Dear Yellow Rose, you are growing into a young woman and I am sure you have heard people say puzzling things about the place of a woman in society. You might have heard people express views such as ‘the man is the head and the woman is the neck’, or ‘a woman should be seen and not heard’ or even ‘that behind every successful man is a woman’….
The message is loud and clear, society believes that women should be behind men in everything. Current cultural norms ascribe value to women based on connections to the men in their lives – usually a father figure or a husband. And so, women are typically nurtured to play up to these stereotypes and believe that it is their place to serve and support men’s dreams. Women are trained to subject their thoughts and desires to those of their fathers or husbands. Women are nurtured to believe that they shouldn’t lead and that their voices should only be heard by other woman. Women are raised to quietly accept all types of behaviour from men, irrespective of how disrespectful this might be. Society insists that a woman’s place is firmly behind a man. But this isn’t true.
Let’s critically assess this for one moment. Why should the value of a woman be tied to that of a man? After all we are all human. We all have the capacity to think and act on our thoughts. We have been imbued with unique skills, talents and experiences. We are all born with a strong desire and dreams to reach our full potential. We all have these traits regardless of whether we are male or female, so why should males have the freedom to exercise these desires and talents while females are held back and largely frustrated?
Well, breaking news! The world has been moving on since the suffragettes fought for the right to vote for women. Since that time many more women and male advocates have been pressing to remove obstacles that prevent women from fulfilling their full potential.
While many organisations and governments are working to realise equality and balance that will ultimately unleash the fullness of female potential, the battle for equality continues. However, we can make a difference in our lives and impact other women around us in the meantime. Here is how:
- Face down the limiting beliefs that you hold about yourself and your value. You are enough, you must convince yourself of this and start thinking of yourself as an equal with everyone else. You must think of yourself differently and view yourself as equally valuable with the right to reach for your own dreams and fulfil your own purpose.
- Face those fears about society’s definition of what it means to be female and embrace your own definition for yourself. Make those choices and decisions that suit you and help you achieve your life goals rather than pandering to people because you are scared of being labelled a feminist or a ‘strong woman’? Granted you may lose some people if you make some decisions, but you have one life to live and living in misery to please others is certainly not a great move.
- Start believing that you can lead yourself and others by developing self awareness and finding people who can help you understand who you are. Trusted people who value your unique skills and abilities. When I was younger I often proclaimed that I wanted to be Vice President of Nigeria. Now looking back, I realise that I limited myself to reach for second place because of what society told me about women. I don’t believe this anymore so don’t make the mistake I made which held me back for years. We have examples of powerful female leaders such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Jacinda Ardern to name a few to help smash that belief. So believe that you can lead and then lead!
- Demand respect. You are beautifully and wonderfully crafted. Gifted with a unique set of skills combined with experiences that makes you a talented and valuable human being. Own this! Do not let people treat you or other women in your circle of influence as second class citizens. Develop an arsenal of responses to combat comments that aim to demean you, and turn those moments into opportunities to help people think about what they are saying about the value of women.
- Finally, surround yourself with like minds. There are so many women and men out there who believe this- that we all regardless of physical sexual characteristics, should have equal access to opportunities that are available to us wherever we are stationed in life. Reach out to people who share the same ideology about the equal value of women and stick with them. Learn from them and fill up your arsenal with useful tools that you can use to shield of the attacks that will come. Oh believe me, they will come.
The greatest teacher Jesus said to his disciples: ‘and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’. The truth is we are all created equal in God’s eyes. We are all created to bring value to the world. The contribution of women is needed in every area of society and not just on the domestic front. I encourage you to value this truth and let this truth set you free. Good luck!
Yellow Rose LP.