The Life and Career Aspirations of Emecheta
Emecheta’s, Nigerian writer, literary work is founded on deep disparities characteristic of the life of her character Kahinde. While there are many fronts of duality upon which the story unfolds, the principal duality entails gender inequality. Several other duopolies based on this disparity emerge. Gender imbalance very often provokes social and class differences. They are bound to occur in unstable society. Even uptake of technology is closely interwoven with gender bias. Having picked gender inequality as a parameter to study in the literary work of Emecheta and how this duality influences thematic and political orientation of her work. it is enough to delve into the life of Emechetta’s Kahinde.
Kahinde Okolo and her husband Albert are about to return to Nigeria. This dream is however halted unceremoniously with a revelation of a conflict. Albert is accused of being insensitive to the needs of his wife. It appears that he gets his way in matters of sex without any respect to Kahinde’s desires. When Kahinda gets pregnant Albert demands an abortion. Later Kahinde resorts to tying her tube to prevent future pregnancies. She is forced to resign from her bank job only to become a co-wife. It all shows an entrenched gender inequality in which women have a little to say. their marriage affairs are conducted by males.
Men seem not to have much respect for women; they do not give any attention to women’s position in a family. Unwilling to take this gender disparity any more Kahinde, with the help of a friend, returns to college, gets a good education and begins to live a life of her own. She starts new relation with a Caribbean guy. It amazes his son. He thinks that women ought to support entire families, even unhappy, instead of leaving and starting a new family. This is another revelation of gender inequality. Kahinde is, however, determined not to lapse into the old structures of inequality. She justifies her new status saying that it does not lessen her as a woman or mother. It is a clear indication of her resolve in claiming rightful position. According to her, it only makes her more human, an equality threshold.
Kahinda becomes independent. She owns a house. She has a good stable job. All these hurt her new husband’s pride. He strongly believes that it should be him in place of Kahinde. Here appears another revelation of effects of gender inequality. The life of Kahinde reflects a shift from traditional African society setting to modernity. It is a spirited struggle of a woman tipped to break from domineering and imbalanced gender relations in the society.
From the study of Kahinde, it becomes clear that Emecheta is a champion of feminism. From an initial struggle, Kahinde cuts through the yolks of male dominance to gain self acclaim and independence. Instead of letting her husband decide on her reproductive issues, she takes the bold step to regulate her pregnancy. Equally, instead of falling into the trap of a polygamous setting, she plunges into an unknown future to find herself decent education and employment. At the top of her success, she turns the tables on males getting herself a lover. All these depict Emecheta as a feminist writer.
The duality of gender inequality also led the writer into exile having found it difficult to publish in Nigeria. While the dearth of technology and resources could be a reality in Nigeria, in the absence of gender imbalance, the playing field for writers of both genders could be ensured. Female writers therefore found it extremely difficult to seep through the male dominant strands to have their literary works published.
The life of Emecheta is a further reflection of her feminist agenda. She is divorced. Her books are widely published. Her writings largely tilted in favor of women’s agenda. Further on, she insistes that female publishing in Nigeria is impossible, while she enjoys wide publishing in other countries. This case presents yet another duality, international disparity. In essence, some countries have made huge steps towards consolidating aspirations of both sexes. Her break from Nigeria to Zimbabwe and subsequent search of quality education in the United States further mirrors in her characters like Kahinde.
Judging from her physical and literary life, Emecheta seems to encourage women to break from retrogressive and entangling traditions to embrace modernity. This literary struggle for emancipation of women occupies the central concern of Emecheta. She, however, believes that through her works she calls to sanitize domestic realities in Africa. Nevertheless, her view is treated with skepticism by her African contemporaries; since they are believed to be transposed from the western world. Emecheta is accused of neglecting the socio-cultural realities unique to Africa and instead superimposing western ideologies into the African fabric.
Towards the end of the book, Kahinde’s house equally plays out a symbolic meaning. She commands much of the house with the husband only musing. She took the man in and therefore seems to have a full say on house the house should be governed. This is contrary to the expectation that men are the head of the households. This takeover of responsibilities by Kahinde is symbolic to the increasing authority of the homes.
It can be argued that Emecheta adherents’ spirited campaign has considerably changed the playing field for women in Africa. It is a pleasant surprise that there appear powerful women politicians. Within Africa there are currently two women head of states. A number of African women, equally occupying powerful portfolios in various sectors of economy, is a clear indication that the call to rise from traditions and gender imbalance is finally being realized. While these achievements are laudable, going by the standards created by Emecheta, women turning the tables on their husbands might not auger well for the harmony and all encompassing development of the society. African feminism must be redefined to capture the current realities and to align it with future expectations of both genders.