Dear African Female Child,
I hope you enjoy your childhood. I hope you are raised in an environment that honors “Who” you are and above all, I hope that you grow up to be a blazing, shining, light in the world.These are my hopes and wishes for you. However, I do realize that just because I have these hopes for you doesn’t mean that your realities will reflect that. Your reality may be wildly different from the hopes I have highlighted above. The patriarchal African society means that if “who” you are is a deviation from “who” the environment deems you should be, that yours will be agony. Yes, there are some of you who will have the good fortune of being allowed to be your authentic self from a young age. You are in the minority. This letter is being penned for those whose true selves might not necessarily be what their socio-cultural environment deems appropriate.
To you who doesn’t love domestic chores and activities such as cooking, but who is incessantly told that “as a female, you should know how to cook “. Do not lose heart, do not fret. Instead, view cooking as a skill-set you can add to your arsenal. After all, life is about choices. Wouldn’t you love to wake up one day as a matured lady relishing in the wide skill-set you have acquired over the years ? A lady who is satisfied with the options available to her when it comes to nourishing her body ? That when you choose to buy food, it is not because you are compelled to do so as a matter of survival. You choose to buy food only out of convenience and nothing else. On the flip side, you can choose to rebel by refusing to learn the art of cooking. However, what happens when you find yourself far away from the comforts of your home, visiting a busy relative or a friend who assumes you can cook and leaves you with ingredients in her kitchen. How will you eat when you are totally clueless about the intricacies of cooking ? Will you wait for him or her to return home before you eat or will you buy frozen food and eat out for the duration of your visit ?
On the subject of love, it is my fervent hope that you fall in love one day. That you find the one person who makes your heart sing and who tugs at your heart strings in ways you can never fathom. I wish that you have the good fortune of finding the one person who finishes off your sentences and whom you are totally comfortable with. When that day comes, my desire for you is that he will meet the approval of your family members. I sincerely wish that the person will not be discriminated against based on his tribal affiliations, the sins of his relatives or the other myriad factors that are often used as yard sticks for granting approval or disapproval. Should this person meet the approval of your family members, then cheers to you. To you who doesn’t experience such good fortune, I say stiffen your spine and get ready for the battle ahead. You will need to make a decision between staying true to yourself or pleasing everyone else at your expense. You will need to do some soul searching too. Despite the attraction and feelings you have for him, you will need to ask questions centered on his values, principles etcetera. For instance, are his values compatible with yours ? If yes, then your decision might be a tard bit easier. Because, in the event that you choose to stick with him at the expense of the emotional missiles that will be propelled your way, you will be comforted by the thought that you stayed true to yourself. Although, you should bear in mind that just because you chose to be with him, doesn’t mean that he is obligated to stay at your side forever due to the sacrifices you made. After all, you chose to make those choices. Not him. I’m sorry young child, but life happens and his feelings (ephemeral as feelings are) might change along the line. If that happens, don’t despair. There are lots of wonderful men in the ocean. You will find another !
On your life’s vocation, I will encourage you to find the one thing that makes you feel alive and to pursue it with your ALL. Do you love to sing ? Then sing like your life depends on it. Are you a lover of figures ? Then study mathematics like your kindred spirit Euclid. Do you love to style hair ? Then pursue it like a thirsty man in a dessert with his eyes set on an oasis . Go at it with your All and make your contribution to mankind. You have what it takes to be a blazing light in the world, don’t let your light dim. Of course, if your vocation turns out to be aligned with the desires of your parents’, then cheers to you. Your path will be less turbulent. However, if your choice doesn’t align with the career path your parents’ believe you should pursue, what are you going to do ? Will you pursue their choice at the expense of what your heart dictates ? As with everything in life, you have a choice. However, when you make your choice, stick to it and bear the consequences gracefully.
After it is all said and done, I want you to know that this beautiful life you have been given is a gift. Of course you will experience rainy days just as you will experience sunny days. Rainy days never last as they pave the way for sunny days. When the sunny phase arrives, savor it and enjoy it thoroughly. You are special. Never doubt that.
An Ardent Admirer
Written by Sherita Brace
This post first appeared on HuffPost – September 14th, 2017