The problems of gender inequality in Nigeria has been raising on for decades, as the modern society has redefined the role of a woman, which is vastly different from what it’s used to be in the middle ages. However, patriarchy and gender inequality is always a touchy topic when it comes to Africa because it is largely influenced by religious beliefs and the diverse cultures. Nigeria is not left out. In the Northern Part of Nigeria, Women are still largely considered to be lowly to men, as women are only seen fit to be home keepers and child bearers.
Moreover, some would argue that the idea that women are inferior to men is not limited to the northern part of Nigeria alone, but rather, it’s all over the country. This notion was, in some ways, re-enacted when the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, said in a press conference that took place in Germany that a woman’s role doesn’t go beyond the kitchen and the “other room.” Though this statement was made regarding his wife, the whole world conceded that it’s probably the way Nigeria, as a country, sees her women, and who wouldn’t agree?
Causes of gender inequality in Nigeria
There are ideologies behind gender inequality in Nigeria, whether it’s cultural or religious, it stems from somewhere, and its lengthy existence simply means the causes are as strong as the impacts. Below are some of the common causes of gender inequality in Nigeria.
1. Improper Education
“Knowledge is power.” It might not be a strong point, but this is pointing more towards some parts of Nigeria that are rejecting western views on women, to stick to cultural ones. Education is nothing if you leave all you learn in school and still behave like a savage when you get back home.
In other words, it must be obvious that you are educated. There are two ways to this, a community that’s poorly educated can never know the worth of women and a woman that is not educated cannot know her rights, talk less of the myriad of things she’s capable of contributing to the modern society. Gender Institutions and Development Data Base (GID-DB) statistics show that about 65% of women are educated in Africa, behind a higher percentage of 70% of men.
It has also been noticed that parents don’t usually encourage the education of their female children because they believe it will be of no benefit to them, as any money or success she earns in the future, due to her education, will be of her husband’s, not their's.
2. Tradition and Culture
Tradition is said to be the custom of a particular society, while culture is simply the way of life. When was the last time you heard about a female traditional ruler among the ethnic groups? The reason it has never happened is that it is deemed an abomination in almost every ethnic group.
“Why should a woman be leading when there are able men to that could lead?” such is the typical cultural dogma that has plagued many thrones and political seats in Nigeria. Don’t even dare suggest female leadership to the elders of the community, you might lose your head.
It’s hard to keep “mentality” as a standalone point, as it is largely influenced by culture and tradition. However, if you look at it from a subjectively, from a woman’s view, it stands alone, how? Many women are not ambitious because they believe top positions aren’t meant for men. Even some ladies complain about having a female boss simply because are used to having a male boss.
It almost seems clandestine for women to want to occupy a political position or the hot sit in a company. Such a mentality is usually created and forged by a woman’s immediate environment. If you’ve never seen a woman lead, you would think that it is normal for women not lead even if you weren’t directly told, right?
It’s not a secret that religion is one of the top contributors to gender inequality in the world. Should religion be erased? No. In fact, religion is one of the many things that guide the masses in living a good and peaceful life. Religion is one of the biggest contributors to peace on earth. However, some religions or religious practices restrict the role of women to just domestic roles, making it impossible for them to even think about holding a political post.
The absence of Empowerment: Many societies really don’t do much to encourage its women, not feeding the potential in every woman in the community, leaving it lying dormant. Every government needs to see the importance of empowering young women. There are only a few seminars out there for this particular cause. When was the last time a programme about women’s rights was held in your community?
Gender Inequality Effects
There certain problems with gender inequality that shouldn’t be ignored by any society. Though usually viewed as a human rights problem, gender equality is vital for the attaining of progressive and sustainable economic development and a peaceful environment. This is even truer about Nigeria because women are about 50% of the population of the country; therefore, not allowing women to contribute to the country’s prosperity may as well become an economic self-termination..
