I have a friend, let’s call her Wonder Woman. She and I with our other friends usually have chill sessions, and we talk about an assortment of topics and it usually ends up with us discussing our life goals. Somehow, we cannot avoid the topic and it comes up more often than I care to mention. She, with my support and agreement always ends up saying her life ambition is to become a house wife. Some look at her in shock, others laugh because they believe she is being comedic and others blatantly dismiss her, because she clearly does not know what she wants.
Wonder woman (lets refer to her to that for the rest of this article) is a founder of a nonprofit that helps youth and children and pushes to improve education holistically, she volunteers for another tutoring program for high school students, she managed to do this while she was unemployed despite the challenges of demotivation and lack of funding. She now works in an established banking institution and previously worked for various organizations of repute. She has been selected to attend conferences and fellowships, she has been invited as a contributor on media and various online platforms awarded various accolades during her study, a published author, a radio presenter, and a loyal friend. Wonder Woman still also wants to be a house wife.
I believe the problem we have with the ideals we espouse to women especially in the context of growing need for gender equity and the agenda to advance the rights and choices of women, we are quick to decide what that looks like for women. I think in the agenda to empower women, we should not create a cookie cutter ideal or definition of what that empowerment looks like. Having known Wonder woman for some time, I know for the most part that she is not the type to do something because of societal pressure or cultural norms, nor has she been denied opportunity outright because of her gender, even if that was the case, she would not take it lying down. She has informed choice about the trajectory she wishes her life to lead. That should be the agenda, the goal. To give women the choice to decide what empowerment looks like for them in every form. In pushing, advocating and championing women, it shouldn’t be something we think is the ideal woman. All women are ideal. No matter what they look like, what they do or what they believe. Whether it be more well-known figures like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Matlhogonolo Mponang, Irene Koki Mutungi or be the women who decide to stay at home, or simply not aspire to the same caveats of success but live lives of purpose nonetheless, all these choices are valid and equally important. We need to break the notion that one choice is greater than the other as that will demean and malign what we are fighting for. What empowerment should ensure is that these choices are truly informed and autonomous. That they are not influenced by lack of opportunity or societal expectations. In the agenda to empower women, let’s give them the choice and not define to them what that choice should look like.