Growing up, I was always told to study and to carry myself properly. If I did, I could be like Stella Obasanjo, because great men marry intelligent, well-mannered women. The then Nigerian first lady was supposed to be the height of achievements, but I had no interest in being first lady. I was more of a Dora Akinyuli fan. Dora didn’t have to go through the stress of trying to marry a president (imagine the hustle) , all she had to do was be her smart, confident, hardworking self and she moved mountains; more mountains than Mrs Obasanjo did in her lifetime. But understand this, nobody ever told me that I could be president! Not my parents and definitely not my teachers.
I was a smart girl in primary school, but all I could amount to when I put in my best effort was the wife of a man like Chief Obasanjo. This is a flaw our society very easily overlooks. We put our girls in these perfect little boxes, consciously and unconsciously. Sometimes, even without using the words, we tell them that they can’t aspire to too much, as if there’s such a thing as too much. A girl shouldn’t have too many opinions, boys wouldn’t like her. A girl shouldn’t make too much money; boys will be scared of her. A girl shouldn’t have too much success or else she’d become proud. As if taking pride in one’s achievements is a bad thing.
We want to end girls’ suffering in different parts of the world and give them a fair chance to make something of themselves. We are offering them liberation. But this liberation cannot be complete, if the mind is still in captivity; a slave to the dictates of others. A girl can be president. As the first female president in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia proved that to us. And even when it’s not a feat that has ever been accomplished, don’t discourage a girl from trying because she’s a girl.
wants needs to be told that she can be president; that she can lead anywhere so long as she’s qualified. She doesn’t need to be taught how to smile so boys will find her attractive. Every girl must be made to believe she can be all that she wants to be; that her gender is not a stumbling block.