A WOMAN'S DREAM
My mum believed that by holding the hands of her girls, we would have the fortitude to conquer our challenges. After the birth of her fourth girl, mum’s mother-in-law mounted pressure on her to give my dad a male child who would carry on the family name. According to grandma, it was the tradition of the Nigerian Ibo people dating back to centuries before, and she did not want her name linked with shame. Grandma asserted that girls were meant for the kitchen only and that when we were older, one of us would have to remain unmarried, perhaps get pregnant by a stranger so that the illegitimate child would bear the family name. Mum rejected the idea. She knew then that she had to prove grandma wrong.
I remember that mum used to call us for meetings and while holding hands as if she wanted to pour some hidden strength into us, she would tell us how the world viewed women. She would tell us that women were seen as procreation tools and that we would have to work extra hard to be successful.
“The world believes that the place of a woman is in the kitchen,” she would say. “You have to prove them wrong. None of you will shame me, you hear?”
Through those meetings we learned of our duties to life and our duties to mum. She and dad gave up all luxuries just so that we would have the best education. We knew that we had to come top of our class; that we couldn’t succumb to boys who wanted flings, a way of conquering a woman’s dignity. The thought of ending up as a man’s play thing or as a baby-making machine hung above our heads like a light bulb waiting to be turned on.
Now, we spend our lives remembering our hands held in mum’s firm grip and her stern voice ringing in our minds, “you have to show the world that being a woman is something to be proud of.”
I would like to think that it is one of the reasons we chose male dominated career paths – I, in fine arts and my sisters in engineering. As we journey through life, we can never forget our promise to mum. In our little way, we have to make the world see that being a woman is so much more than they think.