We have seen videos circulating the Internet about African parents and how strict they can be when it comes to education and performing well in school. This is true, however there are aspects of it that need to be included in these vine/youtube comedy videos. People need to add a scene to these videos where African parents are always pushing their children, both male and female, to excel in school but put more emphasis on the males to do exceptionally well, while being a little lenient on the females due some societal norms that makes it okay for a woman to be a little less aggressive towards becoming successful.

In many African  societies, most families encourage their daughters to not aim too high. When I was in school, I was repeatedly told how the sky was my limit and I could always be better and so I grew up with this mentality that the sky was just a starting point. After a while, I began to see that this was a lie. It was a sadistic trick. As I began to write, I began to notice more things about the people around me and around the world, women are always expected to be comfortable with mediocrity. My mother always told me that if she had the same opportunities that I got, there would be no stopping her. Today, she is against my outspokenness, against my ambitions, and against my extraordinary dreams. This had me wondering; Why was I not told that my sky truly had a limit?

A woman is offered two opportunities, one of them requires her to move very far away from home, keeps her busy and will most definitely open up massive doors to her career and a successful life, the other job is a small mediocre job in a small corner office in a small corner street, this job offers the woman zero exposure to her industry and zero chances of possible push into her career goals. In most families, the woman is expected to take the mediocre job because in the eyes of the society, she will marry someone whom has been brought up to aim for the stars and once she is hitched to him, she will not want anything more. She is expected to be comforted by the success of her husband and if she possibly has any dreams, she is expected to suppress them and be happy with that. This is why I think our African societies are a fraud. Is it not a little twisted to push a child to aspire to greatness knowing full well that when the opportunity arises for her to truly be great, she would be cut off at the roots and expected to accept her fall with grace?

To the amazement of my ears, I was unfortunate to overhear an elderly woman say to a young woman, “What does a beautiful woman like you want with all that success? Any man would want to take care of you and have beautiful babies with you.” It is all jokes and banter until a woman decides to achieve for herself something that three generations of women in her family have only dreamt of achieving. That is when the true aggressiveness of African families begin, everyone begins to have an opinion, everyone begins to tell her that they truly want the best for her when in fact, they are simply afraid of what the ramifications of a successful woman could be. Out of fear and sheer patriarchy, these three generations of women have never dared to aim higher than a small comfortable life. I am not insinuating that a small comfortable life is bad, it is not, however, if a woman wants more than that and she works for it, then she must be encouraged and not reprimanded for her aspirations.

Mediocrity is rampant in African societies, or even on a larger scale, the entire African continent. Since the independence of most of the African countries, not one outstanding thing has been put in place to prove that our independence is truly for us. Dozens of countries are still working around systems put in place by the colonial masters with the mindset that “Well, it is not broken so there is no need to fix it”, so the youth grow up with the mentality that average is enough, mediocrity is a happy place, and anything more is unnecessary.

Men are sometimes pushed to break out of this mindset of mediocrity because most families want better lives and they leave it solely in the hands of male relatives, while a lot of families still instill this average mentality in their daughters. The first elected female Governor in Nigeria brought about so much controversy last month. My little sister went to buy suya and she overheard a conversation, two men were discussing how impossible it was for a woman to ever be a good governor. He even went to on to say women are known to abuse power citing the former minister of petroleum Diezani Madueke as a reference. When my sister told me this I asked her, before Diezani, how many male versions of her existed? This is why feminism is important in Africa.

I am writing this article to push a thought into hopefully, readers with young daughters/nieces/granddaughters/sisters.  As this young girl is growing up and excelling in not only school but whatever activity that would ensure her a successful and fulfilling life, tell her that she will reach a point in her life when you will become her barrier, that you will push her to work hard but eventually, you will throw all of her hard work in her face. Imagine telling a young child that, then imagine being told that.

Asma'u Shaheedah

Sometimes an Engineer, other times a writer, most times a professional friend :)


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