Battling Nigeria’s patriarchal system, speaking for women

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Patriarchy in Nigeria continues to limit the nation’s potential to benefit from global efforts to address gender equality.

In Nigeria, women, even the working-class women, are mostly responsible for managing the household including domestic chores.

While some Nigerians believe that it is alright for whoever is disposed at the time to handle domestic chores, others feel it is a taboo for a man to take up the responsibility of cleaning, cooking or taking care of children and other members of the household.

Speaking on paid jobs and the need to allow women the liberty of enjoying some rest while their husbands take on domestic activities in the homes, a popular food vendor in Jabi Park in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, Mama Edo, a mother of three – two boys and a girl -, believes that there should be different training for different gender.

The 67-year food vendor believes that a woman’s place is in the kitchen while men can be allowed to have as many diverse ambitions as they wished.

Mama Edo said: “The way a woman is trained is different from a man; the way a boy child is trained is always different.

Elaborating with a mix of pidgin English, Mama Edo said it is expected that a girl is trained and nurtured to take care of the home and all members of the household and not allowed to venture into the ‘turbid waters’ of career path like politics or aviation – ambitions she believes should be left for the men.

Mama Edo serving her customers

Every mother suppose train em girl in a way that she can cope as a good housewife. I no go like make my daughter become president because of the dangers in politics,” said Mama Edo, with a shrug of her shoulders.

Speaking further she narrated how the women folks, should the need arise, take up what she described as ‘soft’ jobs to support the family.

Listing some of her approved jobs for a female, the food vendor said: “She can be a nurse, a doctor, open restaurant like I dey do so but president? No, she go spoil.”

Like Mama Edo, a 36-year-old male, Gogo Malvern, who works as an electrical engineer said it is an abomination for a woman to have a paid job.

Gogo defining roles said a woman’s place is in the kitchen and home in general while the man has the sole responsibility of fending for the family.

He also urged men who allow their wives to contribute financially to the family to desist from such acts.

Gogo

I can borrow the money from her and pay the school fees myself. I will pay her back later because it is not right to let her pay; that will be selling you rights as a man,” Gogo said

He advised that it is wrong for a woman to provide financially for the house. Gogo said cooking and domestic chores in the home are a woman’s job as the man is expected to provide for his family financially.

A seemingly upset Gogo said. “The woman’s responsibility is to clean the house and make sure the children are okay.”

Also, Blessing Christopher, a 52-year-old commercial driver agrees with Gogo and Mama Edo on gender roles and sharing.

Christopher, who has a 50-year-old wife and five children, four of whom are girls, said his position as the “man of the house” is to provide for the family financially.

“My wife and child cook, I bring the foodstuff and they do the cooking. I cannot cook except I don’t have a child,” Christopher said.

Blessing Christopher

He also said that his wife is only allowed to contribute to the family financially only when he is well aware of her source of income.

Christopher said: “As long as I have a grown-up child, she will cook when my wife cannot cook. If my wife said she can’t cook, I will help her out.”

“My wife does a menial job. She is allowed to pay my children’s school fees as long as I know her source of income. It’s okay if a woman earns more than a man as long as she doesn’t use that as power,” he added.

However, on the contrary, Iyabo Bamidele, blaming herself for not attaining any level of education said she would wish the best for her girl-child.

According to Bamidele, a tomato and pepper seller in the market, accessing quality education is the right step to ensuring a stable life in the country.

Stating that she does not subscribe to shared roles in the home, Bamidele said men and women should be allowed the same level of education and opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Iyabo Bamidele

“I agree that both male and female children should attend School. I don’t want my children to end up like me here,” Bamidele said.

Continuing she noted that: “ So many people here are graduates but they turn to touts because of unemployment. Children attend schools but they turn into armed robbers and prostitutes because of unemployment.”

“My male and female children cook every time, my daughter is married and I live in my house with my son, so by the time I go home after work, dinner is ready for us (courtesy of her son),” Bamidele added.

