Ever heard the phrase ‘A lady should be seen and not heard?’

An educator once called me to make inquires about the workshops we run at Brighter Girls, I asked what their immediate needs and goals were and she mentioned they wanted a workshop that taught Girls comportment- they needed their girls to learn how to be a lady. She then followed up with the phrase “they need to know a lady should be seen not heard…” I went oh!!!!(Very quietly).

Coincidentally, I was also at another workshop, a public school and the school counselor was addressing the girls and reiterated the same statement “Be a lady! A lady should be seen and not heard!” Now I know this isn’t a new phrase, it’s been said from time immemorial but I couldn’t help but cringe at it now. What really forms the standard of our rules or culture? Do we really give a thought to these rules or at least try to put them in proper perspective?

Girls and women have been boxed in certain stereotypes; stereotypes that have led to cycles of incapacities within our system and our society at large. Girls are still advised even by their mothers not to study certain courses as it is masculine; they will not be able to work in those fields anyway. After all, they’ll bear children and end up in the kitchen.  ‘Just do any course; you are a woman, just get a certificate’. ‘You shouldn’t get certain cars, else no man will marry you’ these and more I have heard during interviews or when I ask ladies to share their girl stories.

Girls and Women have been boxed into certain stereotypes; stereotypes that have led to cycles of in-capacities within our system at large.

These stereotypes or mindset form the basis of a society where women aren’t living up to their full potential. Men are seen as figures with economic or financial powers and a lot of women are subject to their taste or benevolence.

One of the bases of these actions is this phrase- a lady should be seen and not heard. Why can’t she be heard? Why should a boy be able to play freely, unrestrained and a girl has to play or act a certain way. We undermine the place and role of a girl’s voice- the process, the impact of her voice, the power and her right to express it.

Let’s bring this home-

Do you have an equal standard or approach by which you treat your girl child from the boy child?

How respectful do you engage your teen? Do you expect her to have an opinion that has to be heard?

Do you carry them along in decisions you make especially about their lives?

A person’s voice is a sum total of their thoughts, opinions, experiences, identity, perspective and the expression of same. This in other words means your daughter’s voice or a girl’s voice expresses her thoughts, intellect, opinions, personality and more and she not only has a right to those she also has a right to express them. In so many ways, a person’s voice serves as one of the many in routes to know what is happening in their lives

A girls voice expresses her thoughts, intellect, opinions, personality, and more

A teen especially at adolescence is finding herself. The more situations (definitely controlled or guided) she is put in whether it’s in sports, dancing, debate or just the free happy space she is where she can express herself freely, the more she is able to find herself, know herself, make mistakes and then grow from them.

Her voice and its expression is crucial path to ownership and acceptance.

Here are ways you help your daughter find her voice, own it and express it….

  1. Give your teen opportunities and platform to express herself
  2. Engage her in conversations
  3. Listen to her
  4. Request her feedback
  5. Give her literature/books that engages her and ask her to share her thoughts on what she’s read
  6. Give her responsibilities that lays a demand on her ability to act
  7. Trust her
  8. Teach her boundaries;
  9. Teach her to listen and respect other people’s opinion
  10. Teach her to own her opinion and her voice

By Adefolashade Fadeyi

Founder and Executive Director, Brighter Girls Life Initiative.


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