This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman that I believe epitomizes the label of “strong and independent,” That woman being Lucie Rogo. Mrs. Rogo is extremely successful, and holds a Master of Science and PhD degrees in Entomology in addition to Masters in Business Administration (MBA)/ Global Management and a Diploma in Climate Change Adaptation. She has worked with a series of reputable international organizations involved in research, environmental conservation and capacity building. This includes: The United Nations Environmental Program’s Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, The International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology Bionet-International, as a professor at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and much more. All these opportunities have allowed her to live in various countries and encounter different societal and cultural experiences.
This made me interested in seeing Lucie’s opinion on the treatment of women in African and American Culture, being that those are the two cultures she has spent the most time in. This woman’s full name will remain unsaid for personal reasons, but throughout the Q&A she will go by the alias Stacy:
Would you say that women are treated better in one culture over the other? If so which culture and why?
Lucie Rogo: It is a complex question but this is my observation: In Africa, a woman who is well educated, self made, and economically independent, tends to have a lot of say in her own life (she has a voice) and experiences less discrimination. A lot also depends on the type of woman. For example, the very educated woman has a lot of latitude in preventing being trampled on domestically, socially and professionally. On the flipside, the uneducated African Woman, as the saying goes, “if you are to be born a woman, you do not want be born a woman in Africa.” This saying is actually meant for the uneducated voiceless woman who is trampled on domestically and otherwise socially. They’re not economically empowered and have no say about their own life. They are discriminated on and mistreated and cannot stand up for themselves. Then comes the “in-between women,” these would include women who are not very well educated and not fully economically independent. In this category, you find women who can stand up for themselves domestically, professionally, and socially and those who cannot.
These categories cannot be talked about though without me mentioning the exceptions to them. The exceptions are the women who are educated and economically independent, but are still voiceless and trampled on. There are also cases of uneducated and economically dependent women who are able to stand up for themselves anyway and demand what is their due and get it.
In general, culturally, there is still the tendency, in Africa, for women to be treated worse than men. But it is also very dependent on the country you are in. I would say in countries like Kenya, Nigeria and a few more, women are extremely empowered, educated, and are able to stand up for themselves domestically, politically, and professionally. Versus a country like Somalia where apart from many women not being educated, the Muslim religion enforces the notion that women should culturally be treated worse than men. All in all, there is still the tendency for employers to want to pay women less than they do men for the same kind of work done by women with similar qualifications as men.
Now for Women in the United States, I believe they have had a longer period to fight for their rights, so they are culturally, socially, and politically better placed than women in Africa so to speak. But there too, is still a lot of discrimination. For example, there are many occurrences of women being paid less than men for the same kind of work while boasting the same qualifications as the men, if not better. In general, discrimination against women is less in the USA than Africa.
Do you think women are valued more in Africa or in the United States?
Lucie Rogo: I think women make themselves more valued in USA mainly due to the longer period they have had to fight for their rights. But in general, I think this depends again on the African country. Some African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, value their women more than in countries like Central African Republic, but it is due to the women in these countries really fighting for their rights.
Which culture do you believe gives more opportunity to women to have an impact, whether it be politically, socially, or economically?
Lucie Rogo: I would say that the USA gives more opportunity to women, but the explanation is much as explained above. Where women have more education and economic independence, and they have more ability to fight for their own rights economically, politically and socially and to tend to have a voice and platforms to express the injustices against them.
What are some of your personal experiences of repression in one of the two cultures or in both cultures? How did you react to these experiences of repression?
Lucie Rogo: Being well educated and have held very good jobs with the best organizations in the world like ICIPE, the UN, Bionet International and Consultant at World Bank, Smithsonian Institution, National Science Foundation, I have not experienced much injustice in any of the cultures. But of course, in the USA, there is the added color issue in addition to the gender issue that I have to face. In most cases, you just make sure you know what you want, and know how to fight to get what you want.
What steps do you think Africa and the United States need to take in order for there to be true equality between the genders, if any?
Lucie Rogo: Women need to fight for their rights. They need to get a good education, be economically, socially and politically empowered to have a voice to ensure they know their rights and to fight to get their rights. No one will give them equality on a silver platter; they need to go fight for it.