benjamin abegunde

Founder, YIESMAN

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How do we unlock the potential of girls in societies that are predominately male dominated and not impose western norms and values?

Looking at non-western nations in Africa like Nigeria, and other countries how is it possible to unlock the potentials of females where it is almost taboo in the eyes of the males to "unlock" potentials like going to school for instance. Where the norm in these societies are for them to be empowered by taking up the traditional roles of girls like going to the market or staying in the house. And how do we do this without imposes Western norms and values? I am not sure if you are aware of the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria of which Boko Haram means ""Western education is sacrilege or a sin" in Northern Nigeria of which is making it difficult to input any schools.

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    Apr 16 2012: I don't think empowering women to think and become leaders is a western norm by any means. its a simple human right. To unlock the potential, you need to give them the opportunity to explore new avenues, encourage them to learn, focus more on their education, engage them, but also create awareness amongst the men that its not a BAD thing if girls have dreams and aspirations. You have to educate the mothers of girls so that they also support the education of their girl child. Perhaps it involves creating an education system that reaches out to these girls. One that at first perhaps works AROUND their daily chores...its a step by step change in the general mindset.

    I come from Sri Lanka where the vast majority of men cannot handle that I am a marine biologist, carry heavy equipment, work out of fishery harbours, lead teams of men and have my own dreams. i do something different and I am a woman. My potential was unlocked by the stories I heard and support of my family. If a family buys into it - then the girl is safe to dream and run wild with her ideas. To become someone who can change the world. Everybody deserves the chance.
    • Apr 16 2012: Asha, I loved your experience......thanks for sharing.
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        Apr 17 2012: Hi Mary!
        Thanks for that :) I am lucky. My family are my army...they are always there standing by my side....it makes a difference that feeling of safeness :) Makes you feel invincible even :)
  • Apr 16 2012: I think we need to realize that human rights and freedom are not Western specific or fully originating as so many people believe. Equality, freedom and choice for both men and women are fundamental human rights that were agreed on by most nations in the world including nations in Africa and Asia. These rights are written in United Nations declaration on human rights.

    I think the following can be done about this very unfortunate situation:

    - government and NGOs can to educate families about benefits and rights of women and girls

    - government needs to create laws that provide protection for girls. Government needs to make schooling mandatory activity (perhaps offering monetary initiatives)

    - NGOs and government also need to establish protection shelters, organizations and support network so that females have the ability to escape abusive situation if they need to

    This is very difficult tasks in conditions similar to what is happening in Afghanistan. I am hopeful that increasing access to information will allow the society to gradually transform and women succeed in becoming equal members of their society.

    cheers
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      Apr 17 2012: Hi Zdenek
      I agree and YES these simple concepts are human rights that are NOT western specific. It is just that in the west perhaps equality is more prevalent so we ascribe and even give credit to these simple concepts to the west!
      You are right - alot has to be done through the system. We need to make a change in the world. We need to allow girls to become world changers!
      • Apr 17 2012: Hi Asha,
        Yes we, in the West, are fortunate to be able to reach fairly equal status between men and women. There is still some more work to be done of course.

        I also think many ideas of human rights and equality were officially formulated in the West but again we are all humans and have the same needs, sometimes hidden underneath local traditions and cultures.

        I agree that girls and women can and should become world changers. When that will happen then we will see more peace and prosperity in the wolrd.

        cheers
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    Apr 18 2012: Innovation is what we need to solve this problem. I like this TED talk by Bunker Roy. http://www.ted.com/talks/bunker_roy.html These women are not incapable - they just had never had an opportunity before. Wonderful wonderful example of what women are capable of!
  • Apr 29 2012: This is a question that cuts close to home for those of us working in women's issues in Papua New Guinea, and I have come a long way towards believing in the efficacy of mandated quotas for political representatiom, and on the public cultural sphere, the avoidance of some of the binary logic that nonwestern cultures parrot from colonial and other imported educational and media ideologies. When people stop talking about male versus female, the gender differences, the so-called natural limitations (which are always cultural) between genders, and so forth, they begin to see difference in general as a value, and conformity as having limited use. The overwhelming conformity of traditional cultures here in PNG represent an enormous force against all of this, but part of that is because people have embraced analogies to binary logic from the west (bad vs good, female vs male, dark vs light, hot vs cold, wild vs tame), when in fact, in the past, people in different realms of a culture were often free to break stereotypes and do exceptional things. Only one way to look at this problem, of course, but it is important to see the underlying binary logic as a problem. There is an even more important argument to be made that nonwestern biomedical ideas about gender have places women in more 'wild' 'untamable' 'polluting' and 'dangerous' positions than men, and that this has fueled alot of sexism in modern nonwestern countries.
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    Apr 22 2012: This might sound a bit cynical... but... You have to make smart, and productive women, and men for that matter, sexy. We're not very good at this yet, even in our "liberated" western culture, but I like to think we're trying. In a male dominated culture, I would say the greatest tool, is to appeal to the self interest of men.

