SHANELLE NWANAEBI: BEING FEMALE IN NIGERIA




Is it that Nigerian women are simply designed to be housewives, rear children and attend to their husbands (if they have one, that is)? Or, is it that they need to choose between having and developing a career or starting a family? Better still, is it that the thought of a career shouldn’t even be an option, unless it’s perceived as inferior to their spouses?

These are the many ambivalences that have contributed to the new wave of black feminism in Africa. Nigerian women have begun sharing their experiences on what’s it like to be female in Nigeria. The hash tag #BeingFemaleInNigeria has automatically gone viral and sparked a nationwide movement of Nigerian women’s issues. The urge to shed light on these issues emerged from a book club based in the Capital, Abuja, fronted by a young Nigerian woman, Florence Warmate. According to her, the women in the book club started describing their own life experiences and challenges. Consequently, this led to the need for the discussion on a larger platform. The Warmate Book Club met to initially discuss award- winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” talk. Following discussions at the book club, series- upon- series of tweets emerged on Twitter exposing many challenges and trials Nigerian women face culturally, socially and within their wider communities.

Notably, the issues gave an insight into the prevalent gender inequalities, prejudices and discrimination women face in the public sphere. Also, the pressures to get married and have children and the division of labour Nigerian women have for generations been subjected to. An example of the women’s tweets include, “Having to bear the trauma of your rape alone because your rapist is a highly respected family member” #BeingFemaleInNigeria. Or, “Your husband cooked? And you opened your mouth and ate the food? What kind of woman are you?”. Warmate personally expressed a remark, “Having a PhD would turn men away and she would struggle to find a husband in Nigeria” #BeingFemaleInNigeria.

The anecdotes of every day examples of gender discrimination rapidly generated more than 40,000 tweets, with women from both Nigeria and the Diaspora sharing similar sentiments. It is clear that women’s rights in Nigeria appears to be edging its way onto the political agenda. Nowadays, with the power of social media and prominent personalities influencing change, women are timely encouraged to vocalise and express themselves as oppose to remaining suppressed.
It is important to understand that this phenomenon should not been seen as an attack on social norms found within this society, nor should it be seen as an attack on Nigerian men. Certainly, it is key to address the notion of the paradigm shift; where women no longer want to be solely categorised under the ‘housewife’ or ‘child rearing’ box. Instead, they want to be seen as equivalent to their male counterparts. More importantly, this issue is not limited to Nigeria alone, it is a global subject that needs constant addressing at the government and international levels. If it means women have to challenge the dominant sex to gain equality through the public sphere, then this move should be considered a progressive practical start.


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