Popular broadcaster and founder of Women Development Foundation, an NGO, Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede, in this interview with MOJEED ALABI, is seeking an end to domestic violence through cooperation among couples. She also speaks about womanhood in today’s Nigeria and why parents shouldn’t allow domestic aides take over their roles at homes.
Would it be right to tag you a women rights advocate?
No doubt, I believe in the rights of women, and I think I have run some activities that could qualify me to be so called. Really, even though I am no longer running my NGO actively-Women Development Foundation (WODEF), I still consider myself to be an advocate for women rights.
What were WODEF’s activities?
Well, this started around 1998/1999 with some friends of mine who we co-produced a television programme, a magazine programme for Women called “Crystal.”
During the course of producing and presenting that programme, we came across many issues that people did not know much about. Unfortunately, we discovered that many corporate organisations were not interested in women at that time, unless they were cooking, sewing, designing, singing or dancing. But that was not what we were after.
So in order to enlighten the public about these issues we needed funding and thought with the Foundation, we could get sponsorship to enlighten the public about those big issues. That was the story behind the establishment of WODEF.
What were your discoveries?
I think there were three major things that I did while WODEF was very active. One of them was that for about 15 years, I had a programme called “Rare Gems, where I found different ways of identifying men, women and organisations who could help genuinely in the development of women, which coincided with the Millennium Development Goals that to an end in 2015.
By that period, we had given out a hundred awards and so we had to leave it. Meanwhile, we also got involved in television drama, which centered on corruption, conflict resolution and violence against women.
Later on, we got involved in radio drama, which was mainly on violence against women where we highlighted core issues relating to violence against women.
We would play the drama; bring in experts to discuss issues that may arise from them. Also, more of personal than at organizational level, I have been involved in training female politicians especially in the area of interactions with the media to give them more visibility.
From your activities so far, you seem to have focused more on women abuse, but in the recent time, there have been more cases of women abusing their partners. What is your view on that?
Honestly, nobody in his or her right mind would support murder or even physical abuse of anyone. So definitely, I cannot support such things. However, it is unfortunate that domestic situations get to the point where a woman feels that her back is so much against the wall that the only way out is to do these terrible things.
But I am aware that there are many non-governmental organisations that are providing support services for women with issues and problems, and my assumption is that if more women who have issues reach out to some of these organisations that exist, we will not get to such height where some of these terrible things take place.
What is your description of womanhood in Nigeria?
Well, the role of woman has changed. The days when women sat at home and were expected to be quiet and just follow instructions as robots, have gone. All those kinds of things are now yesterday stories.
Women are now more ambitious, courageous,independent and daring. Frankly speaking, what is the point of a woman being educated if she is not going to use that education? So, I think that maybe some of the problems that we have genuinely in societies may stem from the fact that men and women largely do not understand their current situations.
You would find in several instances that the men have grudgingly conceded the leadership of the homes to women. And in some instances, women have grudgingly accepted and I don’t think neither the man nor the woman is happy in such situation.
It is unfortunate that society has made it such that getting jobs, maintaining jobs is difficult and running your own business is equally difficult. So we have to come to terms with the reality of our situation.
In addition, we have to do it in a respectful way, in a way that it does not emasculate the man, and at the same time it does not elevate the woman to the point that she sees herself to be in charge of everything, because honestly, it takes two to tango.
Many have ascribed the falling moral standards in the society to the women’s quest for independence, thereby abandoning their roles for domestic helps. Do you agree with this position?
Well, I think that before people get married, it is important for them to understand each other. It is important for them to understand each other’s aspirations and what their needs are.
This is because if a man makes it clear from day one, that he doesn’t want you to work, and five years down the line you suddenly find your feet and decides to get a job, then you should expect resistance because that is not the path you chose to follow when you met.
The point at which they should come to agreement on issues like this should be before the marriage takes place. Conversations must be held. Couples must understand that marriage is for life, not for five or 10 years. And as such, we need to observe give and take solutions, and respect each other’s aspirations.
So you wouldn’t expect a family to expend so much resources, time, money, energy, to train their daughter in school to acquire certificates and you feel such degrees or trainings should be kept under one table or in one kitchen somewhere.
That will be difficult. Really, there are job options a woman can undertake at home and still excel without sacrificing the home responsibilities. I think it is a matter of communication.
I think many couples jump into marriage with speed, without even realising that this is a lifelong journey. It depends on what each wants for his or her life. It is about agreeing on joint aspirations. What couples jointly want to achieve. Couples shouldn’t compete but cooperate.
Do you agree that domestic helps are fast taking over parents’ responsibilities at home?
Well, in some homes, domestic helps have replaced parents, no doubt about that. But I do think that both parents need to make huge efforts to spend quality times with their children, so that in the minds of the children, they understand themselves.
The children would be able to identify their mothers and fathers through the roles they play in their upbringing and not only by asserting authorities and instilling unnecessary fears in the children. There should be clear separation between parents and helps.
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