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Back in university when I was taught about the power dynamics at the buying center where the gatekeepers are as important as those who influence or make the decision to buy a product, little did it dawn on me that this concept can be adapted outside business circles.
My perspective changed following a recent experience I had at the female dormitory at the University of Lagos. I was preparing for my talk on ‘The role of ladies in the Development of a Nation’ for the inaugural launch of Doyenne Academy, the first all-female entrepreneurial club at the University of Lagos. I went to the Madam Tinubu hall for a briefing with the organizers prior to the event, only to be greeted at the entrance by two men assigned at the post as gatekeepers. I was quite perturbed because the usual practice of the university was to assign at least a female porter at the post too but they were not there. I exchanged pleasantries with them and walked past, as this was visiting hours which required fewer protocols.
Thereafter I began to hear one of the two men saying ‘hello’ ‘hello’, but I didn’t look back, because I certainly didn’t believe the call was for me. He then added ‘excuse me’, and at this point I realized it was me so I obliged. As common practice with gatekeepers he began to interrogate me and I was told that the dormitory wasn’t accepting all visitors temporarily which wasn’t brought to my notice earlier but later seen on the notice board found on my right side without any authorization.
When I raised a question, the gatekeepers felt that it was appropriate for them to reply in an uncouth manner. The one who called at me said he was calling me and I didn’t respond. So I told him I didn’t know that he wanted my attention and for future purposes it would be better to use phrases like ‘excuse me please’ as opposed to a yelling ‘hello’, which was unpleasant and inappropriate for visitors as I had already gone past him. My comment prompted an even more confrontational behaviour, and the two men felt the need to verbally attack me.
I called the head of the organizers on the phone to come meet me outside after explaining what happened. When she came out I noticed that she was practically romancing the security personnel with words to allow me in. I was perplexed because this was the same man who said there was a temporary ban that restricts visitors. So here I was standing in front of a gatekeeper who couldn’t vent his anger at me, and who was saying all sorts of things to the organizer with the hope to prompt my reaction. At this point I avoided any comment, as I realised that talking to him meant empowering him further to negate the hall rules. Additionally, I told her to stop pleading with him, having noticed that he wanted to earn respect for not reciprocating it.
Here in Lagos, as soon as you are seen dressed flamboyantly, and or are overweight, or a round metal is seen sitting comfortably or not, occupying the fourth finger of your left palm, you can be almost certain to be accorded the title of ‘madam’ or ‘sir’ automatically. Perhaps because I did not meet these qualifiers, the gatekeepers perceived me otherwise; a woman not entitled to be respected. As I stood right there waiting, I saw how each lady passed acting as though used to being disrespected, and some even responded with a smile to the unrefined manner in which they were being addressed by these gatekeepers, which was now more pronounced than usual as a result of my presence.
As I left the premises with the organizers of the event I simply posed a question to them: ‘‘why do you accept to be treated in this manner?’’. To my amazement I was told they didn’t like this treatment, either. So “Why do you accept it?” I asked them again. Shockingly, I also learnt that the female porters sent to their hostels don’t represent themselves as comrades in the quest to end gender inequality; instead, they fuel it.
“Even in the face of globalization, our systems are seen encouraging a non-inclusive society. It is up to you to accept how you are being treated and speak up for yourselves. You are more powerful together, looking at your numbers, and must use that to your advantage.” I told these young ladies.
Even in the face of globalization, our systems are seen encouraging a non-inclusive society. It is up to you to accept how you are being treated and speak up for yourselves.
It has become common practice that public spaces are occupied by chauvinists who spell woe for women, especially in tertiary institutions, which are supposed to mirror how societies are to be programmed as a great citadel of learning. It has become a culture to see male gatekeepers in female hostels which leaves me asking and pondering on so many questions about how effective the gender policy in Nigeria is, and to what degree it is ethical to have male gatekeepers and or officers assigned to public female quarters, as this practice violates women’s privacy and subjects the girls to the risk of bullying, intimidation and violation of their human rights.
We all are human beings; born free without recourse to gender or ability and our shared humanity should be first, paramount and be regarded in the quest to reach a sustainable society.
[Cover photo © Michael Sean Gallagher]
Miss Aforfem Afobunor is a certified marketing professional and a social marketing expert with over ten years of professional experience in the marketing of consumer goods, brands and non profits. She advocates for the development and rights of women through partnering and volunteering with organizations committed to mirroring and fostering support of women and girls.
She utilizes both the mass and social media to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, and has earned international recognitions. In November 2016, she was invited to Geneva (Switzerland) by the office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for the launch of the global campaign “Not Too Young to Run” during the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
Miss Afobunor continously engages with key stakeholders to proffer solutions that have led to positive impact in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, and utilizes her marketing skills in deploying resources in promoting and advancing the work of NGOs/Civic Societies and other Youth led associations. Besides being a public speaker, she loves sharing ideas, providing solutions, counseling, writing and reading books that builds the spirit, soul and body, and is a consultant to many organizations both home and abroad.
She has received a number of awards but most importantly was rated top 7% of all Nigerian Executives in the Advertising, Marketing & PR Industry in the 2015 publication of the Nigerian Top Executives in the Advertising, Marketing & PR Industry.