First Lady of Sport Journalism, popular TV sports presenter, Aisha Falode, needs little or no introduction. But what may be hidden from a lot of people is the measure of her passion for her TV talk show, Amazons, which she co-presents with Nollywood actress, Bimbo Akintola, and Lagos-based lawyer, Dolapo Awosika. In this interview with MERCY MICHAEL, Falode talks about her career, private life and relationships, among other things.
YOUR TV programme, The Amazons, is solely about women. Are you such a feminist?
No, no, no. It is not for women alone; it is for the family. It is just that women are the ones who drive the family. The home is set by the woman. The woman defines how she wants the home to be run. She is the bedrock of the family. She takes the initiative. She builds the foundation for the children.
If you get the family right, you get the society right. A lot of the problems we have in the society now can be traced back to the family. And as women, we feet concerned that there is a lot of holdback when we want to deal with these issues, especially the non-traditional issues. Those are the issues that really affect us as a society. For the women, even though we talk about it in our private moments, we are never bold enough to bring them to the fore for public discourse.
Take for instance sexual intercourse. Promiscuity is not only about the girl child; it is also about the boy who is just starting to discover himself. At what point do you start to talk with a child about sex and the consequences of being sexually active?
We live in a society where you cannot place any restrictions on the children anymore. Learning and teaching is reality for the kids. If you don’t talk to them about it at home, they are going to have to find out themselves. We have a lot of outlets that will give you this information, whether you like it or not. So it is your responsibility as a family to sit the child down and tell the child that look, what you see on TV, a lot of it is the reality.
Reality is what drives the television. It is basically for entertainment, but the reality of life is different from the reality of TV. The responsibility of them distinguishing between the moral, the ethics, and what is right and perceivable still falls on you as a mother. This is where we come in.
Even as mothers ourselves, we have a lot of issues that trouble us. For instance, you talk about relationship and what really holds a marriage together. Even though you may not be married, you are exposed enough. You have friends who are married. You have relations who are married. So, you have a lot of experience and example to draw from.
Women have a lot of health issues that we are not too comfortable to discuss.
Take menopause for instance. A lot of us go through menopause at very early age now, but because of the restrictions, how will the society perceive us? You talk to your friends and they are like no o, I don’t want people to know that I am old. But, for God’s sake, it is not a disease; it is just a natural process that you have to go through in life.
Menopause, these days, does not even come with age. And what if it comes with age? I mean gone are the days when a woman hides her true age. These days, I’m happy to tell you I’m over 50. The men will tell you without even thinking twice about it. Why do you want to hold on to this stereotype belief that with a woman, everything has to be kept secret?
Even if it is a disease, should someone be afraid to talk about it?
What does it take for a woman? If you know that something is wrong with your breast, why don’t you discuss it with your friend? Why don’t you seek medical help? Why do you want to leave it too late until, perhaps maybe, what you didn’t want people to learn about will eventually kill you and it will become public knowledge to rest of the world? We are just trying to break that barrier between what is permissible. Everything is permissible. This is what The Amazons is all about.
It is not all about women issues. We also talk about politics. We talk about governance: how does it affect us as women? How does it affect our children? What is the guarantee for the future if we continue this way? What is the leadership role that a woman can take in order to effect the changes that we so deserve and desire as the bedrock of the family? What is our responsibility in ensuring that the quality of leadership that we put in place actually starts from the home? How do we prepare our children?
Look, if you can’t beat them, join them syndrome has to stop in one way or the other. These are the moral values that you must hold on to as a family. Good name, in Yoruba parlance, is better than silver and gold. You have to protect the name and integrity of your family. I think if we can get these basics as a family, it will translate to the bigger picture of the quality of leadership.
At what point did you conceive The Amazons?
Well, it had always been there. You know you sit down with friends, and you just let go. But in order for you to now affect the larger society with what we discuss, I found that there was a lot of restriction among friends, saying we can only talk about it here. Men sit down and talk about relationships; they talk about their experiences with women. Why can’t we also talk about our experiences with men? A lot of women are going through divorce. They are patching their marriages. They want to make it work by all means, but a man will not care a hoot about it. We are not saying that as a platform of affecting the society, what is wrong is right. We are just saying that what is wrong is wrong and what is right is right. But there are some things you just cannot make happen the way you want them to be.
What are the other options? How do you move on with your life? A lot of us are undergoing counseling in this Lagos State because of the pressure of marriage; because you want to have a relationship; because of the pressure of ‘look, I’m over 30 and I still cannot find Mr. Right.’ The family will put pressure on you. Your parents will put pressure on you. Friends will put pressure on you. But there a lot of bachelors who are in their 50s and nobody is pressurizing them. These are the issues we are talking about.
But some of these issues also border on culture, ethics and values…
We understand the ethics. We understand the values. But if there is nothing you can do about the ethics and the values, what is the way forward? What are the options in other for you to move on with your life?
What are the highpoints of the show?
The highpoint is when we are able to get people to break down the barriers and really come and talk about their experiences. We have had menopause discussed after several attempts to talk to people, saying ‘look, there is nothing wrong undergoing menopause.’ We have had women come to talk to us about their experiences and our feedback on facebook was quite amazing.
Look, menopause has broken down marriages. Men could not just understand, why is my wife suddenly becoming depressed? Why is their sudden mood swing? Why is she not having interest in those things that used to interest her? They couldn’t find answers to it because they didn’t understand what was going on with the woman and, therefore, there is a disconnect in the relationship and that eventually affects the marriage to the point that they have to get separated.
