"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."