LETTER TO A MALE CHAMPION ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Dear Friends,

In 2017, I challenged myself and other sisters to do two things on every International Women’s Day (IWD): celebrate a sister whose strength has borne you through the years, and write an open letter of affirmation to one male champion who has been a firm handhold and foothold in this journey through life. In the year that he will celebrate his 60th birthday, (born on 18 December 1962), I am celebrating Salihu Mohammed Lukman (SML), my husband, and a role-model life partner for a feminist like me. I wish him happiness on this IWD.

Where have the years gone? I know: they went into the making of us. SML and I have known each other forever 30 years, 26 of which we have been married. Over the years, we have encouraged each other to be better versions of ourselves. We have argued, debated, and disagreed, too. How boring would life be without the spats! But weal was resolved, in the end, to solve our issues by ourselves.

SML has taught me that there is no easy way to be a good man. It takes effort and the consciousness of what is the better road to travel. It also takes acknowledgment of one’s mistakes and keeping one’s pledges to do better.

We have matured together from our ‘okada’ riding days. Our many milestones include our first homes, our first child, and our first degrees. Through it, all, our friendship and common values have grown stronger. SML is a stellar feminist spouse.

They ask what do feminists want in a marital relationship? Well, not too much. Feminists treasure husbands and partners who let us be us. We want our spouses to toughen us and help us negotiate better and walk in our own paths. So doing, they enable us to conquer obstacles and discover new horizons and achieve beyond what we had imagined.

Feminists love spouses that do not feel threatened by our success. When sometimes they tell us maybe you should not do that, we do anyway. Sometimes we are right and at some other times, they are right. Regardless of who is right, our mutual respect endures.

We love spouses who seethe gem in us and don’t allow religion, ethnicity, race, or age to be a barrier to the expression of our love. Such spouses listen to our advocacy; they understand that what we want is a better society and a better world–not only for ourselves but also for our children and generations unborn.

Our husbands are our most important partners. While much of society, including some of those elected to protect women, still struggle to grapple with apparent or nuanced gendered relationships, our husbands love and respect us, appreciate our openness, and want us to succeed. They demonstrate their support in the place that matters most: our home–where they don’t see it as odd to cook for us, bath the children, and change a diaper as occasions demand.

In the spirit of this partnership, feminist wives know it is alright to spend our income on the family. It is no business of outsiders how we make ends meet at home. Who buys the bread and who pays the rent are unimportant to the partnership. What are important are equity, fairness, friendship, and solidarity?

If you are male and wondering how to be a happy man, know that masculinity can also oppress you. In moments when you need to let out the emotions and cry, society may prevent you from enjoying the health derivable from doing so because you are a man. Sometimes your humanity may be at stake when you need to pick up your own plate, lay your bed, cook for your own family, but you don’t because you don’t want to be called a woman wrapper. ‘But it is alright for a man to cry, care for his family, and share in the household chores. In any case, when you were born, you were wrapped in a woman’s wrapper as your mother cuddled you and gave you your first experience of life’s nurture

In closing, I would like to speak to when a feminist is married to an activist I am. SML speaks truth to power. Through his many open letters, he gives power to truth. I may sometimes worry about the letters and quibble over their timing, but I always understand the principle and the logic being expressed without trepidation. Through their thoughts, our teachers and mentors had raised us on their shoulders to have a clear view of the world; they prepared us to navigate the labyrinth that is life. Whether working from within or from without, we are change-makers. SML and I will always strive to positively impact our world.

I would like to affirm my husband for embodying these values and to say, with love, Happy 60th Year, in advance. Allah ya ja kwana. (I pray that his life is long) and continues to be a beacon of hope and courage and a powerful symbol of possibility for the many watching, including our children. Happy International Women’s Day 2022 to you all.

Amina Salihu

08 March 2022

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