The 21st-century woman

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‘Nimi Akinkugbe

On March 8, several events took place all over the world to mark the International Women’s Day. Nigeria was no different as workshops, seminars and conferences were held to give some focus to, and celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Traditional gender roles historically presented household income from a perspective where women were expected to stay at home and look after the children. The economic reality today is that to lead even the most modest existence, it often requires a two-income family. Indeed, most families have to rely on incomes from both partners in order to meet family goals of educating children, living in a decent home and planning for retirement.

Indeed, women all over the world are earning more than ever before, and many of them are contributing a significant part of the household income; often assuming the role of the primary breadwinner. This social phenomenon is bringing about profound changes and has financial, emotional and psychological implications for both men and women, particularly in a patriarchal society such as ours with its traditional views of gender roles. Any role reversal can be destabilising, and this trend can lead to frustration or resentment as more financial burden is placed on women on the one hand, and potentially bruised male egos on the other.

Generations of women have held the Proverbs 31 woman as their role model. She forms the perfect picture of a busy woman running her home, rushing to work, running a business, making investment decisions, and volunteering her time for charitable causes, while continuing to be the rock of her family; the exceptional wife and mother.

Even though she existed thousands of years ago, her approach to life and her finances is more relevant than ever for the 21st-century woman. Proverbs 31 forms a veritable guide to women of every faith, and what we can aspire to achieve. With wisdom, determination, and focus, today’s woman can make a success of both her home and her work. This discussion focuses on the very practical financial lessons and concepts that come to the fore that we can imbibe and include in our own lives.

She is frugal

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” She is prudent about her shopping and is quality conscious. She values her customers, so will go some distance to ensure that she gets value for money. We too can be frugal in our shopping, and avoid impulse buying.

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She invests wisely

“She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings, she plants a vineyard.” Apart from working to earn a living, she invests carefully. She not only plans for the short-term but understands and seeks the benefits of long-term investments and income, contributing to the financial well-being of her household.

She is reliable and dependable.  Her husband trusts her and has full confidence in her ability to make the right day-to-day decisions. She administers the family assets efficiently.

She plans ahead and is organised

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” She plans for a rainy day. She is an organised and energetic woman who manages her time efficiently. She accomplishes more by starting her day early and carries out her responsibilities with diligence and good cheer.

She is an entrepreneur

“She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” This woman runs a business from her home and has the business acumen to be a successful trader in the marketplace. As an entrepreneur, her effort and industry supplement the family’s income.

She is talented and industrious

“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.” She uses her creative talents to earn additional income to support her family. She is a wonderful example of diligence and industry. What talent have you been blessed with? With a little imagination and determination, you can put your talent to good use. You may be a great cook, have a special voice, or be a gifted tailor. How can you develop these skills through diligent application to the point where they can increase your income, be of benefit to you, your family or your community?

She is generous

“She extends her hand to the poor, and stretches out her hands to the needy.” She is generous in her giving; not only did she care for her family, and her domestic staff, but she also gave back to society and had the sensitivity and compassion to care for the poor and needy.

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She keeps fit and strong

“She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” We get the impression of a woman who kept herself physically and mentally fit and well, through exercise and an appropriate diet going vigorously about her duties as so many people depended on her.

She is submissive

There are misconceptions about the word “submissive.” To many “modern” women, the word submissive has a negative tone about it, as it connotes weakness. Yet, a truly submissive and God-fearing woman is not feeble; she is strong, capable, intelligent, resourceful, hardworking and patient. She lays aside all negative connotations to rest and sees the ideals of submission not as subservience or as a threat to her identity, but rather, as a partnership. It does not undermine her, her confidence or her position in any way.  There is no contest about who is “in charge.”  She is her husband’s helper.

In exploring submission, one discovers that while it may not be an easy or a popular choice, it brings harmony to a home. It is that admission of dependence upon one another and an acceptance of our traditional roles.

It is far too easy to place the Proverbs 31 woman up on a pedestal as if to try to emulate her is an unattainable goal. Today’s woman, whether she is a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew, has much to learn from this ancient biblical ideal.

In examining the characteristics of this remarkable woman, as we pass through our diverse and complex lifestyles, juggling family, home, work, career, and business, let us see if we can come any closer to this ideal in our own lives, even as traditional gender roles evolve.

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