The 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy was supposed to consolidate the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) vision of a prosperous and peaceful world in which women, girls, men and boys enjoy equal economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, equal empowerment to secure better lives for themselves, their families, their communities and their countries.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that “vision” except that we should begin to implement its recommendations and talk less about it. Indeed, we seem to talk too much about equality but we practicalize very little. We talk about women “emancipation”, a term that is often associated with women’s current value for freedom from legal, political or social restrictions, which is inextricably linked to efforts to set women free from all types of bondage and socio-political and economic exploitation. And we are supposed to ensure freedom of self-fulfillment and self-development for women, as well as equal access to domestic and community resources.
The global clamour for gender or sexual equality appears to have now come to a level where equality in access to resource control and opportunities has become prevalent in our social way of doing things and taking decisions. The clamour has been long and persistent and that is the reason we are where we find ourselves today.
From the days in the 18th century when women in the more developed democracies were denied the right to vote until now that women occupy the most exalted positions in banks, education, telecommunications, import and export, politics, aviation, marine, oil and gas, agriculture and food distribution, tourism, real estate, religion and other areas of human endeavour, the desire to keep hammering on the need for equal opportunities between men and women has continued to dominate our sensibilities.
There were days when the man did all there was to do to support his wife and children. The man had to work very hard to feed his family and to train his children at school or in some trade. The woman looked after the home front. She made sure there was food on the table for her husband and children to eat when they were home. She made sure the house and its environs were neat. She made sure she was obedient to her husband and the husband discovered he had no option than to love his wife as a consequence. And so, the entire family experienced the joy of family life, devoid of manipulations and scheming.
Obviously, there is no doubt about this continuous struggle against what could have been rightly or wrongly regarded as male chauvinism, a case of men dominating most of the spheres of human endeavour which in some instances was seen to have translated into seeming discrimination against women, against gender equality and supposed relegation of women to secondary statuses in society. This perception invariably engineered strategies by individuals and organizations that geared towards women emancipation and women empowerment. The result is that today, there appears to be a power tussle between men and women and this is, unfortunately, taking on a global dimension in which schemes, machinations and manipulations have all become ready tools in the struggle.
Today, it appears we have lost the gloriousness of those ‘good old days’. And frankly, I think this should be the worry. How did we come to where we are today?
The truth that many people didn’t know or they were under-estimating its impact on our contemporary society was that traditional families and their values were under very serious attack by the so-called modern families of step-this and step-that. Today, what we see in Europe and America is just the beginning of a social revolution that would eventually put the world in a condition of total confusion.
A few years ago, I read an article in Time magazine written by Kate Stelnmetz and titled “Beyond He or She”. Kate spoke glowingly about how America’s new generation had now redefined the meaning of gender. She narrated how a growing number of young Americans had moved beyond the idea that we live in a world where sexuality and gender come in only two forms – male and female. These days, they not only have lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender [LBGT] fighting for equality in law, they have recently added the queer gender group to their listing. They even argue that LGBTQ people who were able to blend in with societal values were gaining more respect.
Strange as it might seem, the kernel of the matter was that this entire saga was part of the problems of “political correctness” our politicians fostered on the society. In the ideal sense, there should be nothing like sex equality because men and women were not created to compete with each other, but rather to complement each other. At least, we know that there are things men can do better than women, and things women can do better than men. By complementing each others’ efforts, they are made more complete in their search for fulfillment and success in life. But when they are in competition, there is a different narrative to tell. To that extent, world leaders need to get back to the drawing table and reorder our societal values.
If we take a look at the story of Esau in Genesis 27, we might have an insight into the type of devastation a woman could cause in an attempt to “square up” with her husband.
Isaac was an old man whose eyes were so weak that he could no longer see lucidly. Isaac called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son, I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”
Now Rebekah, the mother of the twin brothers Esau and Jacob was listening as Isaac spoke to his older son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her younger son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”
Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”
So Jacob went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.
He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied. Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied. Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”
Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness — an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”
Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”
Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”
Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
The question we should address is: why did a wife and mother decide to fool her near-blind husband, betray her older son and manipulate her husband to bless their younger son rather than the older one the man had wanted to bless? There was no indication that Esau had any earlier misunderstanding with his mother. There was no narrative of him disobeying his mother or disrespecting her at any point in time. But there we are and no explanation was proffered except the lame claim that even before the twins were born, God told Rebekah that the younger twin would be greater than the older twin. God said the older boy would serve the younger boy.
This might explain why Rebekah favoured Jacob and why she wanted to be sure that Jacob received his father’s blessing in place of the older son for whom Isaac reserved his last blessing. The truth was that God could not have said to Rebekah what she claimed God said to her and in the same breath encourage her to steal the blessing of the older son. What she did, in plain language, was theft. She stole Esau’s blessing and gave it to Jacob. That sort of act could not have been ascribed to God because God would have known how to compensate Jacob if that was His desire. In line with this, the Bible clearly teaches “thou shalt not steal.” So, if it was not God who sent Rebekah to steal the blessing reserved for Esau by his father, the only rational reason for her to do what she did would be that she wanted to square up with her husband. She wanted to see him lose. In a sense, she must have seen herself as competing with her husband. Otherwise, were she complementing her husband’s blindness, the narrative would have taken a different slant. It was that seemingly simple “smart” act of an insensitive woman that created the frosty relationship between Palestine and Israel today, a relationship that has defied global solution over centuries.
This desire of women to be equal or even superior to their men folk is part of the reason there is a proliferation of single mothers all over the place. In African countries, the young mothers are basically those who dropped out of school because they were financially constrained. They do all kinds of menial jobs to survive, if even such jobs are available. They work as petrol filling station attendants, as servers in hotels and fast food joints, as sales girls in shops, as nannies in homes and so on, if such jobs are available. But most times, there are no ready jobs and they find it extremely difficult to feed themselves, not to talk about maintaining their children. And so, these children are thrown into the streets as soon as they are in their teenage years to go “find their way” as the locals would say. By the time anyone knows it, these children have joined cults and graduated into drug users, kidnappers, armed and bank robbers and what have you?
That is how our society has continued to degenerate from good to bad and from bad to worse. It is how security has continued to elude the society and people no longer feel safe even in what would normally have been the comfort zones of their homes.
Global leaders owe it as a duty to halt this erroneous “understanding” in the world today that men and women must be equal in every sense. Even parts of our bodies are not equal which is evidence that God did not create everything to be equal. Our fingers are not equal. Our lips are not equal. Our toes are not equal. Our hands and our legs are not equal, and so on. Rather than this unending clamour for women emancipation, women should concentrate on what they think they can do best and shine in them. I find it difficult to believe that if a vacancy is advertised and men and women vie for it, and a woman takes the first position, she would be sidetracked because she is a woman and the job given to a man. I don’t think that happens. And so, to that extent, the clamour for women emancipation, gender equality and stuff like that are obsolete and absolutely unnecessary.
Our world leaders have a duty to redirect the trend that is always calling for equality between men and women. Men and women should not be competing with each other. They should be complementing each other in a bid to be more wholesome and more fulfilled.