But if the men could understand, perhaps they will be more empathic. Perhaps they will be more understanding. Perhaps they could give that support that women need. We pleaded for advocacy; that the same way we are talking about cancer opening, that it is a killer, you need to do x, y and z, why don’t you also let women know these too? Let there be some kind of public enlightenment where it will really be discussed, where you have a forum, preparing women for menopause. Before you will hit the menopause, there is something called the pre-menopause; the periods are far in between. These are things you will experience in your body. The oestrogen and prostrogen are going to get depleted and it will affect your skin and your mood. You are going to break out in sweat. You are going to have internal heat. Perhaps, if you have any, it will shot up your blood pressure and this is where you seek help. Where is the support group? That information will really help in a long way.
We’ve also had a boy who lived as a girl for so many years and because of the stigma couldn’t come out. Now the boy has realised that he cannot continue to pretend about his body. He was actually born with a defect where you have both the male and female genitals. When he grew out of it, he sought support and was able to undergo medical support in the United States. Now he is a full, handsome grown man. But he still needs one more surgery in order to complete the process. He was bold enough to come out and talk about it on The Amazons.
We also had the people we call the run girls; girls who sell their bodies for money. Although they are not on the street, they do it through connection and network. We also have what we call the Aristos. They have proper jobs, but they still are not contended with what they have and still think that selling their bodies for money to keep up their social status is the only way they know. We brought them on the programme and told them that it is not the solution. We are able to now manage them and take them off that line of action.
But it still depends on the free will of the individual. They know the consequences, the risk of getting involved in such act: you could be raped, killed or drugged. You could end up with STDs or HIV. They know all these risks and consequences and still, they are not able to pull back and say ‘look, I could die from this.’ But because this is the only way they know how to survive, they still continue.
We have several other incidents. We have gone to the market and seen women who, although they are not literate, they understand the power of global currency because they are global traders. They have made millions selling fabrics in Oke Arin (market). They send their children to the best of schools in the world and live comfortably. You do not need also to be so much educated. We place so much importance on certificate as a nation, which is why we have so much employment.
The government also has not helped with the fact that we need to diversify our education. Apart from this paper qualification, what happens to our technical colleges? Abroad, you see plumbers, painters, you know workmen. They earn much more than those who wear tie and suit to go to the office in the morning. Why don’t they develop this sector of education? Everybody cannot be a graduate.
You turn out the graduates and there are no employments to absorb the work force. And what do you have? You have youth who do not know how to channel their energy and they are involved in vices, fraud, kidnapping and all kinds of things. It is a means to survive. So, you need to deemphasise this paper qualification and begin to also pay respect to technical qualification. That way, we’ll have jobs for our youths. There will be wealth creation. The youth can also create wealth for themselves and become self employed and employ others. These are serious issues that we treat on The Amazons. Ultimately, it is about the family.
In this part of the world, women dread aging. Why is that so?
I don’t have a problem with age. I tell people my age. I hit 50 last year. I’m proud to be 50. In a lot of ways, I can relate to the saying that age is in the mind. You are only as old as you feel in your mind. Once you feel that you are old, you begin to behave like an old person. But if you still feel young in your mind, you are what you perceive yourself to be. So I will encourage a lot of women to still deal with their mind as though they are young and still do the things that they used to enjoy doing although with moderation. I’m not saying go about still wearing your mini skirt. Now, you have to be conservative, respectable and still feel young. This is the way I think that women should start dealing with the issue of age.
If you enjoyed clubbing as a young woman, get a group of friends together and have a girls’ night out. You may not go to the same club as your children. Don’t go and stay overnight. Go to the movies with a group of friends. Just go and hangout and come back home. It also helps relationships, where you are not suffocating one another. Your man is the outgoing type, you are at home nagging. He’s not going take you out all the time, he also needs his own time to be with his friends, hangout, go to the bar or go and hangout and watch the game with the boys. Pick interest in what your man is doing, but don’t suffocate him.
The same thing with the man; don’t suffocate your wife. Give yourselves space. Of course, you also need time to spend with your husband. Take yourselves on holiday. It helps in a long way to maintain the freshness in a relationship.
Over the years, there has been the argument over what really helps to keep the home. Is it food or sex?
See no pretences. If you talk to 10 men, 90.9 per cent of them, that is almost a 100 per cent, will tell you that what goes on in the bedroom is much more important than what is in the plate on the table. Talk to them. That is what they go after when they go after girlfriends. The girlfriends don’t cook for them. It is what they do with these men that take the men to them. Let’s don’t pretend as women. Be creative. ‘Daddy, it’s me and you tonight.’ Recreate that old time and they will enjoy it. Even when they are in the process of straying, they remember that my wife can give me what I want. Even if they want to, they are held back because the woman is fantastic, and they are wondering why they are wasting their time with these small, small girls.
Forget about food. Although it is also important, those people they are going out to see are not cooking for them. That is the truth. Let’s be frank about it. Perhaps, if I was as matured as I am when I got married, I could keep my home. But I wasn’t mature. If I get a second chance today, God help the lady that will come and take my place. Ase baba nla ise (she will have to toil for it).
This is the time for women to wake up. Keep your relationship. Keep your man, whatever it takes. What is it that he is going to look for outside? I will give him double at home. This is what men want. We brought them to the programme on how to sustain your marriage, and they told us verbatim. Forget about the food. It is the food in the bedroom that is more important. Maybe in the days of our mothers, you know they were traditionalists, they were not adventurous.
How many children do you have?
A girl and a boy.
For the girl, what was it like when she was growing up, considering your busy schedule?
The thing is learn to be a friend to your children and they will tell you anything and everything. If you earn their trust, if they have anything, they will come to you and say ‘Mummy, this is it.’ If they are having problems or if it is about how to get back their boy, what do you think? Why is he behaving like this? Speak to them as a friend. If they earn your trust, they tell you before they do anything and they seek your advice. Your advice will become very important to them. Without your advice they cannot do anything. They will have to run it by you, even thought the decision is still for them to be made.
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