A woman’s purpose is not defined by a man

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten men.”

I am expected to aspire to marriage; I am expected to make my life decisions based on who I marry and when. We raise girls to see each other as competition, not for jobs or accomplishments, but for the attention of men.

We teach girls they cannot be sexual beings the same way that boys are. This is a powerful message by a Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has been a great inspiration for me, on my journey of being an advocate for women empowerment.

My beloved women, let me begin. I apologize to all the women I have called beautiful before I have called them intelligent and brave. I am sorry that I made it sound as though that something as simple as what you’re born with is all you have to be proud of when you have broken mountains with your wit.

From now on, I will say things like “You are extraordinary, resilient. Not because you aren’t beautiful, but because you are more than that. You have other elements to your existence other than beauty. Your sole purpose in life should not be pleasing a man.

Woman need the freedom to be who they are, not become products of societal conformity that tells us, from childhood, that we cannot accomplish certain things because we are women. Our dreams being invalidated, and trivialized because we are women. There should not be a cap on what women can accomplish because of their gender. 

From a young age, I knew I didn’t want to become a housewife. I wanted to be a leader, but society had already made a decision for me, that I couldn’t fulfill that role.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with women who choose to commit their lives to being a good wife and mother. But, it should be a choice, not a role they are forced into regardless of whatever other dreams or goals they may want to pursue.

I made a conscious decision that, if I ever get married, I want to cook for my partner because I want to, not because it is my duty. I want to be able to be as competitive as my partner without him feeling emasculated.

I want women to have the freedom to be sexual beings because there’s a societal problem when a man who sleeps around gets a slap on the back from his friends, but those same friends will label the women he sleeps with as whores and sluts.

My purpose as a woman is to be someone I am proud of. My purpose is to make women feel empowered, valued and confident.

I grew up internalizing messages that I shouldn’t have a voice, that I couldn’t do certain things merely because I am a woman. I believe this is my fight and my wish is to connect with other women, create an awakening for ourselves. Liberation for women is unforthcoming from anyone, but us.

Wadzanai Dzvurumi is a marketing junior.