2021 IWD: Which Barrier Should Nigerian Women Seamlessly Choose To Challenge?

By Isaac Asabor
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There is no denying the fact that the charge which was given to women globally as the International Women Day (IWD) was celebrated across all the countries in the world yesterday, March 8, 2021, is not in any way going to be a piece of cake for Nigerian women as it would be to women in other climes. Simply put, it will unarguably be daunting for Nigerian women as the challenges they face as a result of their gender; which they did not chose on their own, are of plethoric dimension.

The reason for the foregoing pessimistic view cannot be farfetched as the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “#Choose to Challenge”. It indicates that a “challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change”.

As explained by the organizers, “This year, we can all choose to challenge everything that has been holding us back, and become better allies”. However, to most Nigerians that are familiar with the peculiar challenges which Nigerian women are faced with, choosing to challenge any of the barriers that they are faced with by each passing day is not going to be seamless.

First and foremost, does choosing to challenge the burgeoning population of misogynists in Nigeria part of the charges that are inherent in International women Day’s theme of this year? If it is part of the challenges that should be confronted, the women are no doubt bound to be labelled as being “Too rude” to be women. In this part of the world, patriarchy characterizes the society. It is a society where women are not expected to talk or look down on men. Traditionally and culturally, any man that has something dangling between his legs is assumed to be a “real man”; whether he is wretchedly poor and uneducated. It does not matter; as long as African tradition and culture persist. The foregoing, no doubt, is one of the barriers which Nigerian women have been confronting from ages. I wonder how they will choose to challenge what they have for the umpteenth times been challenging without having a successful result to show for their efforts.

In most parts of Nigeria, women are daily oppressed by men in most aspects of life; access to land inclusive. Despite the level of modernity being experienced today, not few Nigerians may have been thinking that patriarchal mind sets being held by most Nigerian men ought to have by now being watered down, and expectedly become receptive to respond to changing socio-economic and other aspects of life, and issues that pertain to women’s equal access to land, but that is yet to be experienced as women’s demand for their inheritance from their biological forebears have more often than not met with stiff resistance; either from their unbrotherly brothers or from their wicked uncles. It suffices to say that not few women have being denied inheritances from their biological fathers on the strength of traditional mores that is prevalent across Nigeria. Reiteratively put, access to land has been a contentious and perennial problem across the country for women both at the family and community levels. Wait a minute! Is this system of land ownership that is ingrained in depth of patriarchy what decision makers of the IWD wants Nigeria women to choose to challenge?

To this writer, choosing among the challenges that Nigerian women are faced with, and which cut across denial of their inheritances, rape, discrimination in office environment, being looked down by anyone that is physiologically called a man, is going to be challenging as most Nigerian men whose mind sets are deeply mired in traditional and cultural mores are not readily disposed to empathize with them despite the fact that some of them have sisters, aunties and mothers as relatives.

There is no denying the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing women in Nigeria today is patriarchy, and it has remained one of the socio-cultural challenge that women are facing. This is especially evident in most families. There is no denying the fact that most men are not usually pleased and thankful to God when their wives give birth to a baby girl. Whenever a child is born, the first question that is asked by well-wishers is “Na boy abi na girl?” Regardless of a woman’s experience, education or abilities, the patriarchal nature of our society has no doubt created the erroneous perception that women are less qualified and less competent than men. What patriarchy has done is to convince people that a strong and intelligent woman represents a problem; a disruption to the social order, rather than an integral part of it. Biased media coverage of career women with stories that focus on women’s fashion and looks at the expense of their intellects and experiences underscores this point. However, it is gratifying to note that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala with her recent appointment as the first woman and African to become a Director-General at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has changed the retrogressive view been shared by all misogynists across the country. The unprecedented appointment of Okonjo-Iweala in Nigeria’s history within the context of international affairs would no doubt open the eyes of Nigerian men but I guess it may hardly open that of some died-in-the-wool misanthropists.

At this juncture, it would not be out of place for anyone to ask why Nigerian are still facing stiff opposition from misogynists despite campaigns which some educated women have been carrying out by each passing year. This writer equally joins in the wonderment as for close to three decades now, Nigerian women had reason to expect change following a much-heralded global conference that set ambitious targets to transform the lives of women across the world. The milestone event, tagged “The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in 1995 was rightly or wrongly thought to have the capacity of producing the resolutions that would act as the magic wand for the realization of women’s expectations from the perspective of gender discrimination across the world, including Nigerian women. The reason for the hope and expectations that have kept trailing the event decades after cannot be farfetched as the Platform for Action adopted on the occasion was a landmark document that marked the transition from the concept of the advancement of women to that of promoting equality between the sexes.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation of women in the world today, particularly in Nigeria, is depressing and in some areas even worse than in 1995. The backlash against women’s rights and gender equality has taken many forms. The governments across all tiers have not lived up to their commitments, and there has been lack of implementation of the Platform for Action and also a lack of political will to change the status quo.

Without any scintilla of exaggeration, gender operation or rather violation has taken a ridiculous trajectory sex crime against women is now been watered down with illogical reasoning being espouse by some section of the society who are unarguably part of those that are literarily throwing stones at the womenfolk. The category of Nigerians hold many myths and untruths about sexual assault and sexual abuse. These are often disguised as facts or are community held beliefs. These myths can make it hard for people to recover because they tend to blame the victim and defend the perpetrator. All of these myths attempt to excuse the behaviour of the perpetrator and imply they are not responsible for their actions.

At this juncture, it is expedient to say that in decades to come that what befell Uwa Omozuwa in Benin City, Edo State while studying a church, working towards a degree in microbiology, would remain a remain a reference point as she was violently raped, and died from the injuries inflicted on her.

When Ms. Omozuwa’s death became public knowledge, the outrage was swift and sustained. Social media was awash with posters featuring her smiling face and the hashtag #JusticeForUwa. Talk-show hosts, newspapers and blogs focused on the case. People criticized the public response of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in one of whose branches Ms. Omozuwa was assaulted. But it flew in the face of reason that some commentators wondered why she went to an isolated place to study. Where else can one choose to go and study for him or her to assimilate the knowledge been garnered in the process? Or do they think market or bus-stop environment would be conducive enough?

Gender issues mentioned in this context are just few among the plethora of injustices women are facing from members of the society. Against the backdrop of the retrogressive issues, it is expeidient to ask, Which Barrier Should Nigerian Women Seamlessly, now that women have been tasked through the celebration of the Interntional Women’ Day, yesterday?

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