Train a child the way she/he should go and when grown, she/he would not depart from it. It's also found in the Bible; Proverbs 22: 6 and other various versions in religious and non-religious books, talks, articles, etc. Most times, when trained in the right way, kids rarely depart from it. Yet, what do we find in Africa and especially Nigeria with special reference to the Igbo society or race? Your guess is as good as mine. Unfairness and unequal treatment of the female child by the society including women too can be found in the homes, home towns, offices, streets, schools and unfortunately even in religions and religious spaces too.
At birth, a child should be a child- a human and a gift from God. What do we see in most parts of Africa and especially Nigeria and narrowed down to Igbos? What do we see in Igbo land in particular even if it's not glaring to each observer? The sex of the child born is of paramount interest! Always. Sigh! A male child is instantly celebrated with almost undeniable joy and content while the female child is often half-heartedly welcomed or ''managed'' by majority of parents and families. It becomes almost a crime for the poor woman if she has two, three, four and more girls in quick succession with no male child or one. Sometimes, such women are abandoned in the hospital. For some, you dare not talk of emotional care and physical care; love, kindness, respect, food, drugs, etc for such women who gave birth to a girl child or more girl children and seen as abomination by some for having no male. It is her fault and she does not want her husband's lineage to continue! This still shockingly happens in these modern times.
Of course and thankfully, there are a few loving, sensible and respectable men and homes that are not this way. Does a woman give or determine the sex of her baby? The answer is no!
It takes two to tango! It is also the man who determines the sex of the baby at the point of conception. Thanks to the scientific and biological researches carried out and taught too. He will not accept responsibility and society enables him through varying narratives to be unfortunately this way. When the woman then gives birth to a son, the man will boast that he is his father's son, Dike, Ebubedike, etc and same with those who send him boastful-enabling congratulatory messages. The woman and her male child are also celebrated. The treatment with most people and homes is just the opposite for those who gave birth to a female child.
Some few sensible and open-minded men thank God for the gift of a child given to them or to others and are truly happy- the sex of the child notwithstanding. The childless couples fast and pray that God will bless them with any child-male or female and some not religious just wish and keep hoping and working towards a child. All they wish is just to hear the cry of a baby and have one in the family.
The girl child is disadvantaged not only at birth but also, at various stages of her development. Men, women, the society, cultures, traditions and religions enable these narratives of disadvantages, actions and feelings of unfairness to continue. Unfortunately, some women are found to be the ones championing this unfairness rather than changing and calling men, youths and the society to order! In the home, the girl child from her early childhood to her adulthood, is constantly over-reminded that she is a girl, must act like a girl and be good to and for the glory of men or her future husband. Not just for the sake of goodness or for herself. Sigh! She is told to work hard and not relax like boys and made to do varying works or be domesticated. Learn to keep the home so that the husband will not marry new wives or sleep around. Phew! She is neither encouraged to be ambitious nor to build a legacy or career or hobby that is inspiring for herself so that she will not scare away men. Yet again, the glory of men and their egos and insecurities are taken care of first and pampered, rather than teaching men to be confident, hardworking, responsible and not insecure or afraid of women being an equal human being or an achiever or a great person. The girl child is constantly, and even in unspoken terms always being prepared for marriage. This is sadly almost non-existent for the male children. Often times, we hear parents especially mothers ask their daughters whether they think they will marry with certain behaviours or “who is the man that will marry you or which men will accept you or you will be chased out of your husband's house”. Again, it is all for the men. The girls must learn and do everything to please the man or the husband. Men aren't pressured, cautioned or threatened in these ways. Our society is indeed dysfunctional and suffers from ''maleness''. The Igbo society, Nigeria and the rest of Africa suffer this with deep rooted misogyny and patriarchy. To say that sexism, misogyny and patriarchy do not exist or one not enabled is to tell yourself a huge lie and also, continue enabling dangerous ways that hurt humanity and women.
