By Pelu Awofeso
“I speak my mind. I say what I want to say…there’s no shame to it.”
This was one of Joy Isi Bewaji’s unapologetic, take-it-or-leave-it statements in her opening speech for the Ibadan edition of #TheConversation, supported by happenings.com.ng at the Pentonrise Building in the Bodija area. “I found out that as a girl, I was always rebelling. I questioned many things. I wanted to live my life richly…”
The room was full with guests from the host city, Lagos and elsewhere, all of them were there to listen to discussions and debates around the theme: “Understanding Patriarchy”. Joy Isi Bewaji, who has edited impressive top notch lifestyle publications, went on to reveal the various experiences that have molded her worldview and inform every decision she has ever taken.
Before I set out from Lagos with a dozen other invitees I had the impression that the day would be devoted to more talk about feminism, one of Bewaji’s passions. I was wrong. At its heart, #TheConversation is basically an assessment of society’s old established prescription for the male and female genders; it is also a movement of sorts to inspire women to take charge of their lives and live it to the fullest, without a care for what people might think or say of their actions (previous editions have held in Lagos and Abuja).
“I abhor the idea of women as the weaker sex,” said screenwriter Pearl Osibu, who spoke on the topic: ‘The Angry Woman’. “Society defines what marriage should be for women. My mum accepted that and [painfully] died in it.” Osibu went on to narrate the circumstances that resulted in her mom’s death and the misery of having to live with the family’s house help as stepmum. An angry woman she might be, but Osibu harbours a sweet, softer side: “I’m very domestic. I love to cook. I make the house.”
Journalist and author Abimbola Adelakun’s view on the subject is that “Patriarchy is a system of social governance, where men hold all the power,” a status quo she believes needs to change. “What feminism does to patriarchy is that it makes the unthinkable happen.”
When Bunmi Familoni talked about music and the streets, we were introduced to darker crannies of patriarchy that our sophisticated gatherings are yet to address. It’s a bloody account of the happenings of street life and how the vulnerable never make it through. The victims of the streets are mostly women. Who will protect them? The question hung over our heads.
In her own speech, Ayodele questioned stereotypes. She interrogated gender classes and spoke about how the Patriarchy limits both men and women.
In-between the headliners’ insightful presentations, the audience too weighed in, reeling out stories upon stories of assault, harassment and rape. But no story of man’s inhumanity to woman touched me as much as those of Prisca Egbukuchi, who endured her then-husband’s blows for so long a time until, stretched to her limit, she fought back—in a very daring way. “I broke his head with an iron and blood gushed,” she said, willing herself to hold back tears. “The scars are still there up till today, and I don’t think hair will ever grow on that spot—ever.”
Attending #TheConversation (Ibadan) was a Sunday well spent. What’s more: I went, not exactly knowing what viewpoints the discussions might throw up, and wound up thoroughly enlightened (Needless to say that I’ll be looking forward to the next outing).
And Bewaji closed the day’s proceedings with one of the most memorable charges I have ever heard:
“Have great sex. Have a good life. Make lots of money.”