Recently, award-winning author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in an interview with the UK Guardian came out to say that she would be more successful in Nigeria if she is not a feminist.
“Feminism is not that hot. I can tell you I would sell more books in Nigeria if I stopped and said I’m no longer a feminist. I would have a stronger following, I would make more money” she said.
She is spot on in this case. Feminism in Nigeria is an endangered movement or belief; it is associated with so much bile, prejudice and stigmatisation. You are either ascribed to one or more of the following stereotypes; man-haters, angry nasty women, pro-abortionists, homosexual or pseudo homosexual, unmarried or a career woman, anti-motherhood ,an atheist, unbeliever, a bad wife or an amoral woman. . .
A little over a year ago, Senator Biodun Olujimi sponsored a bill to seek redress on gender parity issues which purpose was to permit women to have equal rights with men in marriages, education, property rights and employment etc. As we all know it was met with strong opposition based on cultural, political and religious colourations.
Is this the right way to swing? I leave that to your judgement.
According to the World Bank in 2015, the women population in Nigeria stood at 49.07%. Yes, almost half of our population are women; and the sad reality is that large factions of these women are handicapped socially, medically, politically and economically. Factually speaking, we should highlight and enforce women rights in our country if we truly seek redress on our economic productivity, improved sustainable development. We should ensure that our policies are more representative for a more holistic effect in the society. Are we deliberately going to leave this faction of our populace undervalued, defenceless, faceless, unemployable and underpowered? In which case they are more vulnerable to abuse, poverty, health issues and even death.
Nigeria is a signatory to the Maputo Protocol otherwise known as The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. This guarantees comprehensive rights to women and propagates gender parity in core areas which would further empower the African woman. This seeks to address pertinent challenges affecting the girl child and women in Africa, which have been relegated to the background for too long. It has consequently hindered the growth and empowerment of these women. In so many ways, their dreams are caught short as soon as the doctors declare their sex in the labour room.
These issues such as child marriage/early marriage, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), stigmatisation, gender pay gap, rape culture, marginalization of all forms, denial of property rights and inheritance, etc. are familiar occurrences in our society which affects girls and women. They fight these battles silently and the least that we could do is empathize, commiserate and sensitize these issues. But alas, our silence is just another web in the tangling and vicious cycle.
According to Wikipedia, feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define and advance political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.
What it means to be a feminist in Iceland or Rwanda which are of the world’s best countries in terms of gender equality, is very different from what it means to be a feminist in Semen, Syria of even Nigeria. This is why feminism is a relative concept and a ready tool which could be used to advocate and propagate women rights that we require in our society – to enable women to assume their full potential and prospects.
It would be truly amiss for me as a typical Nigerian not to highlight the religious/ cultural angle that casts a shadow on the propagation of women rights in our country. Religion and cultural norms play a huge role on our stance on so many issues, as such most antagonists usually use this premise to expound why women rights should not be enforced or just given the cursory lip service. But then should this be a justification to hamper our development? Especially as it can be clearly seen that the lack of / enforcement of such rights are detrimental to our women and future generations yet unborn.
It’s truly amusing when certain individuals try to besmirch women rights and associate the affiliation of such rights to the breakdown of nuclear family, home values and the dynamics of marriage in general. It is perceived as a threat to the stability and dynamics of the family.
I would argue that this would in fact create a more stable, well balanced homestead; in most heterosexual societies women are wives, homemakers, mothers, breadwinners etc, whose roles in building the future and society cannot be overstated. So in that vein, why shouldn’t they be empowered in all spheres of life according to their capacities and abilities instead of the norm of limiting the scope of what they can even dream about?
I ask again why not?
So when people ask me why I am a feminist in Nigeria. These are my reasons as stated above and so much more. I simply choose not to be silent. I am a Christian first, a feminist second and both at the same time. (I will elucidate on this in another article.)
I stand with women rights. What about you?