As young women, we grow up with a lot of things. We just do not understand, but we are obliged to do so because our mothers did it; our grandmothers did it; our great grandmothers did it; and, to an extent, we are made to believe that our ancestors did it.
I am talking about how women are made to “act or behave” in a certain way in society just to be accepted. In our Ghanaian society, there are some preconceptions that we have about women.
For instance, women have to dress in a certain way to be seen as responsible. Women have to be bound in the kitchen despite the fact that they have eight to nine hours’ jobs. A young woman who is above some age limit is useless if she is not married with children.
In all these, let us take a step back and ask ourselves some questions as women or people in a social world. Who made these rules that have become a guide to judge how we should behave? Are these “rules” the only thing that defines a woman? Are these “rules” the benchmark of how women are treated or presented in the social and working world?
These are a lot of questions that young adult women must seek answers to. The benefit of getting answers to these questions, I believe, will give women a new understanding. It will define who we are, what we are capable of, and the things we can achieve when we make our own rules.
It is, therefore, time we analyse this benchmark that has been set for women to follow and ask ourselves whether it is even worth it, or should be the criteria to define a woman. Let us dig in to understand these things.
The “worthless” baby mama
Unfortunately, we consider women in society who due to some reasons have children out of wedlock as worthless and incapable of achieving anything. This can be traced back to our mothers and cousins in the rural areas where some negative cultural practices are still held relevant.
In our Ghanaian culture, a child born out of wedlock is considered as illegitimate, and the mother does not hold any respect or value in the society. We are in the 21st century, but this ideology still stands, with effects in so many ways. Some young women have the idea that when faced with such issue, then all their dreams and aspirations have been shattered.
However, I would like to challenge such beliefs and ideologies that people hold. Children are blessings to the family and the nation as a whole. Having a child out of wedlock is not a crime. Although, it could be disappointing, it should not stop you from realising your cherished dreams, even when you have a child without a father.
For example, some young girls have stopped schooling, quit chasing their dreams, and started seeing themselves as unworthy in the society just because they have children.
That notwithstanding, there are some prominent people in society, particularly women and single parents, who have challenged themselves to reach greater heights in the political, economic and social life.
Exceptional single mothers
A typical example of a single mother who is making it in our world is Cathy Hughes. She is the first black American woman to own a radio station in the USA, which was ranked as the number one in many trade markets in America.
Another powerful single mother to consider is Melissa Kieling. Melissa got divorced in 2008, and without any work experience had nothing to provide for her three children. When her children started complaining about how their fruits got mush in their lunch boxes, Melissa came up with the idea of inventing insulated lunch boxes, which addressed the said issue. Currently, Melissa has a company that invents lunch boxes and can make an annual sale of $6 million.
In the Ghanaian context, Nana Aba Anamoah can be mentioned. She is a Ghanaian journalist who is making it in the media space. Although a mother of one, Nana Aba has worked hard to prove herself deserving of every adulation in the media fraternity.
The next to look at is Jackie Appiah. She has been in the movie industry for more than a decade, and having a child did not stop her from achieving her dreams. She is now one of the most renowned actresses in the country. This also paints a picture that having a child out of wedlock or being a single parent does not make you worthless or incapable of achieving great things and fulfilling your dreams.
It is time we moved away from such preconceptions and ideologies which are outmoded, and dwindle our drive to break boundaries and achieve whatever we want. As women, whether single parents or not, we are still valuable to cause social change.
There is more to a woman than what we grew up to know. The days when women were subjected to a lot of things, including not being allowed to ask questions, are history.
Enough of society pushing women to the corner of the room because they are capable of more things than they can imagine. There are a lot of things and ideologies that women have been told to follow, which end up enslaving them – from the “slaves in the kitchen” to “slaves in marriage” and even “slaves at our work place”.
All these are ideologies that we have been subjected to since infancy, and we are asked not to question it since some of our parents keep telling us that is the purpose of women in this world.
But I believe our Creator had more for us than to stay back and take care of the house. Do not get things twisted; I am a strong believer, but there is more to this quote than what we have been told. Agreeably, it is woman’s duty to take care of the house, cook for the family, but the kitchen is not their only preserve.
The normative ideology about the roles of women in marriage has undergone massive evolution and transformation as culture, religion and even politics have. Women have transformed what the true definition of whom a woman is.
Challenging the status quo
Women have escaped the dominating and domineering clutches of men. Women have challenged the status quo and have fought for their place in society. Some women have become so industrious that dependency on men is barely in existence.
Some women are their own men. Some women are independent. Anita Erskin, Joselyn Dumas, Peace Hyde, Nana Aba Anamoah, ad infinitum, are icons of this transformational womanhood we have in our part of the world.
Women can achieve more than what they do in the kitchen. They can explore more in the social world, business and every aspect where their desire lies. It is beautiful to be married. Anytime I see married couples I also yearn for it to get to my turn when I am ready. But do not be a slave in your marriage.
We must learn how to walk away from abusive relationships/marriage. Being able to tolerate an abusive or toxic marriage does not make you a better wife or woman; rather, you are subjecting yourself to pain, low self-esteem, and you are pushing yourself to early grave.
There is no reason to quit a beautiful marriage when it makes you very happy and you feel secure about it. Dear women, let us remove our slippers, hold them close to our chests, and run away from toxic and abusive marriages.
As women, we should be guided that at the end of the day happiness must be our priority. Let us create a better world and become better versions of ourselves.
The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org