(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 10 Nov 2005)
It was not too long ago that I realised that as a woman it would be foolish for me not to take matters into my own hands when it comes to my overall well being.
Why did it take me so long for a smart woman to come to this very logical conclusion? It took so long because from a girl’s birth parents, family members, community, etc. protect her from almost everything, which makes it very difficult for her to learn to protect herself.
Frilly dresses mean mothers will protect little girls from playing in the mud – whether they want to be protected or not. Girls are protected from the heavy lifting in a house – that is left for the men. And girls are protected from would-be child molesters and from the more “seedy” side of the world.
Some of these protective measures are indeed a much-needed aspect of society. As Peeping Tom pointed out in his column yesterday, we have a responsibility to protect our young women from those who would steal their innocence. If I found one of those repulsive stalkers approaching any girl, relative or not, he’d leave that schoolyard with a lot less “manhood” than he had when he entered.
The problem with all of this protection, whether necessary or not, is that girls never really learn how to protect themselves. It is not until life has dealt them some very hard lessons that girls finally accept that as women, we have to take care of ourselves. For some women, if they don’t take care of themselves, there is no one else to do it for them.
There are so many single mothers who wait for a man to come along to take care of her and her kid(s), not realising that she has the power to do it all on her own. Society has taught her that she needs to have a man to be happy and successful, so when there is no man around she is miserable and feels like a failure.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I think it is wonderful to find a person to share your life with and who invokes feelings of security when embracing each other. However, I don’t think women should be so dependent on their partners to the point that she is unable to function on her own if for some unforeseen reason that partner is no longer around.
To a large extent, the protective measures we take to shelter our girls from the big bad world produce women who are unsure of their capacity to handle life’s tougher issues. After several attempts at dealing with the real world and failing, the resulting low self-esteem makes these women prime targets for cruel and abusive men – when in reality these ladies deserve to share their lives with men who are loving and caring.
So many times women sit idly by and hope someone will rescue them from the real world. I have to ask these women, “Why not save yourself?” Why not find a way to take the children and leave the abuser? There are places to go now for help and the police are trying to get their act together on this issue too.
Abuse is one of the most extreme cases of how a woman can take back control of her life. There are other ways too. For example, while we still need to protect our girls in the schoolyard, why not also teach them how to chase off those vile stalkers themselves?
Why not teach the girls how to shame these men into leaving the schoolyard and thereby leaving no victims to entice the menaces in the first place. This would be the best strategy at ridding the schoolyard of child molesters and at the same time teaching young women how to stand up for themselves.
Another example of how women can reclaim their lives is by demanding that society take their issues seriously. A recent report from the Chronicle cited a significant decreased availability and increased price of the female condom. As women we must have the power to protect ourselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
Do we just sit by and wait for someone else to protect us? Should we be gullible and accept the passive response that the man should wear the condom instead? This is one area where we cannot afford to be naïve because the result could mean an STD or HIV/AIDS.
So what is there to do? This is when women need to stand up and take control of their lives. Every woman who is turned away from their pharmacy empty handed should go to the manager and demand that the store start carrying more female condoms and at a lower price. Go to the highest management level necessary to demand an increased stock and lower prices.
Ladies, I know we supposedly live in a “man’s world.” But the longer it takes us to take control of our own lives, the longer women will be abused, molested, marginalised in healthcare and forgotten in the work place. We can’t just sit around and wait for someone to rescue us, we have to grow up and learn how to rescue ourselves.