Last Friday, I had a class in a high school, it was a summer program. The students were very active and enthusiastic. In this big class, I discovered that the boys were more than the girls in numerical strength. I wondered if this had anything to do with girls’ poor access to education. My curiosity drove me to hold a discussion among these students about gender equality.
At first I asked them the following questions: what is equality? Do you think there is equality in the society? What are women’s role in the society?
A boy gave me his own definition of equality: He said, “Equality is the process whereby people would like to share their resources between two or more individuals”. These boys and girls based on their individual experiences explained what equality is, they agreed that everyone is equal, but when I asked questions about gender equality, the boys are of the view that they were stronger than the girls. A discussion on women’s and men’s role in the society as perceived by the students varies.
- Cook food
- Can be leaders in society
- Clean the house
- Teach the children good morality
- Can do what the men do
- Men have more energy than women
- Men can go to space while women cannot
- What men can do, women can do better
- Women are more populated
Obviously, some of the girls still hold the traditional image of women i.e. cooking and cleaning of the house, while several girls think that women can do all things, all the boys, except one agreed to this notion so I became more curious about how everyone in the class talked a lot about gender equality yet they couldn’t sense that there is gender imbalance in their daily lives, even within the family?
I noted from the discussion that there is a general notion that men are born to take up all the responsibilities; feed the family, make money, be strong enough to solve all the problems and so on, implying that men are superior and should be respected and that women only act as good helping hands for men by staying at home, raising children, doing house work and cooking for their families.
This is a very wrong notion because what we women are doing and what they have been doing in the past is far more than taking care of the house and the children. More so, household duties should be seen as the responsibility of the whole family so as to address gender imbalance
Another question I asked the student was, Why is it that men outnumber women as taxi or bus drivers in Lagos state? The students most especially the boys replied, “It is because men are masculine and they can handle heavy work while women cannot”. However, if we take a look at the streets of Lagos state, nearly all the hawkers holding goods on their head are women and it is only women who carry their babies on their backs all the time. This does not only require strength but patience as well.
From the discussion, it is obvious that the students’ response to issues about gender inequality stems from their experience in the home and the immediate environment. They see their mothers performing all the household activities every day, they once heard the news that a male astronaut went to the space, they observed during TV commercials that the men have masculine body while women’s body are always soft and gentle, they have always been given transformers, motor cars and toy guns as birthday gifts when they were little boys while Barbe are for the girls.
I believe no one is naturally born to behave in certain ways because of the gender difference.
In summary, there is no biological reason for gender inequality, and strength cannot shelter men from housework, they should share housework rather than devaluing it, men should respect women, see them as their equal and be role models for their children.