I was listening to some of my favorite songs today. Yes, after a session on creative writing with occasional writers, confirmed ones and under- shower-singer-wanna-be- writers, I came out with this song of the King of Pop: “They don’t really care about us“.The refrain of this controversial Michael Jackson’s song was coming back to my mind every single minute until I promised myself to not sing it again. The lyrics are so real when you take it in the context of women’s rights in Africa.
“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us”. Who are they? The state, the community, the markets. This leaves us to our “self”
First the African states says Malika Benradi, a researcher and women rights activist from Morocco. In a study she conducted, she came up with a sense of ignorance and neglect of women’s rights issues from the different states in Africa. In her analysis, all states can only be divided in two groups: those who ignore us and those who hijack our needs and messages for their own purposes. I will not name them here.
Secondly, the market and financial world. Women are the most influential people when it is comes to money. The majority of us do not have it, having been raised in a society where we are not supposed to worry about having money for ourselves as we are promised to be protected by a man, fiancé, husband, boyfriend or brother who will be kind to us and work hard to fulfill all our needs.We don’t own our own money even when we wake up every day at dawn and go to farm, run our clothes shop or clean the toilets of the community hospital in our town.Even when we spend 8 hours in the labor room during childbirth. The doctor and the nurse are paid, but not us.
Our men are still expecting us to bring their “our” money so that they can decide what is good to do of it. Worse still, while we are in charge of running the households with the stipend they left to us, they don’t really care about teaching us the basics of economy and finance, how to buy and sell currencies on internet, how to decided which investment is better, … Is it really different from buying clothes in Dubai in the Emirates or Guangzhou in China? If we succeed in one we can also find our way in the second.
I don’t even talk about them opening their enterprise board to us. This will be like being forced to show us how much they earn? I can hear from here some of my Nigerian male friends saying “abomination” when the Congolese ones will add :”over my dead body”.
Then you have the community. They know that women are half of their population. They know that they can’t grow without half of their working force. They know they can’t go anywhere without those who bare their children, educate and take care of them on a daily basis. They just can’t cope without us so they keep us close to them. They control the way we dress, our sexuality, our behavior and they think they can even control what is in our mind.The fact is when they are confronted with a changing situation, they just go back to what their patriarchal power have settle for years: religion, traditions, etc.
But now I’m asking myself, all these people. Don’t they know that they way you treat women is the measure of your development? Surely, development goes hand to hand with respect of women’s right.
I learnt something today from the sista from Morocco: it takes modernization to accept that women are just human beings with full equitable rights as men. Not modernity. We are talking about modernization here.
They know that they can modernize many things in their country, they know that they can gain more in granting to women full recognition of their rights. But you know what? They don’t really care about us.
Now the last chance is us. Our “selves” . Do you care enough about us to say enough is enough? To say now you have to listen to me?
Sometimes we have the impression that nothing has changed since we started this business that some people called “struggle”. In reality, many things changed. African women are raising their voice, are taking the space and forcing others to acknowledge that we are here. And we need to continue the pressure until they do care about us and our million needs.