One day, I was having a conversation with a young girl who recently took the national exam to join one of the state-owned universities.
I asked her what field of study she would prefer. “I don’t know, but I am sure that I won’t study engineering, medicine or computer science,” she replied.
Disappointed by her response, I asked her why, and she told me that these are not the fields most girls prefer, either by a lack of confidence or by a lack of potential.
Though it was not a good thing to hear, the girl’s response was an accurate reflection of the reality.
I remember that there was some reciprocality between the level of difficulty in a field of study and the number of girls who join it.
This wavering in confidence does not come from anywhere but is the result of centuries-old cultural oppression and psychological atrocities that are imposed on women.
The affirmative action for females in education is not because women are less intelligent than men; it is because their hands and minds have been tied for centuries, and they need help until they regain their strength and awaken from their repose, said the late prime minister Meles Zenawi.
Women are endowed with equal powers naturally, but they neither get enough time to study nor get the moral and material support from their parents and hence everyone should not belittle their power just because they are receiving help.
With the rise of feminism, the issue of gender equality has become very sensitive lately, but it was always the focal point of discussions and arguments.
Understanding the power of women as early as 1926, one scientist even prophesied that “the struggle of the human female towards sex equality will end in a new sex order, with a female as superior …”
“It is not in the shallow physical imitation of men that women will assert first their equality and later their superiority, but in the awakening of the intellect of women.”
This is powerful advice for women to focus on their natural powers and to awaken their powerful mind instead of spending their time focusing on trying to do what men can do, for they can perform better than men, and so far, this has been proved right in some western countries.
Recent studies confirmed that women are becoming better coders (computer programming) than men, they are the better drivers with less accidents, and, though few, they have been joining the tech industry recently.
In our country, people love and respect their mother a lot. The metaphor for everything that they love most, including their country, is “mother”.
The irony is the love and respect towards the mother was not applied to women in general.
Stereotypes and biases, fetched from our religion and culture, have blinded many of us.
Though the Ethiopian constitution boldly asserts the rights of women and gender equality, there is still a lot to do on the ground.
There still are adages which undermine the ability and trustworthiness of women. One adage goes like this, “set yamene guum yezegene,” which means “trusting a woman is like trying to catch a fog.”
In the rural areas, still, educating a girl is something like spending the valuable time of her life unnecessarily.
“Why go to school when she can help her mother, marry a rich man, give birth to beautiful children and help her parents?” is the common cliché.
Families tell their daughters the story of the one who got married to a wealthy man and helped build the house of her parents instead of the one who got educated grasping at straws and succeeded on her own.
The worst is, every time, there is seemingly never-ending terrifying news about a girl gang raped by a group of men or a woman beaten to death by an angry ‘lover’, or a wife stabbed or shot by her husband.
The number of women who have the full confidence to earn their income, to fight for their rights and live independently is far less than those who plan to find a better husband to solve their financial problems and personal security. Such is the deeply rooted cultural backwardness which has oppressed our women to the extent of not having confidence in themselves.
There is a slogan which says, “Educate a woman, and you educate a family; educate a girl, and you educate a nation.” Also, there is a consensus that education is the only remedy for this grand problem, but how to turn it into reality remains a complicated procedure to deal with.
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