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IWD: Women Cry Out Against Spike In Domestic Violence
Published Mar 23, 2023 IN Column, SATURDAY COVER,
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INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day (IWD)is observed on March 8 and every year on that day, people all over the world commemorate the achievements of women in history, articulating the inherent constraints for self-development in womenfolk both in history, and in the present in the fields of culture, politics, and socioeconomics.

Brave women have been fighting for the rights of fu­ture generations of women for more than a century and there has never been a better time than the International Women’s Day to highlight the progress recorded so far , highlighting in the process the persistent issues facing the female gender.

The organizers of this year’s International Women’s Day events, which aimed to “challenge gender stereo­types, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion,” chose the theme #EmbraceEquity.

There is a difference between equality and equity, and most often, women need equitable treatment, which takes into account all of their unique characteristics, in­cluding those associated with menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, childbirth, and even cultural and historical factors.

Although a man might not be expected to experience the difficulties associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or even postnatal care, these are difficulties that women face, and every aspect of society needs to be aware of them. Women’s rights to reproductive health, economic security, and social equality must be protected by law in addition to ensuring that they are not subject to discrimination.

History of International Women’s Day

In the early 1900s, women were experiencing pay inequality, and a lack of voting rights, and they were be­ing overworked. In response to all of this, 15,000 women marched through New York City in 1908 to demand their rights. In 1909, the first National Women’s Day was observed following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. This was celebrated on the last Sunday of February until 1913.

For most of the 20th century, International Women’s Day was acknowledged and celebrated by people at the grassroots level, a rallying point for social justice but it wasn’t until 1975 – International Women’s Year – that the United Nations adopted International Women’s Day on March 8, when it is still held.

Why does International Women’s Day matter?

IWD serves as a reminder of both how far women have come in achieving gender equity and how far they still have to go. In 1911, there were only eight nations that permitted women to vote, there were no reproduc­tive rights, and the wage gap was customary.

Women are now in posi­tions of leadership in coun­tries where they previously had no voting rights. They used to have limitations on where they could work, but now they are in charge of corporations. But that’s not to say that women now have complete equity because the majority of women in the world, mostly those in devel­oping/third-world countries, are still nowhere near the desired goal.

That first march, which took place more than a cen­tury ago, called for the aboli­tion of abusive working con­ditions, violation of women’s rights, and gender-based pay system. Sadly, those goals are still necessary today because women’s rights are not yet well-protected although ad­vancement ought to be linear, this isn’t always the case. Even after laws and rights are established, they are oc­casionally disregarded.

For instance, some men in Nigeria have continued to murder partners or ex-partners at a rate of one per week, despite domestic violence laws, public aware­ness, and access to legal pro­tections. The most recent incident, which happened in Anambra State, involved the alleged murder of an expectant wife by her hus­band just six months into the marriage. Domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence against women’s rights advocates are still prevalent issues even in the twenty-first century.

Women and Politics

In the pre-colonial era, Nigerian women were an integral part of the political setup of their communities. For instance, in pre-colonial Borno, women played active roles in the administration of the state, complementing the roles played by their male counterparts.

From the 16th century founder of Zaria, Queen Bakwa Turuku to her daughter, War­rior and Defender of Zaria, Queen Amina even the eight titled female chiefs of the ancient Yorubaland and other significant women like Moremi of Ife, Emotan of Be­nin and Omu Okwei of Ossomari, women have severally proven to be great amazons equipped with the bravery, wisdom, and strength for politics but it is rather unfortu­nate that women in modern-day Nigerian politics are by far a minority.

Between 2016 and 2019, there were 97 men and just nine women in the National Assembly (House of Representatives). Eight women served as committee chair­persons, and just one held the position of deputy house minority whip.

Less than 6per cent of candidates for parliamentary office in Nigeria come from the two most powerful parties, APC and PDP, and only 7.3 per cent (8 of 109) of Nigeria’s Senators are women while only 3.6 per cent (13 of 360) of the members of the House of Representatives are women.

Even when President Muhammadu Buhari swore in 36 ministers in 2015, only a paltry six were women, with half of them designated as junior ministers. This representation fell short of 35 per cent affirmative action as enshrined in the National Gender Policy of 2006.

Many people have said that this situ­ation is a result of what they call a wide­spread patriarchal practice in the societ­ies of the nation. They claimed that this ingrained culture has complicated efforts to make things right, including deliberate government policies.

