find that college lacked that competitive edge. One vivid image I have of my mum is during an inter-section football (soccer) match at Alsyd. I was goalkeeping, it was a penalty shoot-out and she was right there on the sidelines cheering me on in what was/is a male-dominated sport.
After JSS, my dad signed me up to a Cisco Networking Course. I was the youngest in the class. And the only girl. Most of my classmates were university students or young professionals. But even then, I never really felt threatened. The issue of seniority is a big deal in Ghana and many African countries. When it comes to seniority between genders in my ethnic group, it’s even more complex. As a young woman, you not only have to be ‘respectful’ to seniors, but even to boys your own age. Being in the kind of classroom setup I was in taught me how to grant my respect to people who earn it. People who go out of their way to prove their unworthiness get my civility and nothing more – ok, maybe the occasional benefit of the doubt.
There are many more childhood experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today, but these are just some of the ones that came to mind immediately.
I Love Being a Woman!
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a guy. But come to think of it, I’m glad I came out a girl. Being a woman is the most amazing experience ever. Not like I have any other to compare it to lol. But for real, I love being a woman. I love getting dressed up or slacking in that department, because I feel like it. It’s exhilarating to know that one day I’ll have the honor of carrying a little child in my arms and helping him or her along this course called life. I enjoy being complex and not having to stick to just one identity. Most importantly, I love interacting with, hearing about and seeing the quiet strength of women. Whether it’s listening to a sister talk about her struggles and crying with her, working from dawn till dusk to feed a husband and child, or even risking one’s very identity as a woman and speaking against injustices, life as a woman is very inspirational. I know more amazing women that I could have ever imagined meeting and although this is a belated post, you are all amazing individuals. For your inner beauty, your silent fortitude, your sensitivity and your intelligence. For being exactly who you are: a woman.
What I Didn’t Say
So you see, I didn’t tell you that a woman’s issues are everyone’s issues. Take away the ‘wo’, replace it with ‘hu’ and you’ll see for yourself that even the word “wo[hu]man” proves the point. That would have been going the “feminism” route.
Belated International Women’s Day to all my lovely ladies + the men who support them.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.