Younger women SHOULD take advice from older women.

By Abigail (@Anabagail). 

I am here this day to speak write in favour of the motion: “Younger women should take advice from older women” . But before I proceed, let me pause and follow the tradition of my mother, the woman who shaped my life and to whom I owe most of whom I have become by  acknowledging  the presence of the  Convener, Judges and Readers in salutation. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this debate.

The question is should younger women take advice from older women?  At this point it becomes necessary to ask: what advice? Advice comes in various forms and for a variety of reasons. There is business advice, advice on family life, advice on health and various sundry issues. The point being made here is that older more experienced women are the best possible options for younger women to turn to for any form of mentorship/advice.

It should certainly go without saying that in a world where a single misstep can change the direction of one’s life forever, people need guidance. Especially, young women need such guidance because whether we choose to agree or not, living in this world as a woman is more challenging than it is for a man. You will agree that it would be much easier for a young person to navigate these troubled waters called life if they had the benefit of a gallant, older, wiser sea person. Of course, we cannot say for sure that they will not survive without help but getting help is surely better than walking alone.

If you are a woman reading this, walk with me as we look at those moments when a younger woman needs directions from older members of society of her kind.

Let us start with puberty. At puberty a young lady needs direction as to how to take care of her body, how to become comfortable with her sexuality and how to manage the male interests she will begin to receive.  Who is in the best position to give her this direction? An older woman, mostly in the person of her mother but where she is not available, it will be in her best interests to get direction from another older female. As Rebecca Falls puts it, “one of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is to listen to each other’s stories”.

However we choose to look at it, biologically speaking, older generally means more experienced. As mentioned earlier, even if the younger person does not have an older person in her immediate family to take advice from, she will surely find one within the community and with the world more closely knit and held together by modern communication devices, location is no longer a barrier to learning. The internet opens a whole new world. All a young lady needs to do is type in a question and get an answer provided by an older woman somewhere in the world who has experienced the same thing.

As the young lady grows older, her needs change. It is vital that she has a steady influence in her life that will help her through those changing times. The more biologically identical they are, the easier it is for the younger person to take counsel and direction from them. I am just imagining a young lady experiencing her first menstrual period in a man’s world, who has to rely on primordial instincts to know what to do and has no one to explain the psychological effects this incidence will have on her just because (*turns to co-debater) someone wants us to believe that younger women do not need to take counsel from older ones.

And then the young lady gets into the work force and has to survive in today’s cut-throat business world. Who better to turn to than another woman, an older woman who has successfully passed through this stage? I dare say that she is even better of seeking counsel from someone who tried to work but failed than to rely completely on her own instincts or on her peers who are struggling with the same issues and are seeking advice themselves.

So why are we debating this issue?

You probably have seen the abbreviation GHOH before now. It stands for Girls Hating on Girls. It is a belief, by a growing number of women, that women are the first to try to pull other women down, that they are the first to point out the flaws of other women and to comment on why they do not deserve the privileges that they get. As defeatist as this may sound, one cannot deny that this attitude exists. Of course there are women that are jealous of other women. But come to think of it, who ideally should women be jealous of?  Men?  If women choose not to accept mentorship from their fellow women because of GHOH why then do men continue to accept mentorship from their fellow men? Do we not have men hating their fellow men? This argument can best be described as being as dry as harmattan dust and therefore carries not the weight of water. When women stop being overly sensitive and acknowledge that jealousy is a human quality, exhibited by humans then they will stop assuming that every woman on earth is against them and is somehow seeking their downfall.

We can therefore adduce at this point that the women who grow up with this mentality are the real problem. There is a need for change in attitude and outlook.  While, surely, one will not want to take advice from someone who may be harbouring hatred for one, the point remains: you do not cut off your nose to spite your face. The fact that some women have been inhumane does not mean that you should cut off all women all together and not want to gain from their experiences. When you actually think about it, this negative experience of female inhumaneness is an experience that older women will willingly warn younger women about.

Let us also not forget that the wisdom to mentor may not reside in a single individual. While a young lady may seek advice on what to wear from someone her age, she may not likely turn to same when she needs to make a decision on a life partner. For the second weighting, life-changing decision, it would make sense for her to turn to someone older and more experienced. If she wants to change her line of work, she may not go to the same person she took advice for her personal life, she may likely want to speak to someone in the business world.

It would be foolhardy to say young women should take advice from ALL older women.  My co-debator will not hesitate to point out that there are older women that have proved to be bad examples to younger ones. We have heard of older women who have led younger ones into prostitution for instance. We have also heard of older women who have advised younger ones to engage in other vices for their own selfish reasons.  Let us not mention older women who have been a source of psychological misery to younger ones, constantly on their case as they urge them to take on decisions in life which they may not be ready for or which they may not even want to take such as looking for a husband.

There is a need for younger ones to show wisdom in deciding who to take advice from. As they grow, the first example they will likely see is that of the mother or older siblings. In traditional African society, there are aunties and older cousins that younger ones can look up to. When such ones are identified as good examples, younger women can learn from them and listen to them and even adopt them as mentors.

You need only listen to individuals who have grown up in families with strong women as pillars for you to know the importance of having a mentor that is of the same sex. Let us travel back in time and identify one of those women whom the wisest man on earth describes. You probably know her as the capable wife or the woman of proverbs 31. Who would not love to have as a mentor this woman who is known for her industriousness and business acumen? Who would not long to sit at her feet as she dishes out wisdom from her mouth and understanding from her lips? Who will not join her daughters in pronouncing her happy?

Imagine learning at the feet of great women: Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt; Joan of Arc who inspired a French revolt against the occupation of the English; Jane Austen, an 18th century author whose novels  remain highly popular today; Florence Nightingale who was instrumental in changing the role and perception of the nursing profession; Rosa Parks whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man indirectly led to some of the most significant civil rights legislation of American history; and our very own Funmilayo Ransom Kuti, fiery nationalist and woman leader. Would you really give up an opportunity to learn what made these great women and others unmentioned tick? Would you really pass up an opportunity to be their mentee because we have examples of Girls hating on Girls or because you have met up with women who did not give the best advice?

Let us flip the question and ask: if younger women are not supposed to take advice from older women, who then should they take advice from? We may be tempted to say that perhaps they should just get basic training from their home and then move on with their own lives as they deem fit or, that they look inwards and trust their instincts.  What kind of life will they be condemned to? Remember, a major difference between man and animals is that while animals are created to work by instinct, humans are created with wisdom. Wisdom is the application of understanding. Understanding is meditation on knowledge.  So, while knowledge can be self-acquired, understanding and wisdom requires some form of collaboration. This collaboration is best maximized when a young lady walks and works with an older woman whose experience will contribute to her wisdom.

You do not need a lantern in broad day light, the facts speak for themselves, I am only here to amplify them. Let me, therefore, leave you with the words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, current president of Liberia, and a woman of substance, “I believe there are certain attributes in a woman that give her some attributes over a man. Women are usually more honest, more sensitive to issues, and bring a stronger sense of commitment and dedication to what they do. Maybe because they were mothers and being a mother, you have that special attention for the family, for the young, for the children.”

Thank you.