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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Friday, January 25, 2008

SPH (Strongly Pro Human)

It would surprise many that I have never read a feminist ideology book nor was I brought up in an environment or family where women, their opinions, desires and abilities were not considered as valid or important as the next human person. My first real exposure to discrimination or attempted devaluing on account of gender started outside my home after secondary school when I was thankfully pretty much set in my own stubborn personhood.

My pro femaleness is therefore not some rabid infection by foreign feminist writers but a reaction to and rejection of efforts to subjugate me as a human being on account of gender, an aberration as I am a descendant of strong independent Yoruba trading women. I extend this to attempts to limit any other human group especially the less powerful and defenseless.

The paradox is that we are very schooled people but we sometimes appear lacking in education. Thus even though we have many educated women, we very rarely display organized, strategy advocacy, campaigns and opposition to direct and indirect images, polices, laws and socio-cultural practices that limit women. This is true in other areas aside gender but I shall for today limit myself to that. For example an obnoxious bill on indecent dressing has already passed first reading in the house and if we don't quickly organize and act, they may actually pass a draconian, subjective, unimplementable but abuse prone law on dressing. Women will be the victims. This is just one. There is need for female friendly employment/workplace policies and in a gazillion other areas of life, education and family that will allow women thrive and contribute to a vibrant human community and nation. Whilst there is no bill in the house against child rape even with all the news reports out of many states scattered across all our geopolitical regions stating that girls as young as 3 are not safe on our streets any more. There is no bill on compulsory education of all children or healthcare for the elderly and young but there is a bill on dress which I hear was promoted by a woman. We dey crase true true.

Sometimes I lay awake half the night plotting strategies of how to employ private investigators to dig out the muck the instigators of such bills are trying to cover up or the fraud they are trying to distract us from or the evil cultural/religious practices they hide under false piety. That is one strategy but an even more effective strategy is to have men and women of true education and good sense to openly denigrate such a bill and mobilize into citizen groups to stop such arrant nonsense. As women are the most likely victims I expect that the loudest voices will be female hence my concern about women with enlightened worldview not being adequately represented in the media as well as many other professional bodies.

It is against this background that I am interested in the Nigerian Feminist Forum's meeting scheduled for Denis hotel in Abuja this weekend. I unfortunately got the invitation late and have tried to move mountains to attend but alas I have prior commitments in places far from Abuja. Here is hoping that a meeting like this will bring cohesion amongst pro female organizations, which will result in vibrant female interest protecting advocacy in Nigeria. I know a group of younger female journalists are mobilizing into an interest group, I fully intend to infiltrate the group and begin to nudge them into a strategic, informed and enlightened pressure group. In all of these, enlightened men of good sense are not excluded but very welcome. I often point out that we like to act like we are not part of a larger human community saying stuff like it is our culture. What culture? No 1, most of what is bandied as our culture is a bastardized, socio-religious misinterpretation of our true values and anything cultural but harms or limits the innate ability of the human to aspire and innovate is due for change, culture after all is dynamic. Until we serve notice on our membership of the human race, what is harmful to any part of that race is unacceptable. We must not continue to nanny captain cave man and his madam.


Onibudo said...

Say this is not true! When will all this bullshit stop. Where are the real men in Nigeria who are not afraid of female sexuality and power. Where are the men who are comfortable in their own skin not to hide behind pastors and Imams whose purpose are dubious. Yes I too come from women who traded and loved with no holds barred. They shaped everything the touched with open embrace of their complexity both sexually and otherwise. How is a national dress code a priority in the face of all the problems we face. Those this not truly umask the treatment of Speaker Etteh ( not totally absolving her). I am amazed at what it takes to be a strong woman in today's Nigeria. I salute una my sisters. If there is anything a group of men can do to organise please advice it will be wrong to allow this just to be a women's issue but an issue of human rights. Please send me any material so i can put it out there for people to address.

Indigenous Productions said...

"What culture? No 1, most of what is bandied as our culture is a bastardized, socio-religious misinterpretation of our true values and anything cultural but harms or limits the innate ability of the human to aspire and innovate is due for change, culture after all is dynamic. "

I totally agree with you because I always hear people talking about culture this and culture that and half of these people do not even know what their culture is. And when you dig deep enough into this culture that they are talking about (especially when it comes to the place of women) one will find that when the Europeans came they established some of these anti-women view points because they could not understand how (for example) women traders could be so influential in Yoruba politics. What they saw was so far from what they practiced in their countries that they managed to institutionalize their rubbish (saying women should not vote e.t.c.)into the Nigerian system and then we go about saying this and that was our culture.

