ResearchGate, an online research platform, suggests that Nigerian women constitute about half of the population of the country. A woman in Nigeria wears many hats including but not limited to mother, time manager, organiser, political activist and social activist. Notwithstanding all these roles, Nigerian women are still discriminated against in the society especially when it comes to roles of leadership, some of the contributing factors are early marriage, lack of proper education, religion and culture.
When we start even at the grassroots level of the family, one finds out that the education of the boy is given more priority than the girl-child. For girls, even before they can walk or talk, it is always drummed into their heads that the only thing they can aspire to is marriage. Some who are lucky enough to be in school. Typically, the moment a man shows interest in her she is immediately removed from school and married off like a burden that has long been borne by her family. That is how, in most cases, her life ends up being ruined because her education was not seen as a necessity. The girl grows up to be a woman and she passes on that same kind of ideology to her own girl-child, and the generational circle continues.
For some women who decide to get married while hoping to continue their education – either as a graduate hoping to earn a master’s degree or a late-entry secondary school student – in most cases, one finds out that their husbands eventually forbid them to go back to school or to work. The reason behind their husband’s decision is often that they do not want their wives around other men. Men use their positions of power to bend and make women conform to their views. And in some cases, these men get physical. The woman becomes a shell of her former self and loses sight of all the dreams and hopes she had as a girl.
Primary education in Nigeria is free and compulsory but about 10.5 million children aged 5-14 years are not in school and more than half of that number are girls. According to the UNICEF, States in the North-East and North-West have female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively. This implies that more than half of the girls are not in school. The education deprivation in Northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls.
Most of the people who are affected by this problem are girls and women especially in the northern part of this country. It is so bad that in some areas it is considered a sin for a female child to have any form of formal education.
According to the World Bank, Nigeria female labour participation rate from 1990 to 2019 is 48.44 percent with a minimum of 47.11 percent in 1991 and a maximum of 50.62 percent. An example of this is Nigeria, which did not get her first female governor till February 2006 and that was because she was a deputy who took over from the governor. This speaks volume on how backwards our country is when it comes to women holding positions of power despite her educational qualifications, the men become intimidated and hateful because they don’t want to take orders from a woman. In 2011, when Sarah Jibril aspired to be President of Nigeria, she only got one vote in the primary elections, meaning she was the only one who voted herself. This speaks to how women are not given a fair chance to aspire to a position of leadership.
Women’s rights organisations are already overwhelmed by the number of cases they receive daily and they are really trying their best to break the mould, but what needs to be done is purposeful community sensitisation. Women need to be educated on how to fight for their rights and to demand to be treated equally and to aspire to greater heights. The women’s rights organisations are mostly focused on issues of domestic violence and various forms of abuse. Although this is very important but they have neglected another very important sector which is the education. Once this is not addressed, women in Nigeria will not reach the heights of their potentials and that will be to the detriment of Nigeria as a country.
Zainab Abdulahi is a writer and a development researcher