Book Title: We Live These Lives: Women’s Real-Life Journeys to Success
Editors: Ezinne Ibe and Ngozi Onyesom
Year of Publication: 2023
Publisher: The Female Professionals Book Club, Ibadan.
Number of Pages: 231
The book is written by women about women; it is an anthology of eclectic perspectives about women and their engagement with life. There are 20 writers and 20 stories, all arranged into six thematic divisions in this fantastic book edited by Ezinne Ibe and Ngozi Onyesom.
From the introduction, we get a sense of what occasioned the book. It is to challenge the perception that women are their own worst enemies; that women don’t help women. So this book, We Live These Lives, is “to debunk the objectionable assertions against women”. It is to show that “women are best pals when a common interest binds them together (P2).”
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The first story argues the feminist case. The writer, Olukemi Awelewa, implies that whether from religious or historical perspectives, African women until recently were cast as victims of patriarchy and backward customs. Citing a tome of anthropological and historical literature, the writer believes that although many writers on African women presented them as operating at the background, many African women wielded substantial social, political and economic power in the past. She asserts that the African continent boasts of an array of historical amazons who thrived alongside male legends. Some of them include the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba, Amina of Zazzau, Fatuma of Zanzibar, Nzinga of Kongo, Efunroye Tinubu of Lagos, et cetera.
On her part, Bolanle Sogunro posits that Africa’s pre-modern women were revolutionary, and they championed and fought economic, socio-political and military wars in their quest for equity and equality for their communities, kingdoms and nations. The writer uses the pre-modern African woman as a basis for comparison with today’s African women, whom she insists lack real revolutionary physical action to their engagement. But she ends on a positive note stating that despite global complexities and challenges, there is promise that more amazons will emerge in modern Africa.
In her own contribution, Abasiama-Arit Aniche argues that postcolonial history greatly minimised the great feats recorded by pre-colonial African women. She frowns against the advent of colonialism which changed the tides against women in Africa, relegating them to mostly domestic roles and subordinated them to men. Thus, “this reduction in the roles [of women] resulted in a decrease in earning capacity”. For her this has brought upon the continent, the craze for the boy-child and the preference and exaltation of the male child above the female child. In fact, in her own view, the subjugation of the woman in Christianity and Islam contributed to a large extent the continued gale of gender inequality and discrimination. She thinks that even though African governments have no conscious efforts to bridge gender gaps, families should impart gender equality education to their male and female children.
In her article, Chinenyem Obasi-Obonga reels out the myriads of societal queries heaped on the female folks as measurements of success. She ponders the awkward perception that if a woman is not married after graduation from school, then we do not consider her fit, among other stereotypes. She then counsels that for a woman to remain relevant in contemporary times, she must hone her skills, ability, and push for results. In her conclusion, the argument is that: “Women need to lead, coach and sponsor one another regards of race, age and qualification so that together we have more successful women.” (P149). In other words, the concept of sisterhood, a key theme in this book, needs to be democratised and elevated among womenfolk and women groups.
Fellow contributors like Ibukun Emiola and Victoria Chukwuneke agree that things have changed. Men and women now share responsibilities and many female CEOs now abound in blue-chip companies.
In this book, We Live These Lives, Gbemisola Daramola plots for us her leadership trajectory, the twists and turns, as well as how she leveraged the opportunities to serve and excel. She exposes to us how she surmounted hurdles on her way to striking a work-life balance.
Omolara Adewole also tells us the story of her journey to leadership. She writes that her parents’ involvement as leaders in various groups helped her to form her leadership perspectives right from primary school and also at secondary and university levels. For her leadership is about intentionality and creativity.
Also, Mofoluwaso Ilevbare gives insight into how to navigate the leadership and business terrain, with her time-tested nuggets on how to navigate the unstable waves of life, to be inspired by triumphs and failures, successes and lessons of the women who have gone ahead of you, for your own profit and edification.
Titilayo Falade avers that you don’t become a sought-after professional only by attainment of academic qualifications. She insists that though these are critical, but not enough: you need a mix of resilience, hard work, diligence and critical thinking – all of these soft skills imbibed from early childhood years. These disciplines, coupled with collaborations with others will propel you into greatness.
If you are one of those who want to be free from the cobwebs of procrastination, then Chinwe Uchendu is your plug. In her write up, she opines that if you are able to set your goals, write them down with a clear timeline, and plan properly, then you’re on course.
Mofoluwaso Adigun tells us how school life and strike by the union of university teachers pushed her into business, first on campus, and later off it. She gives great credit to apprenticeship and mentorship. She insists that ‘nothing beats apprenticeship and mentorship in trading or entrepreneurship’ because it gives you all the angles that prepare you for success in business (P89). In her story, we see a preponderance of sisterhood. Most, if not all, help and opportunity for growth and development, have come from women: they have been useful mentors, helpers, teachers and business partners. These stories indeed potently show the tenacity of the African women and their huge sacrifices for each other and one another.
For Ezinne Ibe, her entrepreneurship journey began with years of learning at the feet of her mother and grandmother. From observing and helping her mother at the popular Ariaria market to the determined trajectory of her grandmother, Ezinne learned very early in life the different bargaining techniques and approaches between sellers of wares and clients. Her years of tutelage at the feet of her mother and grandmother, or what she describes as “the seemingly modest behind-the-scene activities” actually served to trigger big business ventures, chains of stores, and conglomerates which she has been involved in bringing to life later in life.
In this book, We Live These Lives, Doris Nwagwu tells of how she found love and how her life made a positive turn from loss of self-esteem to discovery and booming sense of security and strength. But her story is that of a woman torn between her desire to become a career lady and her husband’s insistence on her staying at home to organise the family. She tells how she attained peace and happiness with submission. Consequent upon her submission and after praying to God for illumination, she finds her writing talent and her life takes a new turn.
In this book, we read about a lady’s determination to resist family discouragement and mediocrity to succeed in her pursuit of education. Mercy Adejumo tells a moving story of how she surmounted the urge of either marrying a rich husband or travelling to Europe after secondary school, like many families wanted around her and how she decided that she would not let her background put her back to the ground.
In the final part of the book, all contributors make their case for the womenfolk to vacate the back seat and break the glass ceilings by building more potent cooperation between and among women. Ibidunni Alonge, Isioma Asiodu-Otughwor, Ada Uduanochie, Alero Adegbolagun, and Oluwatoyin Aladejebi all lay out for us the imperatives and highpoints of the sisterhood in making the world, especially contemporary Africa, a livable place for all women.
. Olatunbosun is a broadcast journalist and fact-checker at Splash FM 105.5, Ibadan, Oyo State.