FEMINISM IN NIGERIA

I listened to a lady speak about feminism and my heart went out to her. I wasn’t sorry for her because she had made it clear that she couldn’t get married, I was sorry for her because she has not the slightest idea what feminism is to begin with. The worst enemy a group of people sharing a common ideology could have is an ignorant individual amongst them. The ignorance of these few becomes a problem to the rest who actually understand the reason behind the ideology and know exactly what they are fighting for. When one listens to most women speak of feminism, one would think all women are being discriminated against or all women are being tortured, but I do know successful women who are married and maintain their relationship with men around them properly. Being incapable of managing one’s affairs and being tortured are two very different things. It is important that we do not mistake one for the other.

Feminism has never been a movement against men. Feminism was never a move to incapacitate men, but rather to liberate women. It began as a form of reform, to abolish slave trade,gain guardianship of infants,property rights, divorce access, higher education , equal pay and protective legislation. Considering the above reasons for the initial movement,it is ignorance, to claim that women are generally being oppressed in Nigeria. It’s like a perfectly sound person taking drugs meant for someone who is indisposed. Take for instance, feminism movement in ancient Rome and Greece where women were tortured and used at will. The Roman women had no say in political or economic matters. As a matter of fact a woman wasn’t allowed to have too much knowledge, and if she did, she was to use it to stroke her husband’s ego. A woman who was sound in poetry and law was seen as a threat. A woman was often threatened with a divorce knowing she would never see her children again, since the sole guardian of an infant was the father. Women in that setting, were being oppressed. Fights against such oppression would be perfect. And would be termed as feminism. On the contrary, in Nigeria, women were never treated that way. If they were in certain cultures, it was due to the failure of these people to evolve. Like the child marriage, and deprivation of educational rights. At this stage in our lives, to an extent that has been taken care of. People who still practice it are either not enlightened or are simply wicked considering the level of technological advancements in the country. It is outright hypocritical to term rape as an abuse of female gender. There are thousands of boys and men who get raped by women as well. Rape is a crime against humanity and should be treated as one, not solely as a crime against females. The fact that more female rape cases are recorded doesn’t make it a crime solely against women.

In regards to using panadol for another person’s headache, I would love to bring to your reckoning, the African/Nigerian culture. Right from time memorial,women were respected, treated as goddesses and our men were ever ready to provide the needs of the family. In fact, I recall my father telling me tales of how women won the hearts of men with their culinary skills. And believe me you,they were happy doing this. The indigenous Nigerian society had women function as complementary to men rather than subordinate. Power was based on seniority rather than gender. Among the Egba,women were the economic powerhouses of the nation due to the trade and market system they had developed. Women dominated the trade and merchant exchange of goods of their communities. Women were responsible for a number of things including: setting the rules of trade among themselves,agreeing on lucrative terms of trade with outsiders; These women had a highly developed business acumen which they used for the economic upliftment of their community. Majority of these women were taking over their businesses from mothers or aunties of the same profession. This confirms that the economic knowledge they implemented had been honed for centuries. In short, they knew what they were doing. To this day, women still dominate the local market in Nigeria.

Where then does the oppression come in?

We so often mistake our way of life for oppression,forgetting our heritage in an attempt to copy the culture of another.

It is true that there are certain jobs that pay the male gender higher than the females, but truth be told, a woman cannot afford to perform certain jobs as effective as a man would. Having this in mind, it is necessary that we re-enlighten ourselves on the true ideology of feminism and the change we hope to impact by the movement.

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