Channels Tv, Rubbin’ Minds is joining the global community to celebrate the International Women’s Month in March 2018 with a special series.
The TV show, hosted by Zimbabwean media personality, Vimbai Mutinhiri, will feature and celebrate powerful, inspirational and successful women in Africa who have overcome obstacles. These women have been selected as symbol of hope by sharing their stories to inspire, raise and advance the cause of women across the continent.
For the first episode, veteran singer, actress, and activist Onyeka Onwenu shares how she managed to stand her career, activism, sexuality, women in politics, not compromising her morals, and more.
On her passion for women
By age 36, my mother had become widowed for the second time, her first husband died a year after they both married. Then, she married my father, a self-made man. Two weeks before he was to become the minister of education for Nigeria, he died in a car accident. So, at 36, my mother with five children said, ‘I’ve had it, where I’m I going to take this five children to’ plus all the relatives that my father had gathered, so she remained single and I saw her fight a fight for women.
Even in our family, my cousins that were married off, their husbands were violent towards them, my mother would physically go to fight and when the men saw her, they knew the game was over. So, I grew up with that and because I also watched the women. My mother couldn’t have been that way because my mother wouldn’t have taken it- beating her up….
So, I learnt from her that you say you cannot take this and you do not take it.
On an incidence when she came under public criticism because of her vocality
I got into elevator and there was some men in there and as soon as they saw me, “they say Nigerian men don’t know how to make love,” I had said that in an interview, but it was twisted. What I meant was that they didn’t know how to love their women. That women need to be loved, need to be told that they are loved, you take the time to woo them, you send flowers , that was what I meant, not that they couldn’t make love.
“I will not buy her music anymore. Let her come and meet me, I will show her,” the men said.
On not compromising as a female musician
It was difficult during our time but I give credit to Christy Igbokwe because she was in the ring before I came in. The Dora Efodus, they were in there fighting it out and with Dora, you began to see educated women coming into the field and holding it, they are not apologizing. It was difficult because some men thought because you go up onstage to entertain, therefore, you must be a loose woman. I remember going to do a show somewhere and the man that had hired me, very well-known person slapped my back saying, “don’t waste your energy rehearsing.” As I turned and he saw my face, he backed off and apologized.
But again, its that ability to say ‘No, there’s a red line here, don’t cross it. you’ve paid for me to entertain your guest, I’m going to give you the best but that’s where it ends. It doesn’t make me your girlfriend.”
He had required that I dress up with the local women and come dance, I said, “ for what, did you pay me for that? Okay, let me tell you what I will charge for that, if you can pay that, them I’m going to do that.”
That was what we had to face and those of us that refused to buckle were tagged difficult, aggressive, and given all manner of tags but you are the one to define yourself and if you remain consistent with it, at some point, that respect and appreciation comes.
The young women that are in the field today, along with the rest of us that haven’t left, some of them picked up on what we had done and are following that trend and I must say that i am very proud of them. But there are some who feel that they have to sell their body as accessible, that’s their decision, I don’t condemn them. That’s the path they want to go, its okay. But there are many, enough of them really understand what this game is about.
On facing sexual harassment
Its everywhere. Infact, I didn’t have to face it in entertainment because I came in, a very outspoken, educated woman and yes, I did face it but I was able to deal with it. In politics, particularly in Nigeria, I don’t think we will ever get to a situation where we will begin to talk about it because (it is prevalent and the men who are guilty are too powerful) and what I say to women who are in politics is, ‘don’t make that mistake.
A man comes after you for a good number of reasons. He could be attracted to you but some just want to say, ‘come to my house, you see that Onyeka Onwenu wey una dey see for TV, she dey my house now,’ its to feed their ego or he’s frightened of you, of the power that you hold and he wants to put you in your place and the only way he can do that is making you a sexual object, to tell you, ‘this is all you’re good for. We will allow you to parade the corridors of power but we bring you close because what you’re good for is for me to take you to the bedroom.’And once you allow that because you think it’s the only way you can move up, you are finished. You might get the immediate gratification, make a lot of money but that’s the end of you.