- April 15, 2021
Years back, I was talking, with a colleague, about some reasonably priced plots in rural Kilifi that I had heard about. With delight, I explained how the project was a good investment opportunity that I was thinking of putting money into. Without thinking, my colleague blurted out, “Why are you planning on such an investment, yet you’ll be married?” Shocked, I asked how the two were correlated. He went ahead to explain how this is a man’s responsibility.
Most recently, I was discussing, with a guy friend, the sad state of the economy and why we must work extremely hard to make ends meet. He bluntly said that women need not put in much effort because they have few responsibilities. In his argument, most of their bills are paid by men.
If from the above examples I’ve led you to believe that it’s only men who have false beliefs regarding women’s roles, I apologize. Women are at the forefront of this school of thought.
In a recent social media post, I saw that the new Tanzanian President, her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan had two female Muslim bodyguards. Without even blinking, I asked my sister, “Are Muslim ladies aloud to do this job?” “Are the ladies capable of protecting the head of state?”
Shocked at my own ignorance, I clamped my mouth shut with my hand just so more stupid words wouldn’t slip out. And here I was thinking I’m liberal!
The reason behind the ignorance
The gender roles stipulate what a girl can or can’t do which has limited women for a long time. Worse, it has limited our mind and narrowed our outlook on life.
No matter how hard we strive to break the ceiling, we keep falling back on what society has perpetuated for centuries.
Subconsciously, we doubt the abilities of other women and girls who choose differently. We find it hard to separate what we’ve grown to believe about gender roles and the possibilities that the modern world has offered the female gender.
It’s time to change the narrative
Girls, ladies, women, it’s time to change the narrative. At the bare minimum, let’s change our thought system. It’s only by changing the mindset that girls can explore their talents, passions and careers without fear.
Here are three ways we can do this:
1. Expand your scope of thinking
We need to expand our scope of thinking beyond the familiar. Let’s dive deep out there and see the possibilities that tomorrow offers.
Let’s attend seminars on feminism (if you think feminism is against men, the more reason you should purpose to attend one) and women empowerment.
Let’s learn about the traditional role of women vs the role women play in the modern world. Let’s watch videos on women achievements, attend functions of high profile women and interact with women who’ve gone beyond what we thought was a no go zone for women.
Let’s open up our mind to the idea that a woman can be a president, a CEO, neurosurgeon, an analyst, or a billionaire. In all these roles, their gender should be the least of our worries.
If we are rigorous and deliberate in our learning, we can pave the way to a gender-neutral generation. We will be better placed to teach our sons and daughters without our actions or biased comments washing our efforts down the drain.
The short video below exemplifies how deep the problem runs:
2. Take personal responsibility
Be aware that most of these biases are in the subconscious. It is only by exposing ourselves repeatedly to stories and experiences that defile this belief system that we can fully embrace the work of fellow women beyond gender roles.
So make it your job to educate others. Be an ambassador in your home and circle of influence.
Empower young girls through your actions. Let them believe beyond reasonable doubt that they have everything it takes to fulfil their potential. Not even their gender can stop them.
3. Explore your potential
Nothing motivates me in life more than when someone underestimates my abilities. That will be my fuel to conquer all odds and succeed.
So, I hope that every “no” a girl gets because of their gender, they’ll have an even bigger reason to succeed.
I hope the “no” births an inferno that can only be put off by achieving exactly what everyone thought was too challenging for a girl.