Also, there is a final effect of all of the above that can be seen in most homes or societies where the family ends up giving their sons/brothers/male relatives the upper hand, male entitlements and a god-like status where they do not take responsibility for their actions, end up often blaming women for their problems and in fact, these male children are just not properly trained by parents or guardians. Some boys cannot sweep, cook, clean, tidy up after their mess, be respectable to people equally, disrespect women anywhere as seen in issues of street harassment, harassment in the markets, all forms of sexual harassment, gendere-abuses even when driving or when they realise it is a woman that is driving or owns a car, etc.
A lot of times, you hear the stupid excuses and anthems like 'boys will be boys''. Sigh! The boy is 'allowed' to be lazy and untidy and even when married, continues to be so and also, feels afraid of accepting monetary contribution from his spouse while looking down at such or getting angry that the spouse demands he helps or rather does some work in the home. Women are not slaves! He will even tell his wife to flush the toilet even when there's already water or leave her to do these almost on daily basis amongst other chores.
When a lot of men complain of being tired washing and cooking or unable to do so, their family, relatives and friends immediately say they need a wife or need to get married. Sad indeed. You already know how the new wife will be seen or treated and most girls pressured to marry will also be okay to be treated terribly so long as they answer ''Mrs'' and please the society! Very unfortunate view of what women and the girl child are seen only for by others. The need for love and marriage should never be seen as a necessity where the woman is seen as a secondary, second class citizen, a servant-status, treated as such or seen to be the only need. Basically, the true understanding of love and marriage are not received by men and families who treat women and the girl child this way. Boys should be well trained and if not, when such ''precious son'' marries a well trained, groomed, confident girl, he, as usual expects the girl to be at his beck and call; be sub-human, be like or a slave, servant and what have you. Being a wife, companion, partner or spouse becomes secondary. His word or opinion is order and he is the judge, jury and God. Before we all know it, mental, psychological, sexual, violent and physical abuses become a frequent issue in that home. Know that these are also crimes in the face of the law and also, humanity. Also, know that women can also be abusive and men victims but the point is that a lot of times, with or without reasons, women are always the victims of abuse.
All these contribute to the high number of separation and divorce cases apart from issues of infidelity, fraud, intrusion from in laws, etc. Earnestly, rather than endure continuously or manage such maltreatment, depression, injustice and even murder or death from ill health, it's best such victims move on or walk away from such unions. Many of our educated (even some uneducated), sensible and groomed girls will have none of these unfairness and bad attitudes from men or their families. Some manage for a while but the bold take a walk! They wont even want to be told to leave their matrimonial homes or thrown out. They leave themselves for the sake of their peace of mind, sanity, self love, self preservation and so much more. Brilliant and logical in my opinion. They are not ready to constantly clean after other people's mess and be constantly treated with disrespect or made to feel like servants rather than a companion, loved one, wife or partner. Fathers, mothers and guardians should take note of these new trends and issues and also, prepare their sons for basic issues in life generally and also, for marriage! If couples are together in their marriage, they should train up the sons well, hand-in hand and equally as the girl child and not leave it all for the mothers alone to do. If they are separated or divorced or single parents or guardians, then whoever is in charge of the children-no matter their gender or situation should train them up properly and equally! We can't expect a miracle in our society when the society itself is a huge, sick enabler.
Still on issues of unfairness and gender inequality, look at the varying widowhood practices happening apart from cutting of hair and wearing white. Thankfully, some hometowns no longer indulge in these practices or pressure women or make them feel ostracised just because their husbands died. Men feel no pressure or get these treatments. Some women are made to sit alone or bathe in rivers or swear or drink the water asked for wasting the husbands corpses or... There are many examples still currently happening. Even when getting married, there are still treatments seen as different and questionable from the paying of bride price to fighting for it even when families or couples say they do not want to indulge in it to requesting for several items and materials to disrupting marriage celebration or get-togethers. There are so many things that happen that should not be so as we know women should be treated as complete humans and enabling attitudes done away with.