Today is International Women’s Day and with the above theme, I felt it was the most appropriate time to feature the story of four highly successful professionals as related below:

Mairo,  Bodunrin, Nkiru and Adesua were invited by their primary school – Borogini Nursery and Primary School – to speak at a Seminar for the graduating class, entitled, “ACTUALISING YOUR DREAM”. One challenge they shared in common while climbing the ladder to success was GENDER BIAS in its varying forms. However, they were all able to overcome it by holding on to their dreams in spite of traditional beliefs about gender roles. Unfortunately, their mothers aligned with the bias, which made it more difficult for them to scale the divide, but they overcame through persistence.

Mairo, an aeronautical engineer, experienced bias early in life. She was the last of four children, and the only female.  Although she displayed a lot of promise early in life, her parents had already decided that her education would not proceed beyond primary six for three key reasons. First, they wanted to concentrate their limited resources in giving the boys a good education. Second, as a female, in order to encourage submission to her would be husband, she needed to be exposed to the barest minimum education and third, any investment in her education would be lost when she got married and changed her name. Both parents were in agreement on this. However, fortune knocked at the door and in Primary five, she won a Mission scholarship that saw her through secondary school where she also received sponsorship for her University Education in the U.S.A. She settled in the U.S.A and is married with a daughter and a son and her experience has taught her not to discriminate among her children but rather to encourage them in achieving their dreams.

Bodunrin on the other hand, the only male among the speakers is a world acclaimed Professional Chef, having served with the best hotels across the globe. He currently runs one of the best five star restaurants in Nigeria. He recalls that he had always had an interest in cooking and milling around the kitchen when his mother or any of their live-in aunties was in the kitchen. His mother would always shoo him away with a stern warning “Bodunrin, you are a boy. Cooking is for girls and in our custom a man has no business in the kitchen. There will always be a female to cook for you”. He eventually studied Nutrition and Dietetics but remained restless pursuing cooking as a hobby, until he underwent apprenticeship in culinary  arts to fulfil his dream. Today, he churns out some of the tastiest meals served in the country.

Nkiru on her part had the full support of her parents to study Medicine. Upon completion of her degree she decided to specialise as a Neurosurgeon. To her surprise, her programme Director who incidentally was a woman, came up with various arguments discouraging her from pursuing her dream and suggesting that women are best fitted for fields like Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Ophthalmology, Paediatrics and the like. She however braved the odds and was in a male dominated class. As the only female in her class both the faculty and the students made disparaging remarks to discourage her but she emerged the best graduating student in her class. The discrimination continued even when she practised the profession until she was able to successfully carry out a very difficult and delicate surgery. The respect for her ability has since grown in leaps and bounds.

Adesua, the last of the speakers is on the National Female Football Team and had this to say. She always loved to follow her brothers whenever they were playing football as children. Her mother would yell at her and often beat her when she came back all dirtied from the falls and with ripped clothes. It was always “Adesua, you won’t kill me! What will people say? You are not a boy o. Why can’t you be like your sister Esohe, she is the perfect lady, playing with her dolls and helping around the house”? Adesua ended up with the following statement, “Of course, today, she is proud of my career and success as a footballer but it was only achieved through persistence and hard work”.

So ladies, today affords us another opportunity to put our thinking caps on while admitting that gender equality is achievable. Let us say no to our traditional beliefs and biases about gender equality.



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