Societal expectations within the African culture are both the best and worst thing that happened to the African woman of today. They both spur her on and hold her back. She is told the sky is only the beginning, that she can go as far as she desires and in her bid to do so, finds a glass ceiling. She is then told that she must have all the boxes, of society norms and expectations, checked before she can go any further. Like the Telco ads say, ‘Terms and Conditions apply.’
The African woman is allowed to be ambitious, but should be a notch lower than the man, so people do not see her as displeasing. She can be assertive as much as she wants, but should accept the man’s words as final. The media would rather praise her for her physical attributes first, before mentioning her intellectual abilities, while her male counterpart gets a straight-to-the-point acknowledgment about his achievements.
“You are beautiful,” used to be an ear-pleasing compliment to hear, but it’s strangely becoming a qualifier of her worth. This sad reality makes her feel that her intelligence is not enough to achieve the status and positions she has prepared herself for. The alternative seems to downplay her intellect and promote her ‘sex appeal’ or her beauty.
When single, at best, she is considered incomplete and lagging behind, at worst, she is considered cursed and/or spiritually troubled. She is also judged as irresponsible and/or not submissive enough, should she find herself divorced.
Her suggestions may earn some nods around the table, but would only be considered plausible when reiterated in a male voice. Her success story is scrutinized and society will most certain whisper that she must have ‘slept her way to the top’.
Today’s African woman knows what she wants and where she wants to get to and needs no one to lend his deep male voice to have her intentions heard. She hasn’t unlearned how to show respect because she is highly education; she has come to realize that respect is to be earned and not demanded.
She knows that she is deserving of equal conditions of service and remuneration as her male colleague, since they gained employment by the same scale of qualification. Being exploited is not synonymous to humility just as ambition does not equal pride especially in the 21st century.
She doesn’t spend long hours at work because she considers her family as a secondary matter, but because she wants the very best for her children and needs to join forces with her partner to provide for the family.
Today’s African woman is strong, determined, passionate, intelligent and beautiful inside and out. If only the world would give her enough room to rise, she will give all of herself to make the world better.