Poverty, diseases, hunger, death, all forms of gender discrimination and violence have been staring the Nigerian woman in the face from time immemorial. The MDGs period have elapsed and we have evolved with the rest of the world into the SDGs. Yet the impact of these goals remain very minimal within Nigeria, I bet it is not because money is not being squandered to improve that sector.
Truth be told, there has been some improvement, at least in awareness, maternal care, empowerment and such but we still have a very long way to go. Let me share with us some of the modern day experiences of the Nigerian woman.
For the rural woman, her woes starts from childhood where she is discriminated against for being a girl, circumcised and relegated to the kitches where she is meant to be seen and not heard. As she grows up, while her younger brothers continue with their education or trade, she is married off at a tender age where her journey into motherhood commences.
Her major occupation still remains farming and petty trading. She caters to the needs of her family, sets off to the farm which sometimes takes her hours to get to. Sometimes she carries her baby on her back while carrying other farm tools and stuffs on her head, to and fro. Mind you, the land she farms on belongs to her husband because in most parts of Nigeria, a woman cannot possess a land, definitely not from her father or husband. She can borrow land from her family, or lease from other males. She contributes as much as she can to the wellbeing of the family. Some do petty businesses too.
Being a petty farmer/trader she makes very little which sometimes is not enough to cater to her health and other needs and that of her children. Thus, the troubles associated with poverty – illnesses, lack of basic amenities, including clean water, hunger and death are her friends. She treks a far distance to fetch water from the stream or borehole, or to fetch firewood and such. She might come back on some days to get the beating of her life for one flimsy reason or the other. She is still treated as a second/third class citizen in her home and community where the man reigns supreme and her words and actions amount to trash.
She can barely cater for the children she already has, and no longer strong enough to carry pregnancy but because she has no say in anything, including her own life, she takes in again and again. If she dies in the process, life goes on, if she survives, she carries on with her life. If her husband dies, she still goes through hell in the name of tradition.
Her urban counterpart is somewhat luckier. If she is lucky, she got education and job, no matter the level of income, which affords her the luxury of some respect and empowerment. In her office, she is ‘just a woman’ therefore has unequal rights with the men. If she works herself off to attain a managerial position, she probably slept with every man available on her upward journey therefore deserves no respect. Her place is supposed to be in the kitchen so why would she come squaring shoulders with the men? This can affect her income and promotion mind you.
She has greater access to quality health facilities, basic amenities, and quality life, if she can afford it. Yet, she might still be a punching bag to the man of the house, an easy prey to a demented rapist, a second class citizen in general just because she is a she and not a he. If she ends up giving birth to an all-girls squad as children, it is her fault, therefore she, like her rural counterpart, must suffer for it. If her husband still thinks like his rural brothers, then her home ceases to provide succor from the challenges of daily life on the streets.
Very little has changed since the last time I wrote the Woes of the Nigerian Woman on this blog, but things have improved a bit. Now there are certain laws that were not there before, even if nobody recognizes these laws. But we know that someday, our voices will amount to more, that our contributions to society will be appreciated more and our gender will no longer be discriminated against.
I hail thee oh great women of Nigeria, Africa and the world. As we celebrate us today, I urge us all to keep being the best we can be, to resist intimidation and to help each other on this road to victory.
To the men that love us, respect us and cherish us, kudos and keep it up.