Nigerican said...

OMG...I don't know if u've eva been to my blog but I recently found an article written by two Nigerian journalist about "dressing" that just flipped my wig (not literally lol).

I'm sooo not surprised they've found a woman silly enough to be the spokesperson for this bill. If we say we are a democracy, and want to be seen in that light… then I’ll be dammed if some men in a stuffy office or auditorium are gonna dictate to me what to wear and what not to wear. I wouldn’t mind joining the young female journalist group thingy… I’m not a journalist per say but I studied Media communications and I work in PR. Moving home real soon and I’m dieing for an extracurricular activity that will bring much needed change to our Nation. Keep us posted on that group pls!!!

Iyaeto said...

Are these people serious at all? This really takes the kokoro. Funmi there really nothing to say you've hit the nail on the head.
As for our female journalist, I think most of them write what really interests them.

For the love of me said...

What is most annoying to me is that their kids will wear whatever they like, no task force or police(whoever will be in charge of enforcing the law)will go to the galleria or palms or other places where the 'chics' go to flaunt their bodies or new clothes. It is the girl who is rushing to her shop in tejuosho or the struggling Lasu student who has to leave her unventilated room in mile 12 by 6am so she can make it for her 8'0clock class that the police will harass. As if she doesnt have enough troubles already. Eme Ekaette's children( and others involved with the bill) will wear hot pants if they choose, be chaffeured from place to place completely oblivious of the so called new law.
It is a pity walai. As for culture, I didnt realise it was our culture for men to sleep with their son's wives or to be even accussed of doing so by their children. These people in power should stop this crap and concentrate on making life better for the average Nigerian. Have we not suffered enough?

Funmi Iyanda said...

@onibudo, mai broda, jo ma bo nle di e si ki ntie re enia gidi f'ara ro. (my brother, please come visit a little so l can have some sane company).

@ all, we have said it all and sometimes l am tempted to say no more but not in the face of such wickedness because na wickedness to dey fight people wey neva chop over food. Abeg make una do research on the thing and form groups oh, my wor/ advocacy too plenti but l go find a young sisi to come gather info on this and lets do something, meanwhile make una write stronly worded opinion to those newspapers and magazines or email me, l go send them to the ones wey go publish them.
@nigerican, se you can imagine wetin our eye they see o, l no know wich can rotten woods dem take dig those "journalists" out of.

pamela said...

Dont worry action has started...

Theres already a very strongly worded response by a wide coalition of womens rights org. I got the communique in my mail... 2 days ago? I pass it on. Ill definitely be supporting whatever action proposed.

Naija Chickito said...

Incredible! This is Nigeria and not a SHARIA state! Was disgusted to say the least when I heard this and I wonder when the change will come( and it surely will, if the situation in the American politics at the moment is anything to go by)for women in this country.
But it is only cowardly men and ignorant women who seek to put women in 'bondage'. Please don't get me started!

Onibudo said...

My sista I dey come na money I dey chase make I no lie. E be like say craze don become water for Lagos and Abuja. U know sey na una be the line we dey hold tings together. A beg no tire O! For Obodo Oyinbo with much love. Keep up informed and energised. You rock.

Iyaeto said...

When somebody is called Ekaete what do u expect.Maybe an she caught her husband with some indecently dressed girls. Was she sleeping before? I bet you her daughters, nieces, sisters wear such clothes. What is wrong with these people? they're always taking cheap shots!!If she hasn't got anything productive to contribute, she should go and warm oga's bed!! Chikena!!

everchange said...

I love the idea of a nigerian feminist forum, but why is it so exclusive?

I understand the dilemmas NGOs like Baobab face, where they have to cater to the preferences of donors who would rather fund small conferences than mass movements. Still, it is disappointing that one has to be invited by Baobab to attend; and one most likely must be rich or well-known to deserve such an invitation (and all expense-paid trip at that). Is that what feminism means to Nigerians?

This is really disappointing. I'm glad there's a forum in the first place, but really it shouldn't be as selective as a high-fashion event.

Sherri said...

am not surprised the bill passed.
i hope we're not taking this sitting down o

i actually think it a good oppotunity to show what stuff the women in naija are made off.

Anonymous said...

funmi, what can we do about this public nudity bill? I have read a Ekaette's point of view and I've listened to her put her case forward. - this woman is completely clueless. amongst all the rubbish that she had to say, she was suggesting that women get raped because of the way that they are dressed???? what rubbish is that. how did this woman get into government? I want to do whatever I can to see that this bill never becomes law. What can Nigerians abroad do about this bill? I am scared of what could happpen if it becomes law... I am really scared o!