Through the Eyes of Ides Ofune – Women Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Motherhood and Higher Educationadmin 24th February 2019 0 COMMENTS
Yesterday, I took my daughter to class for a PhD seminar. You see, she was recovering from a bad flu and was very clinging. Leaving her at the daycare while I was away for lecture would have been a very bad idea for her and the daycare too. The two options I had were, stay at home with her and miss class, or take her to the seminar with me. I decided on the latter. I wrote to the lecturer in charge and he agreed on the grounds that she is not too “disruptive”. I took that option, bringing as many toys as possible to keep her busy. I attended the class with minimal distractions from her and also with a lot of coos and smiles from fellow classmates.
It made me think deeply about women and education. When talking about girls’ education, we cannot separate childbearing and all its attendant challenges. As it is well established, the burden of taking care of children lies with women. In most cultures, one cannot separate women from children. I have known women whose careers and higher education have stopped in order to raise children. I wrote about my initial thoughts here. In some cultures in Nigeria where I come from, there are concerns about sending girls to school because of this same issue. Cultures and societies are afraid of sending the girl child to school because they have not yet figured out a way to raise children without their mothers present. Once a girl gets married (which definitely means she has to get pregnant immediately), the end of schooling has come.
I remember attending the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in 2015, one of the questions asked by a man in the audience was and I paraphrase “I want to marry a girl now and she said she has to go to school, please advise me, what do I do?” This question drew a lot of laughter from the audience and in my opinion, the responders didn’t give the question the seriousness it deserves. In most cultures all over the world, this is a very valid question because marriage automatically means pregnancy and the woman bears the whole burden and challenges that come with it.
There is no opportunity for maternity leave or for girls to rejoin school at the level they dropped out. Even when they are ready to return to school, there is no support for the young child. Sadly, the only option that stares at them is to drop out. In the UK, women between ages 30 – 39 have low paying or part time jobs not because they do not have the skills for the higher paying ones. One conclusion given is that women in those age gaps have started having children and they need the type of jobs that provide time and opportunity to care for the children. Unfortunately, this keeps widening the gender pay gap. It is a problem all over the world not just for developing countries or traditional ones.
There are no easy solutions of course but we need to start talking about these issues in a proper perspective. If gender inequality is to be addressed, if girls’ education needs to be taken seriously, then we must not shy away from them. Just like I concluded in my other article, we need to address women as women not as men. We shouldn’t separate issues of pregnancy and childhood care from women – they are intertwined. Having done that, maybe just maybe, real solutions will come up to address inequality. And I do certainly hope that, women all over the world who desire the opportunity to have a higher education and also have children should actually have it on a continuous basis, just as I had yesterday.