According to the United Nations Population Fund, gender inequality hinders the growth of countries, development of individuals, and the progress of societies, with both men and men losing out in the process. On the other hand, the contribution of women to a society is usually through the workforce. In situations when women aren’t included in the labor force, only a particular portion of the workforce is being used, thus leading to the wastage of economic resources, on a large scale.
Gender Inequality in Nigerian Politics
The first taste of feminism in Nigeria was championed by Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a Nigerian born but British schooled woman, about 40 years ago. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, described by West African Pilot in 1947 as the “Lioness of Lisabi,” wasn’t just a “political guru” but also an outspoken women’s rights activist and a traditional ruler. You could consider Mrs. Funmilayo a good old super-heroine with an alter-ego of a school teacher. As the doyen of Nigerian women’s rights, Mrs. Ransome-Kuti was the driving force that advocated for women’s right to vote in Nigeria.
While Mrs. Ransome-Kuti activities in Nigeria’s political stage might have created a way for people like Diezani Allison-Madueke, Abike Dabiri Erewa, Faridah Waziri, and Amina J. Mohammed (who, by the way, is the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations), the Nigerian political system is yet to recognize women for their roles in politics nor has it accepted women as equal to men in all regards.
A somewhat weak gender equality bill passed a second reading, quite not long ago, in the Senate. Likewise, an initial bill was summited half-a-year before, with the inclusion of stating equal rights for women in divorce, ownership of property, inheritance, and marriage.
Sadly, the bill was voted down, largely because the people in the upper house that regarded the gender equality rights as “against religion and not African like.” In addition, there are about seven women and one-hundred and two men in the Nigerian Senate; this might, perhaps, be why such a decision was made. It also shows that even though women are actively involved in Nigerian politics, they are still not considered equal to their male counterparts.
Gender Inequality in Education
In 1948, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights’ “right to education” was adopted. Between 1970 and 1994, there were 30% and 80% of girls and boys in primary education, respectively. Also, the percentage of girls that participated in mathematics, technology, science, and engineering (STEM) related subjects was very low.
Likewise, the drop-out rate was higher among girls than boys. Around 2002, the cumulative statistics of students in tertiary, secondary, and primary schools showed girls to be 57% and boys to be 71%. Furthermore, a study among the disabled student in 1990 revealed a difference of 37% of female students to 57% of male. Today’s female adult literacy rate is at 57% while that male is at 74.4%.
In 2014, Adaobi Alex-Oni, the founder of Role of Women in Emerging African Democracies (ROWEAD) revealed, in an interview, that the reason for the incongruity between the education received by male and female was due to the ideals imposed on women, during colonialism, about gender. The female inferiority mindset limited women’s role to just satisfying the sexual needs of men, preparing food for the family, taking care of the kids, field labor, and domestic labor. In other words, the colonial principle was built around women being housewives, and traces of it still lingers till date.
Furthermore, many girls in Nigeria do not have access to adequate education. Some are even limited by their parents simply because they won’t carry the family’s name, as it is in many Nigerian customs. Due to this lack of support from parents, many girls perform poorly in school, are unwilling to take science courses, and ultimately drop out from school.
Gender Inequality at the Workplace
The huge and consistent disparity in education between men and women translates into a lesser number of women in certain fields of work. The percentage of women in some professional work in Nigeria includes:
- Media Practitioners – 18.3%
- Architects – 2.4%
- Lawyers/Jurists - 25.4%
- Lecturers – 11.8%
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists – 8.4%
- Pediatricians – 33.3%
National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), revealed the alarming gender inequality in the country’s labor force in October 2017, revealing that there were less than 2% women in the labor force in certain states in Nigeria. Though the disproportion was expected, no one anticipated that it would be that bad.
However, in the modern world, being in an office or a political post is no longer a new thing for women. Some studies have even shown that for optimum production, efficiency, and economic growth, women need to get their hands dirty. Economies that are thriving are economies with a lot of women in every sphere. Perhaps, maybe women are the answer to nation’s numerous problems.