The woman though refers to as the weaker sex because her gender is, in reality, is a stronger gender due to all the challenges, traumas, and dilemmas of life she is confronted with from cradle to her grave; the Nigerian woman absorbs and endures every trial, tribulation, and trouble, smiling through it all while she still strives and thrives in all she sets out to achieve hoping to triumph at the end of it all. In Nigeria, there is an absolute disrespect and disregard about the very essence of the female child, right from birth being tagged as an unwanted child compared to the male child, where she is regarded as a gender who is only useful in her husband’s house. The female gender’s worth is always under watch in all aspects of life from the home front, to work through to the marketplace where she is sweating and smiling trying to make ends meet. Most women have faced and survived discrimination of gender, race, and status in the society that they live in and are still strong, brave, intelligent, and absolutely amazing who can still and will always stand their own in their chosen field; excelling excellently well where many people thought they will fail just because of their female gender status. Whilst other women in authority manipulate and try to bring their fellow women down and at times refusing to collaborate with them; simply because of envy and petty jealousy, it is so disheartening to see women bring other women down despite all that the woman had to endure to get to where she is in life.
Oh, the woman! The very heart and soul of the home; the neck that turns all the heads in her home towards the right path, a candle that lights up the house giving it warmth, love, peace, and compassion turning it into a sweet home. As the new day begins just before sunrise, the first voice to echo in the neighborhood is the woman’s voice, making ready her family for the new day, running all over the house to give her care and out she goes to her petty business of frying Akara balls or Kosai (fried Beans Cake). The Kosai seller’s voice is heard shouting over the grinding machine saying; “ka nika mun wake na mana.” meaning please grind the beans for me. After which she rushes off to the roadside or sidewalks where she is the first to be seen on every street junctions, she fries and fries, from bean cakes to fried yams, grasshoppers to insects, pastries to finger snacks; surrounded by all her kids struggling with buyers for her attention to be feed, after which she then wrapped up some of her fried goodies to be taken home for the still sleeping head of the household. As the day progresses she is seen shouting to be heard above the voices of her customers, sweating over the smokes of the firewood until the blazing sunshine chases her from the spot where she can be seen to the shade of a tree or a torn umbrella held down with two stones, and there again she sits come raindrops, windy Harmattan dust, through every weather of the season. Will the world look on as the Nigerian woman labor and grieve to her grave?
THE DILEMMAS OF THE GIRL CHILD: A life journey that begins the day she was born; as soon as the girl child could take her very first steps she is considered as a tool for all societal atrocities from child labor to becoming a child bride, a mother, and a teenage widow. The life canvas of the girl child is as colorful as the rainbow but completely not as bright and cheerful. A trip around the northern parts of Nigeria from street corners to major highways one is confronted with the sad reality of little girls ages ranging from 3 years and above street hawking or vending sachet water known as pure water, peanuts, pastries such as loaves of bread, finger snacks, sweets, and kola nuts; these kid hawkers walk around from dawn to dusk and are mostly found at motor parks/garages, along roads, or motorways at markets, hawking wares that cost nothing more than a few naira notes which is less than a $ dollar with little to nothing as profits. The street hawkers motives is always that of helping her parents by providing feeding for the jobless father and a mother who has other kids to cater for and feed, at times the girl child hawker is the source of tuition fee for her siblings as well as contributing towards a grant to use in buying her the needed bridal items for when she eventually gets a suitor. Hawking poses a threat to the life and health of the girl child exposing her to molestation, sexual assault, rape, kidnapping, drug abuse, traffic accidents, and all other life-threatening risks.
THE PLIGHTS OF THE RURAL WOMAN: The plights of the rural woman in Nigeria is as traumatic if not much more than that of her peers in the cities, she is expected to toil the land and still do all the household chores, caring and catering for every member of the family with as many as 14 kids of her own. A typical and pitiable sight of a rural woman is one commonly seen all over the villages, pregnant yet nursing a baby with little ones holding tight the edge of her wrapper for dear life; while she daintily placed on her head the water pot or the firewood, walking along the village footpaths drenched in her own sweats and sweetly she walks majestically even though tired with the fate of her burden dragging her back to a life she must endure. A look at the rural woman one will clearly see that she needs solidarity and support in her otherwise isolated, lonely, and difficult life.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: The Nigerian housewife suffers untold hardship and torture at the hands of her spouse; domestic violence or wife battering is seen as a sign of the man’s authority and masculinity in his household, it happens in most homes with kids oftentimes witnessing the abuse which has been backed-up with a deep cultural belief that is socially acceptable to beat a woman to discipline her into submissiveness. The woman gorgeously wears the scars stamped into her soul, her physical bruises compliment her make-up with dignity; when asked she explained it away as an accident to cover-up the He-Man in her husband.
