Arts & Entertainments

Echoes of women empowerment

In African traditional societies, childbearing – the responsibility of a woman in marriage – is held in high esteem. In most cultures failure to fulfill this role of motherhood is often greeted with sustained reproach and psychological torment to the woman.

In fact, barren women are not accepted by society; they are usually subjected to tremendous pressure. Despite civilisation and the evolving into a ‘global village’, this tradition still exists till today in many societies and cultures. Eriye Onagoruwa, an energy executive with a passion for women’s causes, brings this to the fore in her debut novel ‘Dear Alaere’, a gripping story of love, betrayal, rivalry, angst, courage, resilience and struggle for survival against all odds in a dysfunctional society. Written in the first-person narrative, and set in Lagos, a city that never sleeps, Dear Alaere tells the story of Alaere Benson, your typical modern, professional woman full of hope and zeal to make a difference financially in dysfunctional society where “women are still largely fanciful properties with sensuous lips, muffled voices and faceless expressions leased out to feudal Lords – their stories will only be heard when they are decrepit and long gone.”

African woman, she notes, is like a minefield, adding that African women “need to be financially literate as life comes with many surprises.” So with this knowledge she is determined to succeed. She gets a job in a firm Nueterone, as a legal and compliance officer. The job gave her much hope, as she notes in the opening chapter, “a chance to earn some money and respect.” It is to her diary she engages in a conversation almost at every turn of event as she documents her thoughts, experiences…

But Alaere’s joy was shortlived following her encounter with Lady K, her colleague in the office, who is involved in affair with Chief. Alaere resigns, but she happy that she did, as it at least gives her time to own her space. “Freedom truly is not free. As I left the Nueterone building, I made a mental note to myself, never again.”

But it is not as simple as it seems, for at home, she is happily married to ‘Laja, they, however, begin to have problems when they experience difficulties having children and their situation is compounded by extended family, especially her mother-in-law interference and pressure. She gets a job at Criole and she is excited to be working for a multinational company, but it does not take long for her to see that, like the society, Criole is dysfunctional and “bears an eerie similarity to Nigeria. As she struggles to find her footing in her new role, “she witnesses a neverending theatre of murder, sexual harassment and mysticism.” As things get out of control, she has to reassess how she feels about the chaos around her and take charge of her life…

With this must-read-novel, Onagoruwa lends her voice to the call for women empowerment. Anyone that has read this novel cannot but agree with Michael Afenfia, author, The Mechanics of Yenagoa, when notes on the blurb, that, “Eriye has written a captivating story about love, rivalry, betrayal, career, womanhood, and the sometimes unexpected challenges of life in one of Nigeria’s most loved cities, Lagos. Through Alaere’s dairy, she navigates a world most of us can only dream of with a familiarity that introduces her as a voice that needs to be heard.” As Yenie Emmanuel, author, The Book of April, also notes, Dear Araere is “a moving tale of overcoming challenges with persistence and steadfastness in the journey of life.

There is a lot to learn from this novel.” Onagoruwa was born in Canada and raised in Nigeria. She has an LL.B, a B.L and an LL.M in Law and works as an energy executive with extensive experience in the Oil and Gas sector. When she is not negotiating energy deals, she writes articles for The Guardian Nigeria and This Day newspapers.

She is fascinated by the power of words and the effect their messages can have on individuals and the society. Eriye loves fashion and travelling and finds inspirations in the many countries she visits. She is passionate about women’s causes, especially financial literacy for women and teaches on investment and financial literacy. Dear Alaere is her first novel. Significantly, Dear Alaere is published by Paperworth Books Limited, a publishing firm which aims to create and promote access to knowledge through books and learning; harness, encourage, promote and celebrate indigenous creativity content in publishing and bookselling; as well as foster and encourage the habit of reading across ages and literacy levels.

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