A few months ago, I had a dream that I didn’t quite understand. I was surrounded by people of different ages and sizes holding hands as I walked toward each of them in turn (I can’t remember exactly what I said to them). I came to a little girl who handed me something like a scroll and simply said, “understanding the power of a girl child.” I woke up very tense. I felt an immense burden inside of me and began to ponder and dig into the past, hoping for some connection to the unusual dream I had. Afterward, I began to research, this time on the subject of the “girl child.” I read books, talked to many people, and wrote a blog about it: Understanding the Power of a Girl Child. I wrote succinctly about the influence and misrepresentations of society on the girl child, the role of the family, and the impact the girl child can have on society when she is valued equally and treated with dignity.
I grew up in Nigeria, where faith and spirituality are revered and patriarchy prevails. I began to wonder why these two different concepts should exist at the same time, because the foundation of the Christian faith taught in the Bible is love, which Christ summarized as mutual submission and selflessness.
I consider it true that most of the events in the Bible took place in a patriarchal context. I could also deduce that the objective of the Bible is not dominance and oppression. I assume that Jesus’ life on Earth can be used as a marker script to correct all the false impressions of God conveyed to us through the Bible by sincere but limited people. In his exemplary life here on Earth, Jesus taught us the meaning and importance of love and, in various encounters, challenged misogyny and inequality. Any use of the Bible to justify dominance and oppression of a person is, in my opinion, an aberration and misunderstanding.
While growing up and even into the later years of my life, I believed that men had a slight advantage over women, and I based my evidence solely on what I saw in society. I did not have extreme views, and neither did my family; nor, of course, were our views egalitarian. But I can say that I was treated somewhat differently than my five sisters, being from a part of Nigeria that reveres boy children at the expense of girl children. What I do not know is: Was my preferential treatment determined by a patriarchal society?
After writing the blog, I was still not satisfied; I felt that I could do more. I started surfing the internet seeking to connect with a community of people led by women who were honest and loving in their approach to the struggle for equality so that I could learn from their experiences and better understand how they felt and what we can do to establish equality. I had the privilege of connecting with Marie-Rose Romain Murphy, the project director of The Girl Child and Her Long Walk to Freedom, who I spoke with briefly and was sure I was in the right place.
It never occurred to me that one day I would be striving for fairness and advocating equality. I considered it trivial, even though my sisters stand to gain from a society free from patriarchy. I jokingly approached some of my peers and was amazed to hear their views on the role of women in the family and society. I had no such views, even though I disagreed with equality. Sometimes, after a conversation with a male colleague, I get confused, and begin to question myself. Part of me wants to believe that this is simply the order of nature that some powerful women are trying to distort, and the other part of me sees it from a different angle, where countless girls have been oppressed by societies, institutions, and faith communities that have constructed a subordinate role for them. I have a penchant for getting to the bottom of problems that I believe need to be solved. I am taking it upon myself to understand why men have such perceptions of women and what other factors may have contributed to them.
I have come to realize that the differences between men and women, whether physical characteristics or a supposed role in society, does not justify the superiority of one sex but rather a balance perfectly suited to solve social and life problems. I also understand that inequality is predicated on the fallacy that one gender is more important than the other. This view should never be tolerated.
I consider our society to be one that is content with the role that women have been given. Unfortunately, our sisters, wives, and mothers have to accept this inequitable arrangement until viable measures are put in place to curb this societal menace. I look forward to a society where no woman would consider herself powerless in any situation because she is not a man. I look forward to a society where competence, not gender, is the prerequisite for selection and appointment to positions. This is a society that must emerge to eliminate inequality and prevent the unborn girl child from coming into a society of deprivation and oppression.
I am still on my learning journey and hope that by asking these questions and trying to get to the bottom of this problem, I might be able to get others to ask similar questions and not see patriarchy as something that is set in stone even though it might seem that way. It takes work to question beliefs and norms around you. Though it might not seem like you are doing anything, change happens one new thought at a time.
Obi Chuks lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where he is a writer and freelance front end developer. He loves football and reading, and is passionate about seeing that everyone has an equal playing ground in life.