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Gabbie is a writer, editor, and broadcast journalist; a former columnist with Writers Space Africa online magazine.
She was shortlisted for Homevida 2017 scriptwriting competition, longlisted for the Syncity Prize for fiction 2019, as well as the winner of Writers Space Africa season two flashfiction contest.
"Our writing shouldn't only focus on the girl but also those involved in her upbringing," says Sandra Etubiebi, founder and CEO of Billionaire Writer. I heard those words live at the maiden edition of the African Writers Conference 2018 which held in Abuja, Nigeria. Being a writer, journalist, and one with huge interest in children (both the girl child and boy child), I 'bookmarked' on my Evernote app this statement that struck a chord in my head. For me, the statement should be directed at every individual in every profession and not just writers. Often times, when we try to deal with issues revolving around the girl child, we leave out those who are pivotal in her upbringing. These people are her mother, father, brother, teachers, religious leaders, and numerous others. We cannot downplay their importance because like they say, 'no man is an island.' It's not enough to teach the girl to uphold her self esteem, be bold and outspoken, go for what she wants regardless of what society would say, see herself beyond the kitchen and the bedroom; there's also the need to re-orient the people in her life because these people are the ones who would equip her with life skills in one way or the other. Giving your son the go-ahead to hit his sister for a wrong she committed-a popular act in Africa-is encouraging violence in him; telling your congregation as a religious leader, when counseling members maritally, that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is simply downplaying the value of the female as nothing more than a mere cook; allocating household chores to daughters leaving the sons out is encouraging laziness and irresponsibility which will go a long way in affecting his attitude towards his spouse in the future. Let's take a look at this situation: before my elder sister got married, she has always been a goal getter- very hardworking and diligent. She has an unflinching drive to achieving a set goal. When she bought her first car and moved into her first apartment at a young age, people, including a few relatives, told her to soft pedal on her dreams and ambitions in order not to scare away potential suitors. It sounded funny that a man would be scared of a lady just because she's quite successful. It felt like an attempt to make her pull down her self esteem so that men without self esteem could approach her. The problem here lies in the fact that boys grow up with the mentality that successful women don't make good wives; and girls grow up with the mindset that they shouldn't aim for much until married. These mindsets didn't form themselves anonymously. The people in their lives from childhood inculcated it in them. 'New Voices, New Narratives in the Fight for the Girl Child' which was the theme of the 2018 edition of the African Writers Conference brought to light the necessity in enlightening the community in which the girl finds herself. By doing so, the girl doesn't only benefit but the boy also. Michael Ian Black, American Comedian and Author, said in his opinion essay, The Boys Are Not All Right, that "Boys...have been left behind..." which might seem true; however, on a closer look, we find that it is the girl who has been left behind up to the point that even in the fight to rescue her from obscurity, she's often isolated. She cannot be strong no matter how hard she tries in a world where she's constantly reminded of her limitations because she's female. She can't aim high academically in a world where she's told that no matter how far she goes, she can only end up in a man's kitchen and bedroom. She needs every hand on deck to lift her up from obscurity. And do not forget that we rise by lifting others. This simply means that no one ends up a looser if they get involved in the fight to change the narrative of the girl child. The boys, parents, teachers and every one else involved in her upbringing would benefit in the long run. And though we might never have a happy-ever-after world, we would definitely have a better and more secure world.
EVER TRIED IT? Have you tried quenching the fire but got burned? Have you tried being a troubleshooter but turned out a troublemaker? Have you tried being a protagonist but turned out the villain? Have you tried being helpful but ended up making things worse? Have you tried sympathising but ended up the sympathised? Have you tried killing loneliness by finding company but turned out lonelier? Tried being a friend but turned out the enemy? Ever tried it? Life is an irony; a paradox. What we set out to do does not always guarantee the outcome we desire. This also relates to our dreams, goals and ambitions. There were times we wanted to be computer programmers but ended up working in banks. Sometimes, it's for our good that the outcome of our intentions are contrary to our expectations. Other times, it doesn't favour us- I wouldn't say it's for bad. In all these things, there's something to learn: how to do it better next time; what/who to stay away from; on what aspects of that thing or person you should exert your energy. If you've ever tried anything that didn't turn out positive, take this message from the results and consequences: change your approach, or ditch it if it's not worth it. Don't sit back in regret and watch your life fold up like a sheet of paper before your eyes. It's happened already. So, move on. Try better or try something else.