Women & Discrimination – NIgeria -P2
Discrimination against women in NIGERIA
Discrimination is the denial of a person of some rights or benefits based on certain factors such as sex and education (as in the case in this context), religion and race among others. The UN convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted in 1979, (CEDAW) defined discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of 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, socio- cultural, civil or any other field”
Nigeria, a country in West Africa, is made up of about 250 ethnic groups with various cultures and traditional practices which are inimical to the women folk. Women are discriminated in both private and public spheres in relation to political, education and social-economic issues. This work focuses on the three ethnic groups in Nigeria, namely, the Ibo, Hausa, and Yoruba ethnic groups. Among the Ibos of the Eastern part of Nigeria, women are highly discriminated against whether as children, wives or widows. Women are generally regarded to play a second fiddle in the society. As children, female are considered less important with no rights to anything inclusive of insights to education and inheritance to real property (except right to their mother’s personal possessions such as cooking utensils, jewelries, clothing’s, and the like). As wives, women are considered as being inferior to their husbands. In effect, they have no right to own or acquire property, and also have no right over their children. However, they have right to be provided with shelter and to be maintained by their husbands. As a widow, all Ibo women do not have right to inherit her husband’s estate or even where she had contributed money to the purchase of such property. She can only be permitted to live in her husband’s house subject to the discretion of her in-laws. This is based on the fact that widows are considered as part of the property to be inherited by their husband’s families (i.e. their husbands’ eldest brother or any eldest male in their husband’s family).
Among the Hausa, the plight of women is not better whether as children, wives or widows. The female children do not have right of inheritance over their father’s estate, but are only entitled to maintenance while their fathers are alive. As a wife, Hausa women have no right to acquire or own a property. She also does not have right over her husband’s property. However, as a divorcee, a magnanimous husband can make a gift to his divorced wife. But whether such gift include realty is questionable. In addition, as a widow, Hausa woman do not have right to inherit her husband’s property. However, under the Maliki School of the Islamic religion, a husband can bequeath one-ninth of his estate to his wife.
Among the Yoruba tribe, the plight of women is slightly better. This is because, as children, the women have equal rights with their male counterparts over their father’s property. In essence, female children have equal rights with their brothers to inherit their father’s property either under the “Idi igi” (per wives) or the “Ori Ojori” (per children) modes of distribution. Women also have rights to become heads of families in deserving circumstances. However, as wives or widows, women have no rights of inheritance over their husband’s property but can be accommodated in their husband’s house.
All these forms of discrimination against women exist despite the statutory provisions against discrimination. More importantly, the constitutional provisions against discrimination of any citizen of Nigeria are being fronted on daily basis. This is because, section 42 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (the 1999 constitution) provides to the effect that no person shall be discriminated or subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of sex, education, religion, etc.
The NGOs’, who are responsible for fighting against Nigerian women discrimination, are barely recognized and this is because they have not been carrying out their responsibilities. Unlike POWA in South Africa, Nigeria has no policies in place to protect Women against discrimination and violence.
Furthermore, CEDAW prohibits all forms of discrimination against women. However, it is agreeable that despite the fact that Nigeria and other African countries are a signatory to CEDAW and its protocol(s), the convention’s protocol is yet to be domesticated by most Governments in Africa, especially Nigeria.
THE PLIGHT OF THE GIRL-CHILD IN IBO LAND.
Among the Ibos, education plays a very minor role in a girl’s life and mindset. In fact, the easterner’s behaviour to a greater extent is determined by upbringing and not education.
Having looked into the other Nigerian tribes, it appears that the Ibos, have the worst tradition when it comes to the issue of the girl-child. From the moment a woman gets married. The bride’s father’s prayers during traditional marriages include: “you shall have Okereke and Okarafor…” These are names given to male children only and the female names are never mentioned. This is a proof that the girl-child is seen as nothing in the Ibo culture. The woman gets into her husband’s house only to start praying for a male child due to the pressure she gets, even from her own mother. The in-laws agree that a woman is well settled in her husband’s house only when she has a male-child.
As the children are growing up, the girl-child is taught that her place in life is in a man’s kitchen and so she must put the kitchen before the school. Agreed, every woman needs some good housekeeping and cooking skills. But where we have the girl-child drop out of school because she must get married and help train her siblings in school should not be encouraged anymore.
