The official infant (0 – 1 year) mortality in Nigeria is 58.2 per 1,000 live births-let me put it simply: Nearly 6% of children born in Nigeria will die before the age of one. This is the official statistic in a country where record keeping is problematic.
From malnutrition, to infectious killer diseases like malaria, lack of access to adequate healthcare facilities, and myriad other reasons that stem from the pathetic to the bizarre and of course – the unexplainable. Infants die literally everyday.
We all saw the furor that stemmed from a report about the death of a child in a crèche. It soon transformed into a bashfest of parents who keep their babies in crèche, of mothers who keep their babies in crèche.
While victim blaming is a prime Nigerian pastime, it was heartbreaking to read the commentary across social media laying the blame for a death of a yet unknown cause on the mother’s failure to stay home with her child.
Let us even disregard that “death by crèche” is still a rare occurrence in these parts – even as unregulated as that sector is, or that we have no evidence (not a shred) that the crèche was complicit in the death. Why would the prevailing conversation be about working mothers and not support for the parents who have lost their child? Or about investigations into the cause of this death to prevent reoccurrence?
If we are being honest, this isn’t about the dead child, or even the crèche.
It is easy to say women have taken their rightful place in the workplace, in economic activity etc but as most working women now know, microaggressions, bias and outright hostility are real barriers to success. And they aren’t limited to the workplace.
In my years on social media, I have come to respect the force of bias. How it colours our opinions, can turn turbid blue to sunny yellow so we can swear by it and how not even the best of us are exempt from it.
In a world (not just Nigeria) where inflation of the price of goods and services isn’t commiserate with increase in take home pay, double income families have become the norm. Women not only have to work for self actualisation and social fulfilment; they have to work to give themselves and their families a certain quality of life that a single earner could have given the same family thirty years ago.
We cannot continue to allow outdated attitudes hinder the progress of half of the species. We can make adjustments, we can shed biases, we can do so much more.
Today, we think nothing of getting into cars, planes, trains etc. Yet each of these inventions faced extreme opposition from those who believed humans weren’t made to break certain barriers due to the limitations that biology had placed on us and we have no business testing those limits.
If God wanted us to fly, he’d have given us wings.
Because motherhood is so closely linked to womanhood, it is nearly impossible to talk about breaking bias without mentioning motherhood.
If the human race has ignored its lack of wings, and fins or the need for speed and stamina to fly, sail and navigate this world at velocities and over distances that would discombobulate their ancestors, then we cannot continue to use the excuse of biology to prevent fathers from being just as involved as mothers in childcare. Nor can we continue to tie down women and limit their opportunities because their breasts produce milk.
We should have conversations about why modern life is so fast paced and “time consuming”. Why the same roles pay a lot less than they did in a previous generation but take a lot more time. But that is not today’s matter.
To women and those who root for them;
Happy International Women’s Day.