Gender Inequality: Scrap Women Affairs Ministry- Lady Ben-Onyekere

Gender Inequality: Scrap Women Affairs Ministry- Lady Ben-Onyekere
Lady Blessing Ben-Onyekere

 

Mr. Ben Onyekere and his wife, Lady Blessing Ben-Onyekere are a model couple to behold. Their story is that of understanding and sacrifices dotting the eyes of love and affection. There is hardly a social function one can’t find them together like twins. And it was not a surprise when Ben staged a surprise birthday get- together on April 23rd to mark her birthday. Mr. Ben, the Managing Director of Ben Electronics Company Nigeria Limited based in Jalingo, Taraba State married his wife as a young girl with only secondary education. But his love for the wife and education propelled him into investing in his wife who is today, one of the women of worth in Taraba State and Enugu their home state.

In this interview with MMS PLUS, Lady Blessing, who is a professional teacher with expertise in guidance and counselling, says ministry of women affairs should be scrapped because it contradicts the notion of gender inequality. She says women are their fellow women’s greatest foe in politics and gives home and family management guides.

She spoke with Kingsley Anaroke. Enjoy it.    

 

 Do you belong to any women’s club or association?

 Yes, I do.

 Is it a mentorship group or peer group kind of association?

I have never been a member of any peer group association. The few women’s group that I belong to include the entrepreneurship group, where we help one another, we have the mentorship group, where we motivate one another and socialize after the day’s work while assessing ourselves.

 What do you think is the role of a woman in the society or home?

I think that the woman underplays her role if only she understood what that means or the strength of her role she would not be stressing herself so much. For me, they are the engine room and we are the integral part of any serious decision to be taken in the family and the society. Yes, we may not be called upon often but when they do call our impact is always glaring.

 Would you subscribe to the belief that women’s role is in the kitchen?

No. I got married at a very young age but fortunately, I married a man who gave me wings to fly. He did not restrict me to the kitchen or domestic matters. He allowed me to aspire and even inspired me to get whatever I needed. Women are naturally multi-tasking and so can be in the kitchen while doing other things.

 So, how can women be better Leaders?

I have always told people that if I have the opportunity I will scrap the Ministry of Women Affairs. My reason is that there is no justification for keeping the ministry when we are trying to eradicate gender inequality. It is a sad reminder of gender imbalance and it has added nothing significant to the quest for gender inclusion or diversity. Just like Chimamanda Adiche would say that given the opportunity she would make the breaking of Cola-nut in Igboland to be by achievements and not age. So, I think that women should be allowed to be heard and not prompted or pushed to be heard. When my daughter got admission to study Electrical/ Electronics, do you know that the HoD asked her what she was going to do in the men’s dominated space and that propelled her to come out with a 2/1 grade . They should not keep reminding us that we are women, it does not change the brain or the strength. I appreciate the fact that the creature made the man the head of the family but he gave all of us equal opportunity. It is the society that is suppressing the woman not God. If the society allows the women to access the opportunity it offers men you will see a major shift in changes.

 Talking about society as an inhibition to women’s growth, is it socially or culturally?

I think it more of religious and cultural. My background has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate culture in Nigeria from diverse prism. So, I can talk on it. I was born in Delta State,which is South-South; I got married from the East and reside in the North- East, so I can tell a bit about the Nigerian culture and the place in this geo-political equation. In the North, it is like a taboo to allow a woman to be governor because they cannot afford to see a woman sited on a seat as a governor and prostrate before her in reverence. Emirs and elders are expected to pay her homage, so they find it difficult to appreciate. But these same people can bow before Queen Elizabeth and greet her. In Igbo culture, let me narrow it down to my village, Arum, Inyi in Oji-River, when we had the last President-General election, we had the men and the youth wings but none for the women. It was difficult for them to allow the Youth participate but women were not considered at all. Till date, Arum women are not involved in the policy making of the town. At the height of the argument on allowing women to participate in the election, a man among them let out a derogatory remark that women are unduly seeking powers. “So, if we allow women they will come and sit with us and discuss matters! What an abomination!” I could not wrap my head around that.

 This was supposed to be a town union meeting? 

Exactly!

 That guy must be a big joker. Who are your role models? 

(Laughs) I have role models in different fields. When it comes to academic and keeping the home habitable, I look at Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala and Chimamanda for my daughter; on entrepreneurship, I look at Adaora, the female banker now the MD of Zenith Bank on how she is able to manage and maintain her family values while making her career.. When it comes to socialization, I love Daizy Danjuma. I like her a lot. And I have met her one- on- one. She is a very social person.

 That is a good one- having a mixture of role models to inspire various areas of one’s life.