Many Igbo men today misbehave because they believe they are childless as the woman keeps giving birth to female children. Many marriages packed up simply because the woman was unable to have a male-child. In those days, our fathers freely took second wives, but the case is different for some men who are now religious leaders and as such cannot take second wives. For instance, a very rich Ibo man who lives in Lagos, Nigeria but does not travel to his hometown because he is made to feel he is not a full-fledged man without a son. This is one of the numerous miserable conditions our tradition has kept people in because of a female child.
A good number of Ibo men still believe life is not complete without a male-child. This has led them to torture their wives as if they are the ones responsible for their so-called ordeal of having a female child.
Some men see their female daughters as another good in the warehouse. In fact, some Ibo men call their daughters by that name; it is a shameful thing.
The Ibo culture believes a woman is just an extra to humanity. They believe she has no portion in her father’s house and the same thing happens when she gets to her husband’s house. A girl-child is made to believe she lives just to get married and raise children.
EDUCATIONAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
Education is not widely extended to women; this is reflected in the lower percentage of women in all professions in Nigeria, and Africa in general. Educational empowerment of the girl-child is the surest way to make her independent and protect her from sexual exploitation and prostitution. The United Nations Chronicles acknowledges that there is gross inequality between men and women in the area of education. The girl child may not be sent to school because she will grow up and get married afterwards, education is regarded as a waste of resources on a female child. It has been forgotten that education helps in the fulfillment of women’s obligation. A married woman is expected to take care of her home, husband and children. She is expected to use whatever knowledge and skills she has to cook, clean and rear her children. There is no doubt that a woman who is able to read about health care, nutrition, body changes, modern household equipment, etc, will perform creditably well on her natural responsibility to the home and society at large.
A woman who is not educated will not be able to help her children with their school assignments. She would not be able to enlighten them in their schoolwork, attend Parents teacher Association (PTA) meetings and inquire about the academic performance of her children. Educated woman would ensure blissful homes, well-educated and well-behaved children and contented husbands and an endowed nation.
Adele-Williams (1986) notes that existing data in Nigeria indicates that at all levels of education, fewer girls than boys are enrolled at school despite the numerical advantage of females. For example, girls drop out more often from school due to early marriages and heavy demand on girl’s time to perform domestic chores, and economic reasons, and because of limited occupational choices from female students.
The literacy gap between the male and female gender in Nigeria, having established the importance of education in national development, shows that the girl child has been obviously affected. Within the literacy limit, the literacy level of boy’s far exceeds that of the female gender. Since the female gender develops into the woman folk, the level of education among Nigerian women has been very low compared to that of men. Nigerian women occupy very low educational status compared with their male counterparts. According to Singh et al (1992) about 70% of the adult female population is illiterate. Compare this to adult male illiteracy of 46%. According to Odili et al 2000, Gender disparity (with girls and women as the disadvantaged group) is a well-known feature of Nigeria’s educational landscape. In the Nigerian setting, the circumstances of gender have strongly interacted with culture, to produce sex role, stereotypes and demands that have enormously influenced the attitudes of males and females to many issues, including Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) education. Onyemelukwe (1995) reported that sex difference in the performance of students (boys and girls) in some school subjects could be attributed to a variety of factors such as gender and attitude. In view of the above, Okeke (1990) identified some obstacles encountered by female in acquiring education to include the followings:
a. Lack of support from educational policy makers,
b. Differential socialization patterns for boys and girls at early stages of life,
c. Limited access to education for girls,
d. Sex differences in the quality of education experiences for boys and girls,
e. Perceived irrelevance of literacy for girls,
f. Absence of career education; and Masculine image of education.
Educated females face a lot of discrimination in employment as there are internally constructed gender discrimination in almost all private industries (the banking, marketing and insurance sectors are at the top of the list). The educated females either end up unemployed or under-employed. Consequently, most females opt for employment in the informal sector where gender discrimination might be minimal, but where their economic attainment is greatly limited, leaving them less financially empowered than their male counterparts. The uneducated females suffer worse fate as their field of specialization, mainly in the informal sector, is unregulated by government’s policies.