As a child, I wanted so much to fit into a certain definition of the ideal woman: the ‘cool’ and ‘collected’. I was however not under any illusion. My natural tendencies seemed to be the polar opposite of this ‘cool’ and ‘collected’ woman, I was ‘warm’ and ‘scattered’. I was boisterous, constantly on the move, and loved to play with the boys incessantly!
My elder sister, however, was my complete opposite: quiet, reserved and homely. You see, she had achieved what was still out of my reach, to be a ‘cool’ and ‘collected’, young woman. My parents took every opportunity to compare us and remind me that unless I became more like my sister, I would end up unmarried, sad and alone.
At first, this used to scare me greatly, but then, I began to ask myself: is that all there is to life as a woman? To be someone’s ‘cool’ and ‘collected’ wife and mother? At a time when the promotion of girl-child education was at its peak, these questions simultaneously bothered and challenged me. I resolved to go where ever my talents, training and education will send me, even if it meant missing the ‘cool’ and ‘collected’ train.
So after the “send your girl child to school” campaign, what next? It is obvious that the conversation needs to move from educating the girl child to changing mindsets to ensure that the girl’s education becomes useful to her family and her society.
I recently chanced on statistics of the University of Ghana when it started in 1948. I was amazed to find out that there were 90 students and only two were female. Today, the University can boast of an almost equal representation of men and women. If these statistics are anything to go by, then we should have an almost equal representation of women in the workforce and for that matter in top management.
Yet, women representation in top-level positions is woefully low, what accounts for this? Let me try and find some reasons. Most women though highly intelligent after university degrees end up sacrificing their careers to tend homes and raise children. This is not a problem if it’s their choice but most of the time it is not and that is worrying considering we could use a lot of these fine brains in our workforce to move the country forward.
A story was told to me of a young graduate who swore that he was not going to marry a career woman. The farthest he will go was to marry a pupil teacher (no disrespect to them) whose day is likely to end at 2 pm so that she can stay at home and take care of his kids and keep his home whiles he goes about looking for money.
After he went on and on, he was finally asked if he wanted his daughters to be brought up the same way and make the same ‘sacrifice’ as their mum is supposed to make for him.
There was a vehement no, “ain’t none of my daughters going to be someone’s glorified maid after all the investments I will make in them.” But he was willing to let someone’s daughter misuse her education for him. Obviously, the results of such a union would be a dissatisfied wife whose husband will make sure his daughters don’t see their mother as a worthy role model.
There is nothing wrong with two adults deciding that they will pay for help in running their home so that both can go ahead and achieve their full potential in their chosen careers (mind you housekeeping is a full-time job).
Except that in these parts, men are socialized to think that they are supposed to give ‘chop money’ and women are supposed to wash, cook, clean and tend the children. Indeed, that is why a presenter can sit on TV and ask that if women are not cooking, what will they be doing?
So to the ‘warm’ and ‘scattered’ ladies out there, it is okay to be you, we can’t all be ‘cool’ and ‘collected’, you will find husbands if you want to and both of you will be privileged to have the each other, not one doing the other a favour.
Columnist: Ivy M. Fofie