Friday, March 09, 2007

Appreciating Women’s Contributions to Development

My new favourite newspaper, Business Day, yesterday ran an editorial titled Appreciating Women’s Contributions to Development, which celebrated the immense contributions that women have made to the world economy. While honouring women in this way, BD stated that unfortunately this increased participation in the labour force has had a detrimental effect on family life.

"It is widely accepted that the family life is the nucleus of the society; and women are the very bedrock of the family. Hence women’s participation in the organized labour force invariably robs the family of the much needed care and attention it deserves from the mother. Some renowned social scientists have ascribed this development to the increasing social decadence that is pervading societies around the world. Nigeria is no exception, as crime and violence seems to be threatening the very social fabric of the society."
A very alarming statement, in my opinion.

The editorial ends with a call to the public and private sectors of all countries, especially Nigeria, to
"formulate and implement policies aimed at taking the domestic responsibilities of women into consideration so as to allow enough time to alternate and take responsibilities on both fronts."
When I started reading the write-up, I was pleased. Anything that celebrates women is a generally a good thing, in my book. However when it turns out to be a slightly backhanded compliment, there are obviously some problems to address. First off, I believe that many people are of the opinion that the world is becoming an increasingly more violent place – although times gone by were exceedingly dangerous with little of the rules of law, which we have today. However, to try to paint the picture that, in essence, this is as a result of women working is rather over the top.

I am a firm believer in women and men working together for social and economic development, and I would have loved for the editorial to discuss how greater cooperation between the sexes would lead to more efficient results. Wanting policies that give women greater flexibility to manage a career and a home is in itself not a bad thing, but it appears to excuse men from any home or family-related responsibilities. Maybe the editorial assumed that men would help out naturally, though judging from what I see going on in our society, I would say not.

Articles like this only help promote the idea that women should be supernormal i.e. Superwomen. Yes, many women are blessed with fantastic multi-tasking skills, but it’s usually because we have to be able to juggle a multitude of tasks at once. Last year, I blogged about how worried I was that I would not be able to live up to this expectation (where's my cape when I need it?). I still am, but I am determined not to worry too much about it. My future partner will have to truly partner with me in looking after our family, and I will support him with his career as I hope he will mine.

Now, I wish that the Business Day editorial had chosen to promote what should a symbiotic relationship, rather than placing, yet again, more pressure on already over-burdened women. This would have presented an alternative model to the traditional view of women as superwomen and served as a good model for harmonious and complementary gender relationships.


Everchange said...

It is quite telling. I've noticed that when a journalist/newspaper writer claims that unnamed "renowned social scientists" supports his viewpoint, he probably doesn't know what the heck he's talking about. Seriously, what renowned "social scientists" in the 21st century are claiming working women are the cause of social decadence? That would be the best question to ask such a person. Does he have any facts, or is he just mouthing sexist bs.

uknaija said...

Did you send this post to Businessday as a rejoinder?

Ore said...

No, uknaija. It didn't occur to me to. Maybe I shall.

obyno said...

I always hold my nose when I read in a Nigerian newspaper of "sources", or "informed sources". Like everchange, I become so skeptical. I begin to distrust the message.I usually attribute this 'knowing oversight' to the laziness which breeds a telling lack of imagination in a lot of people in authority in our country. Maybe I notice this only because people like the said editorial writer, live mostly in the public's cross hairs and as such their frailties are usually writ large for the world to see. However does not the word authority suggest a certain mastery of one's environment? Maybe not in the absolute, but to an extent sufficient enough to explain phenomena without inventing a Voltaire here and a Soyinka there, all wearing masks? Every respectable and self respecting writer must necessarily credit authorities whose conclusions they agree with and are using. It is not only good manners, it is also prudent. The first to let others realise that your scholarship has depth, the second to absolve you somewhat of inconsistencies.
And so many inconsistencies there are in the vague attribution that the decomposition of the once tight nuclear family, leading to increased violence in the world, can be traced to women throwing overboard their aprons and rolling pins and then shifting off to work.
If my history serves me well the so called hundred years war was fought out in Europe of the 14th and 15th centuries when women were hardly regarded above slaves in that the offspring they bore could inherit. They were the props and chattel of their husbands and as such couldn't even dream of leaving home. And all the wars of Napolean Bonaparte? Then the balkans of the 18th and 19th century? The invention of radical anarchism? The world wars fought while women still fought for universal sufferage? And the current trend of Islamic resurgimento and radicalism? Come on, violence exists because there are people unenlightened enough to further it. It existed long before women started living their lives on several fronts. We are violent because in the short term, we can see the profit in violence.And until we no longer 'can't', it shall remain with us.