Welcome to my second post of Motivational May Series. Please check out the main post for the details and schedule of Motivational May series. In this post, we will be talking about the struggle of Nigerian women to achieve gender equality. Women in Nigeria are till this day fighting for very basic rights which are denied to them because of the gender roles set by the culture. This post is aimed to create awareness about gender inequality and damages caused by rigid gender roles. This is also the goal set by my fellow blogger Blessing Bossman. She is a Nigerian writer, speaker and lover of Christ who feels strongly towards women empowerment. After sharing the statistical information about gender inequality in Nigeria and the influence of rigid gender roles in the state I will be featuring the insightful interview of Nigerian blogger Blessing Bossman on this topic.
Gender Inequality and Gender Roles around the Globe
Stereotypical definition of gender roles leading to gender-based discrimination and gender inequality is prevalent worldwide, but they are more normalized and socially accepted in some countries than others. Stereotypical Gender roles lead to discrimination against women can deny them many human rights including the right for education and choosing a career or having a say in marriage. Harassment and catcalling are indicative of the fact that how a woman’s right to walk freely is violated and this violation is largely normalized in many countries. Objectification of women as a sexual object can damage their mental health, body image, and self-esteem. Rigid stereotypical gender roles for men and women generate individual tensions, which are expressed through negative social vices and interpersonal conflict and violence. The destructive impact of rigid and stereotyped gender roles also includes gender-based domestic violence. Women are also viewed as sexual objects and their worth is measured through their domestic performance and childbearing ability.
Being Female In Nigeria
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian female author who wrote an excellent book “We Should All Be Feminists”. Discussion on this book in a small book club meeting led to the inspiration of a Twitter hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria. The area sales manager who was present at the meeting created the hashtag and started to tweet her thoughts on the topic of rigid gender roles and gender inequality. The hashtag soon became viral and Nigerian women started pouring in their real-life experiences of first-hand gender-based injustice. The hashtag was used over 80,000 times on Twitter and gives you a real picture of gender stereotyping against women in Nigeria.
Female Child Abuse in Nigeria
Due to the gender inequality, rigid harmful gender roles, twisted views of masculinity and femininity and gender-based discrimination life gets really difficult for young girls in Nigeria after the onset of puberty. Dropping out of school, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing, early childhood marriages, teenage pregnancies, sexual harassment, abuse, and rapes are common occurrences for young Nigerian girls. This includes not teenagers but preteens. This could tint their self-esteem and mental health forever.
As of 2012, 27% of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 were victims of FGM but it is reported that the number has reduced to half now.
Early childhood marriages are so prevalent that 17% of Nigerian girls are married before their 15th birthday and 43% OF Nigerian girls are married before they are 18. The households are mostly polygamous and teenagers are married off to much older men. Nigeria has the third highest number of child brides in the world and ranks 11th in the worldwide highest prevalence rate of childhood marriage.
When a Nigerian man marries, he pays ‘bride price’ to the father of the bride. This price is negotiated depending upon the age, virginity, and beauty of the bride. Since the man is paying the price for the bride it does not need to be stated that her worth is just like a cattle. This also implies that her consent for sex is also not required. Even in modern day, when Nigerian men spend money on their girlfriends, it gives them a sense of entitlement towards their body and any objection towards sexual advances is casually overruled.
The Activists in Nigeria have been trying to pass a GEO BILL which will protect the rights of young Nigerian girls and prevent cultural practice promoting child abuse like FGM, breast ironing and early childhood marriages. This Bill has been tossed out of assembly several times for being ‘un-African’.
Statistics of Women in Nigeria
According to Wikipedia women are viewed as subordinate to their male counterparts and are viewed as nothing more than a homemaker. This mentality is more prevalent in Northern Nigeria. It has only been 40 years since the ideology of feminism or equal rights for the woman in Nigeria was introduced.