It is important to note that the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly describes discrimination against women as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex.

According to CEDAW, such discrimination has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

In addition, Article 7 of the CEDAW guarantees women equality in political and public life with a focus on equality in voting, participation in government, and participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.

A report, “How Women Fared in the 2019 Elections” by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) shows that female political representation in Nigeria’s last election was negligibly relative to half of the population the women constitute.

The CDD’s report also shows that 2,970 women were on the 2019 electoral ballot representing only 11.36% of nominated candidates and that so far 62 women, a meagre 4.14% of elected officers who won elections.

For the seat of the president, vice president, senate, house of representatives, governor, deputy governor and state houses of assembly there were six, 22, 235, 533, 74, 275 and 1,825 women who contested for the various positions.

However, out of these women, only seven were elected into the Senate; 11 into the House of Representatives, four as deputy governors and 40 into various state Houses of Assembly across Nigeria.

Comparing the statistics to women representation in some African countries like Rwanda and South Africa; Nigeria seems to be performing poorly in female representation in politics.

Data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union from the National Parliaments as at March 1, 2020, Rwanda topped the list as the country with most women representation with 49 seats out of 80 occupied by women (61.25% female representation) in the country’s  Lower House and 10 seats for women out of 26 in the Upper House.

The IPU data also showed that in South Africa which assumes the 14th position has 184 seats – a 46.58% representation –  out of the 395 seats in the Lower House occupied by women while in the Upper House; 20 seats out of 53 (37.74%) are occupied by women.

However, in Nigeria, the data shows that Nigeria ranked 185 on the list just above Thailand and Sri Lanka with 13 out of 358 seats occupied by women (3.63%) in the House of Representatives and a meagre eight seats out of 109 (7.34%) in the Senate.

 

More so, according to the World Bank in 2014, removing constraints and unleashing women’s full productive potential can yield enormous dividends that help make whole societies more resilient and more prosperous.

The report “Voice and Agency Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity” highlighted that while there has been unprecedented progress in important aspects of the lives of girls and women over recent decades, deprivations and constraints still experienced by females sometimes reflect persistent violations of the most basic human rights.

The report added that in many instances, constraints are magnified and multiplied by poverty and lack of ducation.

Another Nigerian female while making her stance known on taking responsibilities for domestic chores, 43-year-old Ojonoka Adegbe, said no particular chore should be gender-designated.

Adegbe, a PhD student at the University of Keffi, Nasarawa state, said: “The time has come and gone when the woman’s place is in the kitchen”.

She explained that recently due to the change in times, women now financially contribute to family needs unlike in the 60s, 70s or 80s.

“In those days, you can have only the husband having to fend for the family, going out and coming back with the essentials especially when it comes to finances.”

“But these days, everybody is a breadwinner, so anybody that is available can take care of the domestic chores. The timing for my own work may not be suitable for my availability for the child or the whole household.”

Adegbe also said she does not find it strange that a man- a supposed head of the house – is cleaning, cooking or taking care of members of his household.

What is wrong with a man bathing his own kid or making food for his wife who probably had had a long day at work and maybe he came home before her?” Adegbe queried.

She said with no one around the house, would her husband have to wait when water spills on the floor because he is a man?

Giving instances she added: “In fact, my husband baths babies, changes their nappies and everything, depending on his availability.

Addressing the cultural and societal expectations from Nigerian women, Adegbe said the Federal Government must ensure a heightened awareness on the need for gender equality in homes, workplaces and political participation as a whole.

Yes, we know that culturally, what we see here is not so suitable for women in terms of their own timing, we feel women should be able to do anything in the house in regards to domestic chores but then we equally need women participation in all aspects of our life and even the economy,” Adegbe said.

The director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, said Nigeria’s progress since democracy and post-Beijing Platform Action has been slow and that the right approach must be adopted to empower women and achieve SDGs.

