“I don’t understand why Lagos Landlords have a problem with renting out their apartments to single women” I hear the worry and frustration in my sister’s voice at the other end of the line. The prawn crackers I was munching on became tasteless in my mouth. We’ve been on this conversation for the past twenty minutes. I sigh. I understand her predicament. Our other sister had the same issue while she was apartment hunting. Ever the adventurous one, she had wanted to move out of the house as soon as she got a job after serving the fatherland in Kwara State.
She was initially posted to the far end of Wamba in Nasarawa State, our parents, after a long series of argument, emotional blackmail, and threats had reached a compromise with her; they would agree on a state not too far from home but Ogun, Oyo, and Osun States are out of the options. Fully aware of the efforts it took her to reach a compromise; they had agreed to facilitate her redeployment to Kwara State. After service, she got a great job at a top publishing firm in Lagos and couldn’t wait to leave home; “A girl also needs her privacy” she always says. I recall the number of times she would lament to our parents and whoever cared enough to listen about how unfair society treats women. A single woman can hardly get accommodation in a decent environment without pretending to be engaged or presenting a father figure in her life to testify of responsibility and his willingness to grant her the freedom she desires. Long story short, after much persuasion, dad had gone with her to the agents of some of the apartments she was interested in.
I try persuading my sister to go through the route our other sister eventually took. I mean, if a single woman cannot gain decent accommodation because of the prejudice the society has on singleness and women in general, what else can a girl do? Lagos landlords are of the opinion that women are mostly sponsored by their parents, husbands, or the numerous men in their lives. If things go sour between the ‘small girls’ and their ‘big gods’, the rent will suffer for it. That again is another prejudice, a stereotype that women are not as hardworking and financially stable as their male counterparts. My sister still continues to rant, demanding to know why her decision should be based on her marital status or parental influence. Seeing that I was making no headway as she is already determined, I calmly listen to her rants and let her know all will be well.
After saying our goodbyes, I begin to ponder on what we had just discussed. I have never thought about leaving my parents’ house without leaving for my matrimonial home. I still have no intention to do so, except if my career demands it. Probably because I’m very attached to my parents, being the last child. I recall my brother didn’t have this kind of problem. The landlord had only insisted that the rent be paid when due, the number of occupants shouldn’t be more than three at any point since that was stated clearly in their agreement form and loud parties will not be tolerated. Those rules were fair enough. Any responsible person would easily abide by them.
I can’t help but believe these hideous beliefs and bias stem from the deeply rooted patriarchal system African countries, especially Nigeria are cursed with. Why my financial capabilities would be judged by my gender. A woman by ‘default’ is judged incapable, not because she doesn’t have a job, but because she’s a single WOMAN.
It’s funny how many people would turn a blind eye to discriminating against females wanting to be independent. Others might even validate the act. It is very understanding and acceptable if the basis of rejection is based on the premises of the individual doesn’t have a stable job hence the fear of defaulter in payment of rent or the individual has a track record of recklessness and irresponsibility. I recall reading about an interview with a property owner and landlord, Coleman Nwafor and BBC Africa, Mr. Nwafor had said that the bulk of his tenants are men because they have more than women.
Asides the financial ‘insecurity’ bias, many landlords and property developers, are driven by the belief that women cannot — or should not — live outside their father or husband’s house. Another evidence of how much damage the patriarchal belief system has done to our society.
My sister had earlier shared with me the very unnecessary and invasive questions the landlords of the apartments she had inspected had thrown at her, “Why would you want to leave alone? Don’t you know you’re a woman? Are your parents still alive? What do they think of this act of yours?
Another had said “You look old enough for marriage, why are you still unmarried? One of them had even with all sincerity told her that men do not want a woman who is already ‘settled’ getting an apartment as a single woman would reduce her chances of getting married, no man wants a woman who doesn’t need him, a woman who has it all would find difficult to be submissive to her husband. The society has made marriage the ultimate attainment of a woman and normalised policing women about. There is already established bias, that the need for a single lady to live apart from her parent is to fuel her wayward lifestyle, most definitely to live her life unsupervised. The upper-class single women seem to have it a little easier though they still endure some wagging tongues and snide remarks about their lifestyle.
If we are aware of and irritated about how tribalistic landlords can be when it comes to choosing their tenants, and then we can imagine how most women have it worse, one from discrimination against their tribe and then their gender.
Can you testify to these ridiculous and backward reasoning acts? Please share your experience with us and how you handled it.
Written by: Olabisi Animashuan