Nigeria-born Cheemamanda Ngoji Adichie is a well-known writer and woman activist. After his initial studies in Nigeria, Adichi went to America for higher education. Last year, Time magazine included her in the list of hundred influential women in the world. Here is excerpt from one of his speeches-
The meaning of feminism
As a child, I used to have a strong friend. I used to tell him everything in my heart. We often debated on many issues. One day during a similar debate she told me, you are a very feminist. There was a complaint in his tone, as if you were saying that you are a supporter of terrorism. I did not know the meaning of feminism at that time. I continued to argue. Later, when I looked at the dictionary to understand its meaning, I came to know that those who fight for women’s rights are called feminists.
A few years later I wrote a novel. In it, I told the story of a woman who was a victim of her husband’s atrocities. It was prominently included in the list of atrocities that the woman’s husband used to beat her every day on something or the other. This novel was well liked. Then one day a journalist came to me and said that he wants to give me a good advice. She told me that people consider me a ‘feminist’ and there is no place for feminism in a country like Nigeria. The journalist also told me a new definition of ‘feminism’. She said, ‘feminists’ are women who are not married and who are unhappy with their lives. I laughed listening to him. After this I started calling myself a happy womanist because I did not want people to consider me a sad woman.
When I was nine years old. Both boys and girls studied in my class. One day my teacher said that the child who comes first in class will be made a monitor. It was a big thing to be a class monitor. I loved standing in class and supervising the rest of the children, scolding them and writing the names of the noisy children on the black board. I worked hard and came first in class. It felt like now the dream has come true. But after the result, the teacher’s attitude changed. He said that the class monitor will become a boy. Girl cannot be a monitor. I was disappointed A boy who came second in class was made a monitor. The interesting thing was that the boy was not fond of becoming a monitor. He was not at all interested in leadership like me. But he was given the responsibility of monitoring. I never forgot this twinge of childhood.
When I grew up, I had to bear such discrimination all over the place. Some time ago, I went to a hotel in Nigeria. I was alone. The guard at the gate stopped and questioned me. It was quite humiliating. I strongly opposed it. Actually, if a girl goes to a hotel alone in Nigeria, she is considered a sex worker. Ironically, they catch female sex workers but never punish those who take the services of sex workers. Not only here, in any restaurant, the waiters never greet a female guest by mistake. You may find this thing small but it is not easy for a self-respecting woman to bear it. I remember, whenever I went to the restaurant with an acquaintance, the waiter greeted him, but ignored me. He even thanked my male partner instead of thanking me for giving me a tip after eating. These small things made me a feminist.
God has given equal qualities to woman and man. Yes, there is a difference between the two in physical structure. Men may be physically stronger than women, but they cannot produce children like women. Nature has given only the boon of fertility to women. Physical strength, however, has nothing to do with ability. Competence means intellectual development and creativity. Women are no less than men in intelligence and creativity, so how can society discriminate against women? I proudly say that I am a feminist because I strongly oppose such discrimination.
I think if we stop discriminating between son and daughter in our homes then society will change automatically. If daughters get equal opportunities for education and progress, they will grow up and change the picture of society. It would be good if we teach our sons to respect women since childhood. Tell them that girls are no less than them. On the other hand, daughters have to be convinced that marrying only and becoming a good wife is not the only goal of their lives. They also have the right to become ambitious like men and to beat everyone in the competition. Why do we pressurize daughters to make agreements to save their marriage and maintain peace of home. Why should daughters abandon career and progress in the name of compromise? Why don’t we give this lesson to sons?