How much of mentorship have you offered younger ones?

I read Guidance and Counseling, so personally I mentor people. My husband will always say that I like stopping girls on the road to address them on what they are wearing. At the end of the day they become your friend. That is me for you. But for the larger society, I mentor girls in the church. Last year, I was one of the guest speakers at the National Council for Women Society events marking the International Women’s Day(IWD) in Taraba State. Once in a while they call me for Radio programme. I also engage people in counseling. My areas of concern really are young girls and boys. I believe that if you are able to catch them young they will be molded to what you want them to do.

 You engage in an informal mentorship and counseling, nothing organized yet like an NGO?

Yes, I am also the President of my town union, women’s wing for five years now. We do a lot of mentorship there.

 Why do you think is the reason many men are averse to their wives taking up politics or going into politics? Do you think it has a way of making women misbehave?

I believe that misbehaving is an individual thing. There is nothing bad in allowing women to go into politics. Some of us are extrovert in nature. For instance, somebody like me my presence is felt anywhere I find myself. So you can’t cage me and even if you decide to do that at the end of the day we all will not be happy. So allow a woman to do the positive thing that she wants to do that is impactful. When I got married newly, my husband enrolled me into a School of Nursing as a young girl. All I did was that I went to the school, took all the classes and wrote the exam and passed and gave him the certificate. I told you him I cannot be a nurse. And the only reason I attended the school was to prove to him that I can do it. I told him I like academics

 What was your first degree?

My first degree is Educational Management and Planning and my second degree is Guidance and Counseling.

 So what is stopping the Ph.D?

I am looking at next year for that. You know I am not working and I am not that push-full. It is not like I need it for promotion or anything. However, I have that in mind for next year.

 From the background so far, lecturing will be your best bet.

Yes, I have NCE, and B.Sc , so Iam a trained teacher.

 You are a trained teacher and In fact, a professional at that. Just cap it up with Ph.D and allow the world to fix the rest. 

However, what do you think about the place of women in politics in Nigeria? Would you comment on women being rigged out of elections or scandalized upon given appointment?

There are two factors holding the women down. One is money and two, the women are their own albatross. When a woman comes out for any political position, the first people to talk her down are usually the women. They begin with discussing her private life and whether she is a divorcee or not and conclude that she is a bad woman. The male folk will even be ready to give you a little push but not the women.

Secondly, our politics is dirty on quote. When the time to play the money politics comes the women need to fall back on their husbands or business associates to finance them. And they may not finance them the way they would have wanted it for impact. So for me, poverty and women’s apathy to politics are the militating factors.

 What about women being scandalized or stigmatized upon given appointment?

Let’s even look at the case of Beta Edu, the Minister, who is currently on suspension. I watched Edu’s video while partying, I didn’t see any man in that party, it was all women’s affair. I don’t want to say demeaning things about men but we see male politicians go outside their home and do all sorts of things with small girls and get away with them. This video leak is just women partying together and somebody leaked it. So most of the stigmas around these women in politics come from the same people that hang around them. If 80 percent of women is scandalized in politics check this could be from their fellow women. Women can be very jealous against their fellow women and it unfolds in degrees.

What is your advice for younger women?

My advice for the women is blunt and very simple. Pull yourself up first before looking for who to pull up. Be financially free before seeking financial freedom from someone no matter how small. There is this habit of waiting for one man you do not know from Adams to come and marry you after secondary school especially during Christmas, it is very wrong. Some of us though got married like that, however were lucky to find a good man. It is no longer like that. So, marry a man that can see the world through the eyes of the world. If I had married a man who says no don’t do anything just be in my house and do nothing, what would I have done today? All these talents would have been wasted. So we are still educationally and socially backward. Things that don’t matter are always the topic of discussion among women. I tell people that when you are empowering the girl child, empower her three lives. Empower her academic life, moral and spiritual life. Don’t just say, “My daughter is in Oko”! How is her spiritual and moral life? If you have these three things as a package you will find out that you have a complete package of a human being. It is unfortunate that mothers of this age are not prepared to manage their children and you cannot give what you do not have. A young mother comes home for Christmas and she thinks that sitting down with a bottle of beer at Nkwo inyi shows that she has arrived. Rather than engage in mentorship exercise with students, we attend all manners of burial activities to show case new clothes or hand bags and drinking. Is that what December, is all about? My advice is that we should be uncomfortable where we are. We are too comfortable with poverty! In Jalingo, where I was the chairlady for Oji-River women for years, you find women who will tell you they don’t have money for Android phones! In this age and time? You need it for business. Cars these days are no longer for pleasure, they are a necessity now.

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