According to reports published by World Bank, in 2010 58% of all girls and 69% of all boys were enrolled in primary school. The ratio of female to male primary school enrolment was 84%. It is a clear indication of lack of interest from Nigerian parents to educate their daughters in comparison to their sons even at the primary school level. It obviously gets worse in higher education levels.
Same reports shares that in 2013, there were 40 000 maternal deaths reported, which means out of 10 000 births, 56 women died giving birth. In 2013, the adolescent fertility rate was 118 births per 1 000 adolescent girls and 16% women expressed the unmet need of family planning This is an indication of the failure of the Nigerian government to deliver proper health care for Nigerian women.
When it comes to employment the report shared that in 2013, women represented 42% of the total labor force and 49% of the female working-age population was part of the labor force, while 64% of the male working-age population was part of the labor force.
Interview of Nigerian Blogger Blessing Bossman
Blessing was kind enough to take time and share some very insightful information with us. She has also shared some very personal information and her own experiences through this interview.
Q: 1: What made you aware of the gender inequality in your home country Nigeria?
Blessing Bossman: Growing up as a kid, I never knew what gender inequality was. All I knew was that a woman is supposed to be in the house, to take care of the kids and cook. This woman was my mom and that was her job for which she received her payment by being called a married woman. . Some women even today are still denied the right to education and the major reason is poverty. Single girls are being pressured into marriage once they become graduates but boys are asked to earn a living first. A significant number of women are married off against their will. Girls in their 30s are seen as old women but guys are not. Ladies are deprived of becoming leaders in our society, people would rather not vote for them, not because they are not capable enough, but because they are women. Men beat up their wives at home, cheat on them and when the woman decides that she wants to leave such a marriage, society begs her to stay and endure. They tell her to save her marriage. Now I am more aware of the injustice being done to the female gender.
Q: 2: How do you feel fixed gender roles in Nigerian households are contributing to gender inequality?
Blessing Bossman: “Women’s education ends in the kitchen” this is the mentality of Nigerians. A woman’s place is in the kitchen, she’s meant to do the chores and take care of the house while the man is supposed to bring money for the family. It’s obvious their back up for this act is the Bible. The Bible which they do not read and understand what it says, they have only heard the bible says so but they never cared to read it for once. The bible says “A woman should be submissive to her husband and her husband should love her.” What our Nigeria men see alone is the act of submission. The submission; they define, is always staying at home and listening to their husbands. That isn’t submission, submission means loyalty. Giving my all to you, I won’t share myself with another man because I am submissive to my husband. God also requires the man to love his wife as she is submissive to him. You can’t expect submission when there is no love. What is love? Love is loyalty, honesty, trust, and commitment. It is very obvious that the Nigerian men do not practice the love that is why they beat up their wives or deprive them of chasing dreams. God did not create any gender to be less or more, he created us in his image and likeness so we can become one. Nigerian men don’t want to see us women like that, they want to see us as less and we are denied the right to earn a living. Gender roles were not supposed to be defined so rigidly, all of this happened as a result of ignorance when women were deprived of education because they felt it was a waste of resources. Women would stay at home while the men would go out and hustle. They felt all there is to a woman’s life is a man and she can’t be a leader. All of this is ignorance and lack of understanding. This has caused so many women pain because they are now dependent on their men and they do not have a life of their own. And the men who do not practice love decide on exploiting their weaknesses. I’m glad that narrative is changing, women are no longer staying at home but they are working hard to earn a living.
Q: 3: How do you believe it is affecting the lives of Nigerian Women?
Blessing Bossman: Nigerian women even in this day are seen as house help, they are asked to quit their jobs or not to go for higher positions. They are advised not to make money more than their husband, and to condone cheating. Nigerian women are asked to keep quiet in the face of any injustice. They are asked not to be humans but women who were bought out of a man so we owe them our lives. It is very obvious our Nigerian men do not have a clear understanding, if they do, they would treat women right and stop seeing them as just a sexual figure. They would stop beating her up and throwing her stuff out of the house when she starts speaking up. They would not rape her when she refuses sex. All sort of ill practices that are against the Bible, and they justify it using the Bible which they have no clear understanding of.
