The everyday struggles women face in Nigeria and ways to change the narrative

by Vivian Bens
7 min read

Asuccessful woman can build a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at her. That’s the case of every resilient Nigerian woman who has decided to rise above the demanding tides of cultural and social waves.

That being said, not every culture in my country is barbaric and enslaving, but for the sake of this discourse, I’ll have to focus on the struggles of being a woman in Nigeria, using myself and the people around me as a case study.

One fateful day…

I heard a knock on my front door and briskly went to inquire, only to find out it was the electrician sent to fix my kitchen socket, which blew up the night before. Of course, he went straight to the socket without uttering a word of greeting. This action made me wonder for a bit, but rather than dwell on the issue.

I went straight to show him what to do. When it came to making payments, I offered to pay a particular amount, which he declined, rather demanding a higher payment. The next thing I heard was, “Call your husband, I would prefer to speak directly. I don’t have time to exchange words with women, I have a woman like you at home. I have no business talking to you…” and he kept raving about how demeaning it was for him to be caught having a conversation with a woman.

This scenario might sound mild, but one of the craziest struggles women face in Nigeria is that they are considered less relevant and insignificant than men. Statements like, “no matter what you have acquired in life, if you don’t have a man, you are nothing…” are very rampant in society.

Check out a few of the struggles women face in Nigeria.

#1. Women do not inherit properties

A woman holds a banner during a protest against legislative bias against women in Abuja, Nigeria, on International Women’s Day. Afolabi Sotunde/Reuter

Elizabeth, my friend, is a professional copywriter, successful in her career and responsible. Her brother Israel is a reckless young man uninterested in bettering himself, but patiently waiting for his inheritance to fall on his lap.

Their father, a wealthy business mogul who has made a name and millions for himself. There came a time when he decided to hand over his houses and company. Obviously, he gave it to his son because “he is a man and Elizabeth wouldn’t need it in her husband’s house…” Of course, Israel squandered the resources and was back to square one in no distant time. This is a typical scenario in Nigeria.

#2. Hard worker equals slut

Florence Iria at work
 | D.T. Autocafe & Empowering African Women.

“Get out of the road, Ashawo (a Nigerian word for whore), this is how they drive big cars after whoring around,” a male bus driver bashes a lady in her car as she drives past her, staring in disgust. This statement is popular in Nigeria. When a woman has her life under control and lives a comfortable life, society frowns at her and accuses her of being a whore who sleeps around with men to get money. Some landlords punch it up a bit more by refusing to rent out their houses to single ladies. Even parents restrain their daughters from buying a car, a house or assets, so she won’t “chase her suitors away.” As a woman, eating at restaurants attracts side eyes, as it’s believed you should cook your own food at home and not be seen eating out.

#3. Rape culture

FILE – A woman carries a placard as she shouts a slogan during the “Walk Against Rape'” procession organized by Project Alert, a Lagos-based NGO focusing on women’s issues, in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 5, 2011.

As a woman, if you get raped, it’s almost impossible to open up. Why? There would be sinister accusations thrown at you until you’re silenced. “What were you wearing, you must have seduced him? Why did you go there in the first place? Why did you say nothing earlier?” These are a few of the ridiculous and insensitive questions a woman who has been violated gets to deal with while the perpetrator(s) of this evil walk around unpunished. Isn’t it painful how the victim of rape also has to be stigmatized?

#4. Domestic violence

One in every three women has experienced intimate partner violence [Venturesafrica]

The slave-master mentality plays a major role here. A high percentage of women suffer domestic violence in their relationships. Most individuals would say things like; “Well, it’s a marriage issue, we don’t like to intervene in family matters, go home and settle your differences.” Society is built in such a way that some law enforcement agents, family members and religious leaders enable domestic violence.

One of the major struggles women face in Nigeria is the pressure to endure violence, and many ladies have lost their sanity, body parts and lives towing this dangerous path. The religious leader would say, “Go and build your home, pray for him, he will change, you have to work on your marriage, respect your husband, and you will have peace”.”

The family members will say, “Please go back to your husband, don’t bring shame to this family. What will people say? Stop running your mouth to avoid his beatings.”

The police will say, “Madam, what did you do to aggravate him enough to beat you?” Sir, don’t touch her again. This is a warning, both of you go home and settle.”

#5. Workplace segregation

Women work in Amingos fiber hair factory in Ikeja district in Lagos, on December 1, 2011. Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

“Hey you! As the only female here, you should plan the office party.” As a woman in the workplace, it’s almost an unspoken law to be the “office mummy”, from planning parties to serving the men at meetings. Then in the case of abuse at the workplace, most employers dangle promotions at women requesting sexual intercourse in exchange. Don’t get me started on the lower salaries for the same job role. This is a direct contrast from what we clamor for—equal opportunities for all.

How do we change the narrative?

#1. A paradigm shift

Our thoughts always influence our actions. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Once we continually make it a responsibility to create more awareness about gender equality and equity, it’s a matter of time before individuals in society start to adjust accordingly. Also, raise your boys to value women and rid them of the entitlement mentality many Nigerian men possess while teaching your daughters to know their self-worth and be bold enough to stand up for themselves when intimidated.

#2. Enforce laws that protect women

Once an individual knows that the Nigerian government takes gender-based cases seriously, there will be a rethink, and society can be safer for women to live and express themselves without fear.

All these struggles women face in Nigeria show it’s tough to be a woman, but we are strong and will always pull through.

You may also like