What is Nigeria’s view on patriarchy and how does it affect the women in this country?
Patriarchal beliefs are strong in the Giant of Africa, otherwise known as Nigeria. This idea and way of thinking has shaped women’s behaviors, life choices, and health for centuries, and plays a crucial part in deciding the “worth” of each woman. Sexuality is looked upon differently with each gender. Men are expected to be more sexually aggressive, so many times their actions are excused. Premarital sex is excused for men due to them having a “sexual nature”, while a woman is shamed for participating in such an act. Women are expected to suppress their sex drives otherwise they are seen as easy and lacking “self-respect”. If a man proceeds to attempt sexual assault, the blame is taken off of the man and placed on the woman for dressing in a way that highly tempted the man. All types of assault are in no way encouraged by Nigerian society, but not much is done to reprimand those who assault others. In this way, physical assault directed towards women affects even those who haven’t been personally assaulted, because it instills fear in women on what their husbands and male figures in their lives can do to them in the future. Careers are another example; they are selected based on what is appropriate for each gender. Engineers, workers in finance, and lawyers are seen to be career choices well suited for a man. While times have changed and women are able to have their own careers as well, they’re encouraged to focus on staying home and taking care of the family.
Career choices that women make leads to the next issue that a Nigerian woman can run into, and that is singlehood. Depending on the career a woman chooses, many years of training or education may be required. Due to this, a married life may be put on hold for a little while to focus on their career. Women in Nigeria, however, are expected to get married at their late teen years or during their twenties. After those ages, society starts to assume that maybe there is an issue with the woman herself; that she for some reason isn’t able to attract a worthy mate. One of the key purposes of a woman in Nigeria is to be able to raise a family and create future generations, so there have been ways created to force more women into staying at home or pursuing careers that are not considered “ideal for males”. One of the ways I read about was that women are required to be single in order to be enlisted into the force. Only after 3 years of being part of the force can the enlisted single woman get married. In order to proceed with marriage, she must fill an application to the state commissioner of police, and her suitor will proceed with an interview to be approved for marriage. On the other side, men enlisted in the force do not have to experience this process and are allowed to be married before enlisting. Women know their importance in society, and understand that they are expected to raise a family, so requirements like the ones mentioned previously cause many women to rethink their career choices.
When women are in the process of creating offspring, most families are looking for the birth of a boy, which places a lot of pressure on women. Boys are seen to be the future leaders of the household and the ones who carry the family name. Something interesting I read is that one study displayed that for some Igbo families that kept birthing girls and was still searching for the birth of a boy, they named the daughters based on the household situation. Such examples are Ogadinma (it will soon be better), Ndidi (patience), and Anaelechi (I hope on God). When a boy is birthed, names such as Obidike (my heart is strengthened), Ebisike (I now live stronger), and Nwokedi (there is a man here) are given.