All these are terms that are used to represent women as shadows and extensions of their husbands, but there are no similar titles for men. One doesn’t hear:
From the homefront to the work place, the story is the same: no matter how qualified, married women become shadows of their husbands, sometimes while doing more than their husbands. This is wrong.
It is wrong because it attributes a woman’s worth to her marital status and to her husband.
It is wrong because it doesn’t give full attention to the woman’s contribution outside of her connection to her husband.
Yet, so many in Nigerian culture agree that marriage enhances a man’s chances at success as he now has someone ‘behind’ him. In other words, the wife is the wind beneath his wings.
Well, if the wife gives the impetus for success, why isn’t the wife recognized in her own right? Why does the wife still have to take the full measure of her existence and worth from her husband if the husband is the one benefiting from the support of the wife?
Many Nigerian families struggle with poverty simply because a woman’s success can not exist outside of her husband’s. In other words, the home must be seen to be succeeding based on the efforts of the man and not the woman. Therefore, if the man isn’t successful, the woman should not be seen to be successful either. A woman can only walk in the shadow of her husband, not outside of it, as this would detract from the man’s honor.
How many men have prevented their wives from ‘trading’ in local wares such as produce and ‘provisions’ because it would embarrass the men? No. It is better that the family struggle in secret until the man can find the way to make it work.
On the other hand, if the man finds the way, he must receive the uncontested support of his wife, despite the fact that he is not required to give her the same support. In fact, she should have no career except he says so.
This practice of women living in the shadows of husbands robs families and societies of the contribution of women and weakens families and such societies. Denying women of their worth except it’s tied to a man’s effectively says women don’t matter in families and society and this is exactly what happens in many tribal homes where the women cannot speak into and influence matters that affect their immediate and extended families because they are not men. Yet, if behind every successful man is a woman, wouldn’t it benefit the families and society more to put that woman side by side the man? To let the woman exercise her God-given abilities to lead and manage according to her skill set, rather than impose limits upon the use of her abilities, recognizing them only as far as her husband is willing to employ them for his own benefit?
African women are incredibly industrious and hardworking, yet there’s very little done to grant them access to capital for businesses; little or no access to academic or skills training scholarships. Instead, families still tie a woman’s development to a man’s: marry and let your husband start a business for you; or marry that man to establish your independence.
African women are incredibly intelligent, industrious and hardworking and it’s time the African community started focusing on developing the independent skills and talents of African women by making provisions for women to be seen, heard and celebrated without attachment to men, because investing in the development and recognition of the contributions of African women will unleash in African nations, the same power that aids men to success on the family fronts.