I came across this tweet today and decided to pen down my thoughts. “The (highly educated, career) women whom we hope will reproduce are the ones who are NOT reproducing – Nickolas Zill @DIFI_Qatar Expert Group Meeting”.
This statement caught my attention because I was talking about it this morning with a colleague. There is just little or no support for women who are in the workplace or in school especially for those who are pregnant or with children.
As a student for example, I am expected to cater to my young child by myself and still perform as my colleagues who do not have such responsibilities. No support whatsoever from the school, the society or the government. In Nigeria for example, the longest leave a nursing mother returning to work gets is at most 4 months and after that she is completely left on her own. Really, what can 4 months do for a baby. He barely knows his mother and the woman has barely recovered from the gruelling and uncomfortable 9 months of pregnancy.
We know that the burden of taking care of children rests largely with the woman, yet no support. When I see babies as little as 3 months old being kept in creche or nurseries because the mother has to return to work, I honestly think it’s unfair and cruel to both the child and the mother – there are so many adverse consequences. From my experience working in the education sector, this among many more reasons is why some cultures don’t send their girl-child to school (It is not a valid excuse but it is worth taking a pause and thinking about it). When she starts giving birth, which she will eventually do, who will care for the children and how will it be done? I have seen many women leave work completely or not further their studies due to this challenge.
I really think that society should recognise women as women not as men. This means that women get pregnant for 9 months, nurse babies for about a year and this cycle will be repeated on an average of 3 – 4 times in their lifetime. If women are expected to contribute to the society due to the numerable benefits not just economic benefits, then they should be supported at every stage of this cycle.
The solution is not to treat women as men, or to ignore this aspect of their lives completely or women acting like super women (I can have it all at the same time and do it all by myself). From my observation, women who act like super women have an array of support behind them – wealthy partners, a great salary where they can employ as many nannies as they want, an extended family support system etc. But we know that not all women can have access to these sort of support. In my opinion, women should not shy away from something that is an integral part of them. Women shouldn’t be forced to choose between school, careers and something as natural as having children.
In creating an all inclusive and equal society that works for all and not just a few, I believe that society and the government should work together to support women at every stage of their lives especially at the reproductive years in order to create a society that works for all and not just those who can afford it.