BABY FACTORIES AND THE TRAFFICKING OF YOUNG GIRLS: The south, west, and middle belt of Nigeria; where most often orphanages are just baby factories in disguise managed by a trafficking cartel; all because the girl child is often used as a source of income for the whole families. The girl child is given away for monetary gains and she is sent into child labor such as to work as a nanny, house girl, or housemaid known as domestic help; such girls are kept in rich homes to run errands for their madam, others work as shop keepers or help, thereby facing all sorts of domestic abuse from the husband and her madam. The root causes of girl child trafficking in Nigeria include poverty, illiteracy gender inequality, war such as the insurgency among others, and a search for a better life. Teenage girls are at times kept in secluded homes by some greedy persons and such homes are called baby factories. Whereby innocent or greedy girls are deceived to live in such homes with a promise to feed them and if lucky taken abroad, men are brought in to them to impregnate them. The reality of these hideous crimes is that such women and girls are often kidnapped and held captive to get pregnant and deliver babies who are then sold illegally to adoptive parents or childless couples as soon as the babies were born and often times they are sold out to unknown people to be used for only GOD knows. Trafficking of the girl child to other foreign countries is also a booming business when greedy parents and teenage girls are promised greener pastures in order to hit it big ahead of their peers; subjecting the girl child to a horrific lifestyle, sexual exploitation, and unimaginable life experiences that oftentimes end her life prematurely, trafficked into prostitution, crimes and killed for rituals.
THE NIGERIAN WIDOW: Widowhood for the Nigerian woman is a tragedy, she lives a traumatic life with psychological challenges, financial constraints, and the reality of a difficult burden of raising their kids all alone with no support from the in-laws, and added to all these is the religious and cultural demands of widowhood which varies from the south to the north and east to the west. The Widow in the southern and western parts of Nigeria is required to drink the bathwater of the corpse of her husband as proof of innocence that she wasn’t responsible for his death at times she is asked to jump over the corpse severally. Other cultures will demand she wears a black cloth for the duration of mourning, cut off her hairs, no make-up, body creams, and pieces of jewelry. Wills and inheritance in the northern parts of Nigeria are handled by the Ulama of the sharia courts or notable Islamic scholars after the mandatory 40 days mourning of the widow. Disinheritance rears its ugly head at times when the hostility between the Nigerian widow rages on day after day consequently, using customary laws or traditions to dispossesses both the widow and her daughters to intimidate, subdue, humiliate as a way of rendering them subservient to force them to obedience to either marry another family member; the brother of her late husband in most cases, if she wishes to remain in the family and if she refuses the family of the husband will send her away without giving her a share of her late husbands’ properties asking her also to take custody of the kids until they are grown-up.
Most times women are forced into unthinkable vices in order to make ends meet for themselves and their families due to life challenges; a look at the internally displaced peoples homes all over Nigeria, 90% of the inhabitants are mostly women displaced by natural disasters or conflicts from their original homes, loss of their means of livelihood, loss of their husband or breadwinner, their parents. And faced with security challenges coupled with a responsibility to protect and provide for themselves and their kids; most times these helpless women find themselves in a challenging situation where they are forced to make a choice for survival. Life is tough for most women pushing them into begging for alms, foods, and items of clothing from house to house with their little ones going all over town with them, helpless, hungry, and in urgent need of medical attention.
The solution to the girl child dilemma is to increase community advocacy for the girl child rights, girls empowerment programs, and parents education, especially on child marriage, inculcate the values of educating the girl child and women inclusiveness in issues that affect the family and the society as a whole. Women constitute a majority of the population of Nigeria, yet they have been ignored politically and in the affairs of the nation; it’s of utmost importance to give the woman greater opportunities and inclusion in major roles of nation-building. Gender equality and empowerment of the Nigerian woman and her active participation in the political-economic, social and cultural life should be promoted; for the Nigerian woman to be able to fully exercise her human rights, gender inclusiveness in all societal policies in recognizing gender equality as a key factor for sustainable transition and inclusive growth all across!