I chose to be the best of myself in whatever I do- Obozua Dorothy Itohan



 In March 2017, the India Times reported that a 4-6 hours old baby girl was buried alive by her parents because they wanted a boy. Culturally, in India, girls are seen as a financial burden because of dowries they had to pay and other practices. In Nigeria, men pay dowries yet the female child still play second fiddle to the male child. In my academic race, gender victimisation has been one of the worst battles I have had to face. 

Dorothy Shares her story of how she went through all odds to become who she is today.    Have you read her previous story of  how she overcame low self esteem? read here

“One thing is sure, I wouldn’t let the gender bias affect my strive for excellence. I shouldn’t be remorseful to anyone because I have an excellent spirit…”

 

         My parents gave birth to two female children only. All attempts to get a third(male) child proved abortive. In my early childhood days, it didn’t really matter but as time went on and a boy wasn’t forthcoming, the realities of gender bias gradually stared me in the face.
“Wow, so you are the scholar. What about your brother? You don’t have one? And your father is still married to your mum? That man try o; he should have looked elsewhere.”
“Dorothy, leave first-class for men. You don’t need it. You’re just going to waste it and get the job that should be meant for men. Take care of yourself and look good and let a man take notice of you.”
” Who are you forming for? If I give your father 1million naira, he will sell you to me as a wife. Do you know how many white women want to kiss my feet; not to talk of you blacky?”
“You are a girl, you cannot understand. Wetin woman know? Are you sure you’re not selling your body for grades.”
“You are a girl, what are you doing with a man’s course? Won’t you get married? See, you can’t go far. Your certificate is just for fancy”.
“You are a girl. I don’t want to waste my money on education . You better prove that you’re worth it.”
      These and many more were the words I had to face everyday, at home, at school, at church, everywhere all through my teenage years up till my university days; it hasn’t changed much now. I struggled trying to prove that I was useful; trying to earn acceptance. I was a scholar right from primary school because I might get a beating if I didn’t come first position in class. Worse was that I would be reminded of how money shouldn’t be wasted on my education.
         In my senior secondary school days, I had the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in Sapele town. I heard of the achievements students like me had attained before now. In all of these excellent stories, there was no female among them and there had been a lapse for about 3years as no one had been able to break the record of the last best student. I took it upon myself to be that person to bring glory again to the school. Soon,I was representing both my school and Delta State in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and other Science competitions all over the nation. I became the talk of the town and my parents were very proud of me. But in all these, I wasn’t striving to be who I am. I was only striving to beat the guys and maybe, get a scholarship to get me out of this country. I even became much of a tomboy.
        Corruption didn’t let me reap the fruits of my labour. I kept on receiving promises which the state never fulfilled. I, my parents and my school were getting discouraged. I also witnessed first-hand the kind of frustration one could only dream of when at the national stage of a particular competition, we (I and some other students) were disqualified and students from some  more prominent/wealthy schools replaced us after we had gone through the local and state levels of the competition ourselves. The parents of certain rich kids in school didn’t fail to sneer at me for wasting the school’s resources only to be sent back. Some other competitions came along but whenever they  offered prospects of foreign scholarship, my dad would stop me from participating any longer. He kept insisting that I forget them and focus on my WASSCE. I was soon to find out why.
       The most painful of them all was when I joyfully took a foreign scholarship application form to a very close relative for him to sign and endorse. What I heard burst my bubbles.
…-“So you think I would let you go abroad at this age? (I was 15). Never, you are a girl, you are not a boy. If a foreign scholarship is the reason you have been working very hard, you better forget it.”-…
       I wept and I stopped applying for any foreign scholarship/ competition. Though I never wanted to school in Nigeria, I didn’t have a say in the matter. I also decided not to strive to be the ‘first’ in my university days because I thought I would never be allowed to enjoy any foreign benefits that might accompany the ‘first’ position. I didn’t want to go through the horror of my secondary school experience again. The state of education in our Nigerian universities only made matters worse. One could easily lose oneself striving for grades only to find out that society has no regard for it.
       My Christian faith helped me to stop hating the male folk. It wasn’t an easy journey(especially when the excuse of being a girl was constantly rubbed on my face coupled with the constant sexual harassment I faced at different times). God also gave me better reasons to keep being excellent. It was unfortunate that I had to be born to meet this culture. I  stopped blaming my parents and others who might have mistreated me knowingly or unintentionally because of my gender. It wasn’t their fault. It’s the reality they also came to meet in their days. I also understand that my parents loved me and did their best to protect and support me to the best of their knowledge.
        However, I chose to be the best of myself in whatever I do. Now, I live my life without trying to please or being in competition with anyone. One thing is sure, I wouldn’t let the gender bias affect my strive for excellence. I shouldn’t be remorseful to anyone because I have an excellent spirit and I won’t choose mediocrity just to be accepted by a set of norms. I also wouldn’t turn a blind eye to such bias. I would fight it with my words, my life, my achievements, my talents until every female I know realises their uniqueness and that excellence has no respect for gender.
        My mum is my first role model. I have seen her beat the odds to become who she is today. My dad is just too proud of me. I haven’t seen a man who protects his kids like he does. I wouldn’t forget to say that he was my personal Math tutor in secondary school.
        Today, I put it to you, dear teenager – You are a girl; so what!
  
Dear teen girl, what have u learnt from this story? leave a comment in the comment box
 Contributor- .

 

My name is OBOZUA DOROTHY ITOHAN. A first-class graduate of Electrical/ Electronics ‎Engineering, UNIBEN. I am interested in a vast array of things ranging from entrepreneurship to leadership to technology. I also have a keen interest in matters affecting women.