Take it from me: the Nigerian woman is amongst the most beautiful and most desirable in the world. Her carriage, elegance and poise is unique. She carries so much grit, strength and resilience, that you would wonder what unknown materials the Almighty made her from. Beyond the physical, another asset of the Nigerian woman is the quality of her mind. She is unarguably amongst the most brillian in the world and you can name countless greats among them.
One example of a great Nigerian woman is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a woman of many deserving accolades: internationally acclaimed economist and development expert, who rose to the top at the World Bank and is a Special Envoy to Mobilise International Economic Support for Continental Fight Against COVID-19 as the world battles the pandemic. Her feats at home are no less remarkable: she is Nigeria’s two-time Finance Minister with impeccable record and no stain on her name. You could say, and everyone would agree, that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a great Nigerian woman (with a good chance to become head of the World Trade Organization). And she is not the only one.
Many more Nigerian women have risen to great international positions, managing intimidating portfolios, and proving to the world that, given the same enabling environment, they can excel in ALL areas of human endeavour. However, these successes have not come cheaply. The personal cost for individual women is often huge: personal compromise, career losses, marital failure or challenges, societal disapproval and even labelling. The Nigerian woman continues to wade through gender discrimination in a male dominated society. Indeed, it is not yet uhuru for the Nigerian woman. There are still many social, political, economic and cultural hurdles militating against her total evolution and liberation.
Here are four key challenges she still faces:
The true plague facing the Nigerian woman right now is gender-based violence. It has been here for generations, but it seems to be increasing rather than declining despite the global social evolution. This violence manifests in their homes, on the streets, in the markets, in relationships, in work places, places of worship and everywhere. There are husbands still beating, maiming and killing wives. There are widows stripped of every human dignity at the death of their husbands. There are defenceless old women being raped in their homes.
According to WHO, “Globally 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner“. For Nigeria, the International Growth Center writes that “30% of women and girls aged 15-49” have suffered gender-based violence. This is alarming to say the least.
In recent times, gender-based violence has taken on a very frightening dimension –babies, toddlers, young adults and the aged fall victim of rape, students and professionals are required to offer sex for grades they have earned or jobs they qualify for.
Right from her conception, the Nigerian girl child starts as a second choice of her own parents because many cultures place premium male children offspring, and considers the female a liability. Recent reports allege that a man hurled his newborn baby to the ground on learning of her sex; he had been expecting a baby boy and killing his own daughter was his way of showing his disappointment. This is not an isolated case: many women have lost marriages, suffered untold emotional and physical pain and even lost their lives in the search for male children to appease obsessed husbands and in-laws, as it is the only way to fully become a member of the family. This search often leads to sad trails of sad tales of polygamy and polygyny.
It is unbelievable that, in 2020, while the wold is experiencing astounding medical, technological and social evolutions, the Nigerian girl is still a victim of the destructive socio-cultural practice that female genital mutilation is. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health “Nigeria, due to its large population has the highest number of FGM worldwide, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 115-130 million circumcised women in the world.”
While the battle is still on, in terms of advocacy and policy drive to stem the tide of this harmful practice, many innocent girls are still being victimised.
A UNICEF report states that about 10.5 million Nigerian children are not in school, despite the fact that there is free and compulsory primary education. This number becomes more interesting when you read further in the report that “the education deprivation in Northern Nigeria is driven by various factors… that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls’’. Therefore, while we continue to celebrate the likes of the Okonjo-Iwealas and Amina Mohammed, millions of girls all over Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, still cannot get an education and aspire to greatness. Can we ever forget the abduction of the Chibok girls? How about Leah Sharibu? Those girls went to school and their lives changed forever.
The Nigerian woman is still a long way from home. It is not yet uhuru! No, far from it. The hurdles are still high and many. Nevertheless, there is undeniable progress and she now has a voice that humanity must hear. Everyone must support the Nigerian woman because total evolution and liberation is the missing piece in the attainment of actualization of her dreams as a people.
I am a Nigerian woman and I know the future is bright.
About the author: Adejoke Stephanie Henry is a school Administrator, writer, and media content creator. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication, with a major in Television and Radio Broadcasting from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. ADEJOKE is a wife and a mother. She writes from Abuja.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the private views of the contributors and do not reflect the views of the organization Pulse.
Source: Pulse Nigeria.