For instance, a recent report by the Gen­der Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), a non-governmental organization, revealed that women’s political participa­tion in Nigeria falls below the world and African continental standards. The data showed that Nigeria ranked 181 of 193 countries on the Gender Equality Index, for countries with low women represen­tation in governance. The report links the situation to reasons such as “poor resource allocation in the economic and social sectors, frequent conflicts, forced displacements and inadequate inclusion of women and girl perspectives in policy-making decisions.”

“There are still few women in politics because of the society, especially in Africa where it is believed a woman should be in the other room,” says Blessing Okoro, a women’s rights advocate. “The society feels that it will be too much for women and they might lose concentration in caring for their homes and kids.”

Women in the workplace

Due to the patriarchal nature of Nige­rian society, men have customarily been expected to provide for their families financially, while women have taken care of the household but with economic neces­sity and more opportunities for women to exert their independence of choice, there has been to a significant increase in the number of Nigerian women entering the workforce.

In a corporate environment designed for men, it is economically necessary to have more women participate in com­merce. However, this has the disadvantage of subjecting women to numerous bar­riers in that setting. These include rigid work schedules, limited opportunities for professional advancement, and corporate cultures that don’t take work-life balance into account (i.e., the way we do things here syndrome).

With outdated policies on maternity leave, returning to work after a break, and sexual harassment, women in the corporate workplace today struggle to navigate an unwelcoming work environment. Women, unlike men, thus constantly face this dilemma of choosing between a successful career or building a family as the two are often pitched as mutually exclusive or, at the very least, one taking priority over the other.

Women and inheritance

In Nigeria, stories of opposition and marginalization are common when it comes to women’s experiences buying or inheriting land and other types of property. Being a culturally diverse country with well over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups—that are divided into three major ethnic groups (the Igbo, the Hausa, and the Yoruba ethnic groups)—patriarchal customs and traditions appear to be a recurring factor that unifies the experiences of their female population.

Additionally, within the natal and matrimonial families, women’s rights to property and inheritance are constrained. In the majority of Nigerian families, sex preference is established by the natal family. Since a son’s birth ensures the lineage’s continuation more than a daughter’s, sons are typically celebrated more than daughters. Following the death of their father, the female children experience real discrimination in terms of inheritance. For instance, in some Yoruba subcultures, and those of the Igbo, girls are not allowed to inherit anything at all.

Traditionally, women are perceived to be the sole reasons for their childlessness even though science has proven that, in many cases, men could also be respon­sible. A woman may be labelled a witch if she cannot bring forth children. In the event of childlessness, such women are denied their rights to inheritance after the death of their husbands.

Divorce leaves most uneducated women with noth­ing other than their personal belongings like clothing, jewelry, and maybe kitchen utensils. That is why some Nigerian women prefer to acquire property in their fa­thers’ names. In other cases, the woman and all she owns are considered the man’s property to be administered in whichever way he deems

Also, widowhood practices against women in Nige­ria put the widow in a disadvantaged position during property sharing. In most cases, a widow may be denied access to her late husband’s property and in other cir­cumstances, she is considered part of the property to be shared among old or young male relatives. Among the Igbo, some family members demand an instant inven­tory of all the husband’s assets while demanding that the widow swears an oath of honesty.

Hence, drawing from the above, culture and religion are two important factors that are often invoked as a justification for the violation of women’s rights gener­ally. In most patriarchal societies, it is often difficult to separate both factors as both are used to support each other even though, they are separable.

Women and marriage

In Nigeria, marriage is held in high esteem and a premium is attached to anything marriage-related. A good marriage might ordinarily be an achievement, but African society adds an extra premium of importance to it. For this reason, when a man hits north of 30, the pressure heightens as the patriarchal world now wants him to be ‘responsible,’ after allowing him to sow his wild oats.

It is worse for women. They are always held to higher stan­dards of piety, domesticity, and “responsibility,” but the requirement of marriage ampli­fies this to the point where her accomplishments are rendered useless if she does not marry before the age of 30. Even the exaggerated layer that “you will be someone’s wife one day” is added by society to force women to adhere to tra­ditionalist moral and behavioral standards.

Marriage bestows on women a new air of respect in the eyes of society. Any insult directed at a woman who wears a large rock on her ring finger is met with the extremely outraged question, “Somebody’s wife?!” The institution of marriage is also extremely restrictive and patriarchal in Nigeria. Many women have had aspirations they were unable to pursue due to their marital obligations.

