Last week, I was having a conversation with Zaneta — the daughter of a colleague. Zaneta wanted to speak with me on the importance of gender equality. Great — a subject I am particularly passionate and vocal about. Zaneta started the conversation by calling me Mr. Uzoma. I corrected her, immediately; my name is Uzoma, not Mr. Uzoma. She was surprised, a little perplexed perhaps — but I was determined; “Call me Uzoma”, I insisted.
Zaneta is 11 years old.
Yes, I am fully aware that in our society, 11 year olds calling anyone senior to them by their first name is not a simple concept for us to digest. But why? What’s wrong with people just going by their first name? Respect goes beyond a name; it’s how people treat you. Zaneta is a sharp, intelligent, polite young lady who conducted our conversation with respect — all the while referring to me as ‘Uzoma’. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat. The premise of our initial conversation about gender equality, and the naming issue, sparked new thoughts around generational inequality for me.
Inequality can be divided into tribal, gender, sexual and generational. In Nigeria, generational inequality manifests itself so that children and young people are required to be seen and not heard; they are traditionally voiceless and have their wings clipped if they go against or question the hierarchy; a hierarchy that’s more often than not in its position due to age and not merit. We continuously put barriers and blockages between the old and the young. Our society tells us, no it enforces upon us, that you’re too young to be a leader, too young to have a voice, too young to have money, but you’re old enough to go to war and die.
Yet ours is a youthful population; 70% of the population is under 30, but 99.9% of decision makers are over 50 — Gen X. Said Gen X has money, it has long-term experience, whereas Gen Z does not have money, but does have different experiences. Does this mean the two cannot co-exist? Absolutely not — in fact, they have to work together. If we are only to be informed and led by Gen X, then we are…