    "Do you want a woman who can teach your son to read, do math, farm, or craft? Or one that can teach him to clean and cook?", it's all about phrasing nowadays, just ignore the fact that an educated wife will raise an educated daughter. Educated Nigerian men, should make fun of one another a bit, if they won't let their wife learn to read or speak english for example "Eh, you're afraid she'll leave your dumb ass when she reads a book, aren't you?". I don't know if there are many cultures outside America where it's acceptable to say things like that to a friend with a smile on your face though... We love to make fun of each other for what might be the evil motivations behind each others actions, might not work in Nigeria. Luckily, I have one more idea for you.

    "Kill Bill", by Quentin Tarentino... Not a brilliant film... I found it fun and entertaining, but there was something very important about the film "Kill Bill" that most people really didn't understand, and that importance, was the motivation of the director. In interviews I can paraphrase Quentin Tarentino almost word for word "We have a new culture, where women are empowered as equals, and we're teaching them that they can grow up to be whatever they want, and yet when we look at our film stars, especially in action films, they are still all men. I wanted to make a movie, that a teenage girl could see, an come home thinking "When I grow up, I want to be a bad ass".

    Fantasy, and art, are the easiest places to get away with insane ideas... I reccomend a bad ass, female lead, Nigerian sci fi movie.
  • Apr 17 2012: I don't believe we, as individuals can do anything about it. But if we talk about it in the open society, and if we could gain some attention from the media, then maybe some bigger "institutions" or even FN would take it up, and find a resolution, because it's definitely a issue which is presently.
    I will recommend that the societies in non-western nations should become more globalized and due to that the norm of a female not getting a education could be removed. But something epochal should be done :)
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    Apr 17 2012: I agree with those below that a key part of the strategy for promoting the education of girls is to break the connection between the concept of universal, or girls', education and the concept of western values. Could the idea be promoted by putting forward educational models from the East rather than from the West? It is always frustrating when attaching a word to something- a word that may be irrelevant to the concept, in fact- has such political force.
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    Apr 17 2012: It is important to promote the notion that girls and women make valuable contributions to the community and should be educated so that these contributions can continue and be expanded. By framing this idea in a relevant context (e.g. a family may benefit financially from a woman's acquiring the skills necessary to get a job), it may seem less Western and therefore more acceptable. Men AND women must realize the importance of a girl's empowerment and education. In doing so, it might be possible to give girls a sense of agency and ownership over their lives.
  • Apr 16 2012: Benjamin!!! Long time no see.

    Benjamin, look, you let the girl pick the lock.

    Information/Knowledge is becoming more and more abundant......a few years from now you will have someone asking how can we keep girls from leaving their village and going out into the world to make their mark.

    TIME........it is a cure all.

    I speak from personal experience Benjamin.
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    Apr 16 2012: all we can do is to change the perspective of a family by providing them the facts of the women leaders who have worked hard to bring a change not only among themselves but also to their family and society.
    and if one family is changed it will help us to change the society and even the nation.
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    Apr 16 2012: Asha has the right of it!

    I'm running on instinct here so i'm probably kicking the soccer ball off the field.Every small village must have a unofficial Aunty,a woman of no status but can make a chief back up and sweat if roused.They are the ones who will stand in front of a child and shout a man down,the B*****H with B***s,you'll know them it's in their eyes,my people can't be the only ones in the world that has women like that.
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    Apr 27 2012: one way could go back into the oral history of their various tribal elders to reveal the time when women were held with respect and had power in the tribe - - african queens ruled and went to school - these could be bought back into memory to show that there is nothing wrong or western in the idea of liberating the girls from a entrenched male view ...women are already doing this in various parts of the world now :-)
  • Apr 26 2012: These are not western norms and values. Genetically woman are the nurturers and men are the provider/protectors.
    Woman are taking on more male roles-these are not their genetics. Yes a woman can do a standard male job but their genetics are not designed for this. It takes thousand of years for genetics to change-Not enough time has passed yet.
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      Apr 26 2012: If you're talking about hunter-gatherer times, maybe then you were right, but we're not living in those times. Job qualifications haven't got anything to do with a persons sex. There are strong, muscular woman and soft, caring men all over the world.
      A lot of jobs nowadays are actually better suited for woman, if we follow your genetic reasoning. Woman generally have a more fine tuned motor system for precise movements and are better at multitasking. There's more, but you catch my drift.
  • Apr 26 2012: well give your girls a good bringing-up with a sound knowledge of your values.Make eveything clear about what how you expect them to act in the society.But,give them education too..right from the very start of their life.give reason for every limit you set for them and i guarantee you,they will never cross their limits.This is the responsibility of every parent.
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    Apr 18 2012: I agree Zdenek!