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"My ambition", my pride

In the society in which I grew up, women are supposed to take a back seat in everything. So, it came as a shock to my older brother when as teenagers, I refused to be suppressed. Traditionally, with the death of our father, I am supposed to honour my brother as the de-facto “man of the house”. But as a child I was taught to respect my seniors including him- not to be docile.

I have always been outspoken and my father who was my biggest fan ever, loved that about me. He encouraged me always to aim high and told me that I could achieve a lot by getting a good education. After his death, I gladly worked to stay on the path that he had shown me. When I left the university, unlike most girls my age then, I did not think immediately of getting married and settling down. Rather, I chose to get a job, a career. I also went ahead to get a master’s degree.

My brother sees “my ambition” as a kind of affront on him and because of that we have never gotten along. By being the ambitious one in the family, it is as if I, a woman, am trying to take up a role that is traditionally meant for him.

He also worries that, at the rate at which I am going, I may never get married. Marriage is really very important here in Nigeria. Women, especially, are defined by their marriage or relationships. Without a ring on your finger, you are not given much by way of respect. On the other hand, men tend to feel intimidated if you are too well-educated and independent-minded.

Where I come from in Nigeria, independent women like me are seen as an anathema. Once, I was attacked by a fellow woman for daring to speak “where men are speaking.” Worse, I had even dared to be the spokes-person of the group. She told me to my face that I do not behave like a woman.

There was a time when attacks like this saddened me. I hated myself. I wished to be a woman in the traditional sense; to get married and have children so that society will get off my back; and to find myself a husband by being meek like my mother who always honours my brother, her son.

However thanks to my personal achievements so far, I have come to see myself and my “un-womaness” as a gift, as my name implies, not just to my family but to my society.

I have finally reached the stage, where I feel secure enough to say- No, the pursuit of knowledge and public-speaking are not the rights and privileges of men alone.

Call me a feminist but I would rather call myself "just a human being who reserves the right to take advantage of her God-given talents and refuses to feel ashamed of them because they make someone else feel bad about themselves."


mamalaw's picture

Well done!

Spoken from the heart. Yours and that of many other Nigerian women. A true VOF!

Onyinye's picture


Thanks, dear friend. You know my pain.

MaDube's picture


You summed it all up when you said 'Call me a feminist but I would rather call myself "just a human being who reserves the right to take advantage of her God-given talents and refuses to feel ashamed of them because they make someone else feel bad about themselves." Yes we have been highly misunderstood. When we refuse to conform to society's expectations we are rebels. When refuse to be subordinate we are loudmouths but we shall not be ashamed or feel bad because we decided to make personal choices that best serve our interests. You said it all sister. Great post.

Onyinye's picture

Thank you, MaDube

Thank you for your comment MaDube. I loved the poetic way you explained my summary *smile*
No we shall not be cowed but shall raise men that respect women as equals and not treat them as secondary to themselves.

DinaYazdani's picture

This is great!

This is very inspiring! I love how you start out your story about you and your brother, and how you refused to be suppressed, which is inspiring to all women in your same situation. I really like how you also talk about the struggles in your way to becoming independent and not following society's norms for women, which shows how being a leader is not easy--although possible. Keep up the great work, and best of luck!


Twitter- MojoThinkTank

Onyinye's picture

thank you Dina

thank you so much Dina for your kind words.

MaNnenna's picture


You are a brave heart. In the past decades, we (female) have being told we belong to the kitchen. Our culture/society have made it so easy for women to regard as second class citizen. Am so glad you were not suppressed by your brother or anyone else. Keep up the great job.

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