Q: 4: What positive changes do you think gender equality can bring in Nigeria?
Blessing Bossman: It will bring a lot of changes as it will enable people to value marriage. It will also enable men to see their wives as more than submissive house help. Women would start going for top positions and become leaders. Women would receive great support in the home and the men would know that it is not just in a woman’s place to keep her home but for both parties. There would be unity in homes, young ones won’t be scared of getting married, they won’t see marriage as a killer of dreams but as a beautiful union, everyone should go into. The rate of abuse and depression in marriages would drop. Women would rise up and do more for themselves and contribute to society.
Q: 5: What is being done on government or societal level to achieve gender equality in Nigeria?
Blessing Bossman: Some government organizations are preaching gender equality, but I feel we are preaching it with the wrong approach. Because the men defend their wrong practices with the Bible and most people feel that the Bible is partial to women but that’s not true. There are also social media campaigns, one-on-one talks with men. I would say we are trying to get rid of this mentality but it is very hard to change because men are scared of the change that comes with the truth and challenges their authority and monopoly.
Q: 6: Has gender Inequality in Nigeria affected your life? If yes, how?
Blessing Bossman: Yes, it has, I have been asked to not get angry because I’m a woman and women are not supposed to be angry. It’s obvious I was seen as just a woman and not a human who has emotions. I have also been asked to do all the chores in a house I share with my partner, while he sits without trying to be more supportive. He doesn’t see it as his job but only mines and he helps only when he wants. If he saw it as our job to clean the house then he wouldn’t have to assist occasionally but at all times since we both work from home. I have been told if I get married then my job would be on hold or I would have to seek a job with fewer working hours because I would have kids. I have also been told not to be too ambitious.
Q: 7: What are you doing to fight gender inequality around you? Are you facing any resistance?
Blessing Bossman: Right now, all I can do is talk to people through social media and one on one conversation to create awareness about the issues around gender inequality and rigid gender roles. I am facing lots of resistance, especially from men. But I have my Bible to back up the truth. I teach them what the Bible truly says. Hopefully, this would not only change their mind but also make them want to know God more. Some are beginning to see the truth with me but others do not want to hear of it, but I won’t stop or be discouraged. I have to talk to them in the best way I can so all this injustice can be gotten rid of.
Q: 8: How do you plan to contribute towards creating awareness about gender inequality?
Blessing Bossman: I want to reach out to more people. I guess that’s why I’m blogging, to share my thoughts on all these issues we are facing in our country so people can learn the truth. The plan is to have a better platform to create more awareness and help women who have been deprived of their rights to learn the truth and also empower them.
Q: 9: What role do you think Nigerian mothers can play towards gender equality?
Blessing Bossman: The number one role is to train their children equally and do not see one as less or more. To rebuke the male child when he feels he is more than a woman. To show them what the Bible truly says so they won’t go with the ignorant mentality. I would also ask the mothers not to pressure their female child into marriage, to encourage them to see themselves as more, to send them to school so they can contribute towards society, to allow them to marry the man of their choice, and to teach them self worth so they can do things for themselves and not depend on a man. I would also want them to teach men how to treat women around them. Mothers should also teach their daughters that they shouldn’t condone certain things just because they want to get married. They shouldn’t marry abusive men. They should marry men that have the fear of God and is educated, a man who won’t stop them from chasing their dreams, a man who would see them as an equal and want to build his life with them.
Q: 10: What message do you wish to give to Nigerian men and women?
Blessing Bossman: God never created any lesser gender, stop with this inequality. Stop depriving women of exploring their potentials, they are humans. We are all humans so let us live in harmony. Stop with the abuse, no one deserves to be treated like that. We all have feelings. If we are one in marriage then why hurt me? That should mean you are hurting yourself. Let’s learn to respect each other, understand our feelings, communicate our needs, trust and be honest with each other. And above all let’s draw closer to God because he is the one who instituted marriage, so let’s know him more and let him guide us.