Hassan said while efforts in all quarters to increase female enrolment and retention in schools are appreciated, the Nigerian government and the people must improve on gender sensitivity in our education system.

Imbibing the positive stereotypes from a young age will help address negative stereotypes from childhood, this can be done through curriculum development, gender-sensitive games, cartoons amongst others,” Hassan said.

Also, to proffer solutions for this most desired progress of Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goal which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, She said that the CDD advocates for a more dynamic approach which would tackle all forms of roadblocks women face in getting into political and appointive offices and in the long run increase the low number of women in politics.

The CDD director called on the Nigerian government at all levels to address the systemic barriers plaguing women rights in homes and work spaces.

“We advocate for 35 per cent gender quotas in the constitution and manifestoes of political parties as a mutually reinforcing strategy, there is a need to identify potential women aspirants, develop their capacity to run for office and negotiate for space in politics,” Hassan said.

Considering the discrimination of women across Nigeria’s workspace, a calculation by the Gender Gap Africa shows that a Nigerian man earns over $140 dollars more than a woman in a similar position and job per month – the 17th largest gap in Africa after Lesotho and Mali at $109 and  $110 respectively.

For instance, for a female who earns N120,000 in Nigeria, her male counterpart earns 36% (N163,687), that is N43,687 more for a similar job and position.

A glance at the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey, 2018, shows that current employment among women age 15-49 (who are married) has increased over the last decade.

According to the NDHS, there is a leap from 59% in 2008 to 65% in 2018 for women employment rate while the percentage of men who are currently employed has increased from 80% to 86%.

 

The report also showed that 65% of women and 86% of men are currently employed while  3% of the women and 2% of men reported that they had worked in the past 12 months but were not currently employed.

The NDHS also showed that women and men living in rural areas are more likely to be engaged in agriculture (32% and 60%, respectively) than those living in urban areas (10% and 17%, respectively).

Furthermore, women and men with more than a secondary education are more likely than those at other educational levels to be engaged in professional/technical/managerial work (40% and 39%, respectively).

The survey also attributed increased education to more wealth for both men and women said: “Women with no education are mostly engaged in sales and services (67%), while men with no education are primarily engaged in agricultural work (72%).”

In addition, a report by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that parenthood and marriage have more effect on women’s working hours than it does for men.

The IWPR in its report said, while most fathers work more paid hours than other men, mothers, on the other hand, do fewer paid hours than other women.

Assessing mothers and father’s who have children below the age of 18-years, the IWPR noted that, for paid work, women put in 23.3 hours while men do 39.1 hours in a week.

For house chores, women put an average of 17.8 hours while men put in 9.6 hours and for child care, mothers put in 14.7 hours while the fathers do 7.2 hours, all in a week assessment.

The report said that even though mothers’ time in paid work sometimes increased, the division of labour between mothers and fathers in the homes remains very traditional.

Speaking on the 2020 International Women’s Day, the country representative of the United Nation Women to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey, said the day is for the recognition of the persistent inequalities and discrimination which continue to challenge women and girls realising their full rights.

This year’s theme for the IWD is: “I am a Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights.”

Lamptey said 2020 is a particularly significant year for the  UN Women as the Nigerian community highlights the entire month of March with a series of activities and events in celebration of the achievements of Nigerian women.

She said that in 2020 UN Women and the global community will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals, the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the UN Women and 25 years since the adoption of the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which provides the most important blueprint for the advancement of the rights of women and girls.

Stating that generation equality is for everyone, Lamptey said now is the time to take bold and concrete steps to ensure that the nation makes significant progress towards achieving gender equality by 2030.

“We are placing focus on the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action including on the education of the girl-child, training of women and girls, human rights of women, women in the economy, women in power and decision-making and violence against women and girls,” Lamptey noted.

She said the benefits of gender equality are not just for women and girls but for everyone whose lives will be changed by a more equitable world which leaves no one behind.

 

NB: This piece was contributed by Nnenna Ibeh with support from Code for Africa via its Wanadata Community Initiative.

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