Professor MERCY ANIGBOGU is a mentor to several women groups in universities in Southeast Nigeria. She represented women action committee coalition society education for all WACCSEFA at the Stakeholders Support Fight Against Gender-Based Violence and coordinated the state branch of the National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA) to get the State House of Assembly to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill in the state. In this discussion with OrientDaily’sADA NWANAGUM, she explains the importance of role models in the society and the need to give women opportunity to play certain roles. Excerpts
Well, Mercy Anigbogu is a professor of education in the field of guidance and counseling. I am by the grace of God, a wife, a mother and a gender activist who believes and fights for the rights of women. My main preoccupation is counseling against anti-social behaviors for better adjustment of Nigerian adolescents. I am currently a lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, a former Head of Department at the Department of Guidance and Counseling. I have headed so many groups and organizations which include Women Action Committee (WAC), Coalition of Eastern Non-Governmental Organizations (CENGOs), National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA) and many others. All these I see as a call to serve humanity which is a great part of my hobby.
I owe all I am today, in terms of my academic career, to my father, because, I remember what he told me when I was growing up. He said that l looked like a man, who has all it takes to take care of a family and that he could see me doing a lot in academics. He said this to me because, when I was growing up, each time, I would grind charcoal and will be using broom to write with it. That was what prompted my father to say that I am a woman that will one day reach the pinnacle of her career, and today, what my father predicted has come to pass.All through my life, even when I was in primary school, I behaved like an adult. When my peers would be playing, I would be busy writing stories and composing poems. In my class, when teachers are not around, I don’t play or rest just like others. I take my note book to staff room to ask questions on the things I don’t understand. Then teachers will be wondering how a small girl like me will be that inquisitive. I never realized that these things affected my life. In my secondary school days, I was behaving like a big academician in the scene that each time assignment is given, I will be pursuing the teacher to guide me on the right path, so that I don’t fail because I don’t believe in failure. All these made me to be highly focused in life.I happened to attend a mixed secondary school before I was changed to girls’ school. On getting to the girls school, they need a model and from the way I was behaving, they chose me as one of the leaders, being in-charge of other girls in the class and in the hostel. It was not an easy responsibility, because at that level, one has to battle with behavior of others and your academics. If the children don’t behave well, you will be held responsible. I now believe in working together as a team and sharing responsibilities, because I don’t like punishing or reporting anyone. So I used the methodology, unknown to me that I was even building a unique methodology.
As a matter of fact, I must tell you that the kind of academic interest my father had for me actually propelled me. He started calling me woman at a tender age and he kept encouraging me and because I don’t want to disappoint him, I pushed on to get to where I am today. He really propelled me through his words. That is for you to see the kind of parental stimuli he gave me that time.Parental stimuli are very important in a child’s formation, because it puts children in a place that will make them responsible; and I believe that when parents have their eyes on their children, those children will be responsible. I understand that children attach their emotions to their parents and once that emotion is attached, the child will never offend the parents. But, where there is no emotional attachment, they don’t care what happens; it becomes beneficial to the child. It is the parents that build the emotions, not the children. The way they motivate you will spur you for action.
Yes, it is very important to have a role model, because role models are people whose behavior influences our lives. People we look up to become like while growing up. We look up to role models in terms of discipline, academics, behavior, career achievement and other positive behaviors; positive in the sense that without positive behavior, you can never see any development. So, any positive behavior in terms of how the individual talks, how he or she carries his or herself, the way he looks and so on. It must not only be academics, because academics without morality amount to nothing.Academics go with morality and that is psych moto, which shows that every part must work together. This is what the society fails to understand. If one is intelligent, it seems you are the only person in the world and will not allow other people rest. If you are brilliant, let that brilliance influence others by the way you carry yourself, not puffing that others may run away from you. It is not a role model attributes. God makes one intelligent to help others is being humble, hardworking and focused. At my age, I don’t even know the difference between work and rest, because my role model works hard and I want to surpass him. A role model should be ready to share with others, love and partner others by giving what they have. Those who have talent should share it, otherwise, it will die. Those of us in the area of human development are now seeing, among parents, what we call anti-social behavior. Behaviors that are positive are not encouraged. Such people cannot, in any way, be role models. This is the reason why there is moral decadence in the society. Education, economic and other sectors go down, because children no longer have that patience to learn from their parents. Some grow up, ignoring their parents entirely, regarding them as old school, or analogue parents. A lot of children don’t see their parents as contributing to their change behavior. They see their parents as illiterate parents after going to school, while some deny their parents. So, in all, a mother cannot be a role model, when she is not behaving well and that is where the churches are now intervening.They are now talking to women to behave like mothers. Do you know that a number of mothers now fight with their daughters over boyfriends; and for us, the older parents cry over this kind of happenings. I advise that such cases be taken to the psychiatric hospital, because both the daughter and mother are sick. There is no more value in our society among young girls. Value is very important in our life, because it brings respect, humility and right attitude to issues. For one to be a role model, the value must come out from the way we talk, the way we carry ourselves, our comportment and relationship with people as well as the way we show our intellectual skills and the way we manage our environment.
As a matter of fact, we belong to the advocates of gender equality. Remember, I told you how my father encouraged me while growing up, making me to believe that I can do whatever a man can do. To me, this orientation made me believe that there is equality between man and woman. That really influences me. Therefore, attitude of some men to women is very deplorable. It is so bad that we needed to campaign for gender equality, because some men marginalize women a lot, may be because of culture or what have you.Women are excluded from almost everything. Even our president said that his wife belongs to his kitchen and the other room. It is not so. Women have a lot of potentials and because of the way men treated them in the past, women were relegated to the background. But you can see that if you give a woman the opportunity, they have a lot to offer, they contribute a lot to children’s upbringing. Part of the problems today is the fact that majority of the womenfolk no longer stay at home to take care of their children, but part of our advocacy is that for any woman to be a career woman, she must have 70 percent attention to the family and 30 percent outside the family. We must be that woman that can combine the two. Any woman that doesn’t have the stamina should not border venturing into something else. Finally development should be the priority of every woman.So, the way men torture women made it imperative for woman to say that enough is enough and fight for their rights. That was how gender equality came up. As a matter of fact, we are the people that led 35 percent affirmative action in Anambra State. Though, it passed in the House, it was not accented by the governor due to so many arguments but that notwithstanding, I thank our governor, because despite that he still respects that affirmative action in his appointments.
Gender equality kolanut breaking
Gender equality did not say that women should not have respect for their husbands. We say no to that. The issue of breaking cola nut is a gradual process. Before now, in some cultures, they say that women only have right to see cola nut and not breaking it. We shall one day go beyond seeing cola nut. One good thing our traditional rulers have done for us is to appoint some women in their cabinet and we are satisfied with that. If you go to some communities in Anambra State, you will understand better what I am saying. The two communities appointed women as palace secretaries.I don’t see anything wrong if women start breaking cola nut, but the agitation is that they should wait until they get to certain age.
Advice to young ones
We belong to the old generation, but what we are seeing now, we are not happy with it. The young ones need proper counseling and education and one of the things fueling these things is the social media. Social media is good, but very destructive. It has now turned women to something else. We no longer trust our fellow women, while the young ones copy bad examples. So, they need to understand psycho-social issues in life.