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From a YES student: What I’ve learned about women’s roles

March 31, 2010

Amanda Wesleha is a YES student from Taraba State, Nigeria. Amanda has been living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and attending Cedar Rapids Washington High School this year through the U.S. State Department’s Youth Exchange and Study Program.

Amanda wrote the following post about how her views on women’s rights and roles have changed during the eight months she’s lived in Iowa.

AmandaGrowing up in Nigeria, I was taught that a woman’s place was in the kitchen and that the man was the head of the house.

Not only did I learn this from my family, but I also learned this from school. A woman is supposed to obey her husband, go shopping, cook and take care of the kids. Technically, the woman is the organizer, cook and comforter of the husband.

When I came to the United States, that was the only opinion I had, and I assumed it was that way everywhere in the world.

I always felt it was unfair. Growing up was depressing… knowing my life had already been planned — get a husband that can pay my bride price, cook and bear children, be obedient and comfort him — or my life as a Nigerian woman would never be complete or accomplished.

While I’ve been in Iowa, I’ve seen my dream house right here with my hosts, Anne and Don Hartman.

I’ve learned so much from them… I learned marriage doesn’t have to be a depressing destiny. Being married is a blessing, and it’s a partnership. Couples take equal responsibility for their family’s welfare. Couples discuss future steps and make decisions TOGETHER.

I’m living in a house where a child can speak his/her opinion without fear of getting beaten. My family in Iowa doesn’t need a cane or stick to make their kids respect them. Instead, they teach them in various ways. Sometimes, there just has to be an understanding in the family — especially between the man and the wife — to enable any kind of discipline to serve its purpose in a house.

I respect and love my culture and country, but I think things need to change in order for us to progress.

When I go home, I want to share my obtained knowledge not only with women who want change but with other women too, so they can see we deserve better. I even want to share my new ideas with men, so we can create a happier and more comfortable place not just for women, but for the whole family, while still respecting the men.

We can achieve this if we keep an open mind. If we can mix our culture with our knowledge, we will move forward. Creating a better home and community for equal men and women.

I believe women have the right to be equal to men. We have the brains to work and to be anything we want as long as we get an education. We dont need men to prove that. Women have a right to an opinion and to make decisions. She can be a king or a president.

And men can also be good cooks if they learn.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimberly Hope Athay permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:10 PM

    I LOVE this blog – it makes me proud to see a young, confident Nigerian woman understand that her role in society should be something she decides. I have no idea what it is like to grow up in a society such as the one she has, and I am also glad she continues to respect her culture and country. I hope that she can work with other leaders to improve the status of women in Nigeria.

  2. March 31, 2010 5:23 PM

    I agree completely with Kim’s previous comment.
    What a powerful, respectful observation of cultural expectations of marriage and gender.
    Great job, Amanda. You’re passion and experiences will make you a great leader for change and awareness in Nigeria.

  3. Ali Mohammed permalink
    March 31, 2010 6:07 PM

    Great job Amanda, way to go. Im glad that a young women of your age can notice such an issue and have great ideas to change the life for good. I believe that your experience will be a good role model for others especialy when you get back home. Keep it up!

  4. Anne Hartman permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:33 PM

    Excellent post, Amanda! I am so proud to be your host mom!

  5. April 1, 2010 12:44 AM

    am so glad you all like what i wrote. it makes me feel am on the right path and with support from you i wont give up.thank you

  6. Carolyn Carter permalink
    April 1, 2010 2:07 AM

    Amanda-Great post! I especially appreciate the comment that culture needs to be mixed with knowledge. It’s important to embrace the existing culture, but to also inform it with ideas that equality doesn’t need to be forced, but simply embraced through mutual respect. I’m so thankful that you’ve been able to have a great experience and can’t wait for you to share your revelations with others! Good luck!

  7. Don & Lorna Hartman ( Don's parents) permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:59 AM

    As parents of your host father,Lorna and I are so proud of you and what you are learning from Don & Anne and their girls. You are such a fantastic young lady we are so pleased with what you are observing and wish you the best on your return back to your homeland.

  8. John Pena permalink
    April 24, 2010 11:40 AM

    Great Amanda! Not only being equal,but you could be above men.be what what you are and you will be able to achieve what you want to achieve. I’m pround of You .By the way men are not complete without women.As your state coodinator ,I’m pround that I sent the best of Taraba to Iowa.Come back, and together we change Taraba state for greatness.

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