By Temie Giwa
Feminism has been in the news recently and since I spend a lot of my free time talking about gender, I thought I would add my voice to the conversation.
I am a feminist and i deeply believe in the equality of both genders. Woman and men are different, but the differences between them remain inconsequential in the way our world works.
However, before we continue, I must confess some things. I am happily married to a young man. We share household duties, and we once we cannot share we contract out. We both work hard to provide for our family and we lead fulfilled lives. I also do not hate men; in fact, I love them, one man in particular. I am not a lesbian, although I must state that I see nothing wrong with that. I love lipstick; I am currently in love with a shade of dark skin plum that brings out the glow in my skin and I spent my early 20s obsessively collecting gorgeous shoes. There are lots of women like me in the world, even in Nigeria. Women who have problems loving men, who in fact currently plan to spend their lives with one man, who love lipstick and high heels and call themselves feminist. In short, I am not what most people think of as feminist, yet I am feminist and I think you should be too.
Before we go on, we must agree what feminism means for the purpose of this article. Feminism fights against the patriarchy. Te patriarchy is a system of “society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it, in which the father or the eldest male acts as the head of the family and descent is traced through the, male line”. So there it is. Feminism does not fight against men, it does not teach women to hate men and it does not seek to make women supreme. Feminism does not concern itself with whether women stay at home or work. Feminism wants a society in which men and women hold power and no adult is excluded from the right to participate from the right to participate in public life. Our greatest goal is to create of way of ordering our society that does not subtly or emphatically exclude women from holding power. In the private realm, feminism asks the male and female members of a family act as heads of that family and that the society works out a way of tracing descent that does not exclude the work women do to raise their children.
Women are still behind in all measure. Women in Nigeria earn less than men, regardless of educational qualifications, sometimes earning less than men that are less qualified. Only 15% of Nigerian women have bank accounts. Many of these unbanked poor women live in rural areas where they make 60-79% of rural agricultural workforce, yet men are five times more likely to own lands. Only 7% women own land they farm and this ends up limiting their access to credit and participation in economic system. Women are worse off health wise, with 144 of us dying each month due to childbirth. Violence against women is rampant with a third of Nigerian reporting that they have been subjected to some sort of violence. Northern women have low access to education. 80% of women in some Northern states are unable to read. Yet, those who can represent women’s interest routinely kept out of leadership positions by our popular culture. The representation in National Assembly is decreasing steadily over time. There are 360 representatives only 25 are women. Yet women make 49% of the Nigerian population. Of 109 senators, only 7 are women. In the local level only 4% of local councillors are women. In Public service, women hold 30% of public sector posts and this number decreases the higher the post gets. The way our system is structured leaves 49% of rich lives and brilliant minds from decision making and thus introducing all the adverse effects described above and makes our country less efficient and competitive.
In order to change the status quo, most of us become feminists. Many women are not satisfied with staying at home and raising children, no matter how fulfilling this is. Women want to participate fully in the running of Nigeria. If you remain unconvinced, well do it for your mothers, sisters, wives, female friends and little daughters. You must become a feminist for you, for them or for your country.
This article was published in Y! Africa magazine issue 12 | 2013