According to Emem Udodi­ong, an entrepreneur, married for 29 years, “The society (being a man’s world) expects women to always be the one at home to raise the kids and take care of the home. My take on this is that the home is the first school and so needs proper planning by both parents.”

Religion and morality have also contributed to the way in which Nigerian mothers are essentially bound to their tradi­tional roles. Mothers have been portrayed in both Christianity and Islam as the ideal house­wife, whose only goal in life is to care for the home.

Given that Nigeria is a highly religious country, many Nige­rian mothers have made an ef­fort to fit into this mold and give up their individual aspirations. These standards can also be used to explain the long-stand­ing custom of treating women as weak, breakable, and overly sensitive individuals.

Nigerian women speak

As part of the International Women’s Day celebration, The Pointer newspaper interviewed some women to learn about their experiences in Nigerian society and how IWD has and could affect shared values.

According to Rachael Uche, women in Nigeria were treated as second-class citizens and have had to put in twice as much efforts to prove their worth.

Women occasionally have an advantage over men in the job market because they are proac­tive, emotionally stable, and capable of juggling both personal and professional commitments.”

“The same cannot be said for a woman trying to obtain housing in Nigeria, as one may be required to provide proof indicating the presence of a man in her life. When a police officer pulls you over while you’re driving, they occasionally anticipate you to say that the vehicle be­longs to your husband. Women aren’t supposed to be able to access “the good life” without selling their bodies, accord­ing to them,” she said.

She continued by saying that women were generally strong and resilient and that International Women’s Day provided an ample opportunity to emphasize this and encourage Nigerians to treat women better.

Similarly, Mrs. Obianuju described her first experience with gender discrimi­nation in secondary school, “I was in SSS3 when this teacher entered the room and asked if anyone wanted to draw. I raised my hand along with a boy. because I was skilled at both drawing and painting.

“But then I began to hear murmuring and it turned out that my classmates were wondering how a girl could draw. The idea that people would think in such a way shocked me but I was just as good as the guy, if not better,” she said.

She added by saying that the same dismissive treatment and stereotypical gender roles were the main reasons why many Nigerians found the idea of placing a woman in important positions of power to be absurd.

Meanwhile, Miss Emem relates that being a woman in Nigeria has been toxic, chaotic, and dramatic. “I recently left work to buy food for lunch at a restau­rant. We were there first ;then some men walked in demanding to be attended to first since we are women and should have cooked at home before going to work.”

“They said we had no business buying restaurant food. I was ready to fight if the person in charge gave in to the men because we had been sitting for almost an hour,” she said.

She also criticized Nigeria’s fixed gen­der roles and entitlement to a woman’s body, which are characterized by catcall­ing, gender-based violence, unsolicited compliments, and sexual advances which reduce women to nothing more than sex objects, a major campaign of the IWD movement.

Also, Mrs. Chioma Madura, a mother of three, laments the stance of Nigerians society towards women partaking in inheritance. “I remember when my ma­ternal grandfather was ill and my mother spent almost all her life savings to treat him,; this was the same woman who wasn’t given the opportunity to finish secondary school let alone learn a trade.”

“None of her brothers bothered to visit the hospital much less contribute a dime to his funeral (a ceremony single­handedly hosted by my mother) but as soon as his body was six feet under, his properties were quickly shared with not even a pin given to her,” she narrated.

Additionally, Mrs. Chika Onuwa labelled the Nigerian woman as the object of all moral reproach. “When a woman is raped, she is accused of being indecent, experiences marital abuse, and is branded as haughty. Even when her partner cheats, she is held accountable for ‘chasing him outside’, not to talk of the abnormal beauty standard she is forced to adhere to because she cannot afford to ‘let herself go,” she said.

She continued by saying that IWD was not about women competing against men or challenging their status in society, but rather about women wanting to receive the respect and privileges they are due.

IWD, a year-round course for all

On International Women’s Day, wom­en are reminded that as long as one woman experiences discrimination, harassment, inequality, and oppression every woman does. It’s also a show of support for women who might not be able to march because they fear for their safety in other nations.

IWD is a fantastic way to be motivated, re-energized, or to remind women that there are millions of others who are standing and fighting the same battles and triumphing? It is also to remind gov­ernments, stakeholders, and everyone else watching that women are not going anywhere, and they are prepared to take action to achieve their human rights.

In essence, International Women’s Day is a time for everyone, regardless of gender, to acknowledge and celebrate the strides that women have made toward equality while also recognizing how far they still have to go. A welcome amplify­ing factor for women’s accomplishments is a male alliance, particularly when men.



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