Being a second class citizen: 5 Nigerian women tell their stories

We asked some ladies to tell us what it is like to live in Nigeria and here is what they had to say.

Sad black woman(Madailygist)

Popular Nigerian novelist Florence Onyebuchi "Buchi" Emecheta (OBE) published one of her most critically acclaimed novels, the 'Second-Class Citizen', in 1974.

It followed the story of a woman named Adah Ofili, who was not allowed to go to school simply because of her gender. During the rest of the novel, we see her sneak into a classroom, support her husband and family in spite of her husband's lack of support. 

Despite being treated like a second-class citizen, she manages to succeed against the odds simply because of her determination. This story was not pulled out of thin air. It was actually based on the life of Emecheta and other women like her.

Over 40 years later, many women can still relate to this story. Women only account for 40% of the global labor force, according to a 2012 World Developement report and Nigeria is yet to have a female president.

As part of our Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa's 2019 International Women's Day series, we asked five women to tell us what it is like to live in Nigeria. Like the late novelist, they all talk about being treated like second class citizen even in 2019. Here is what they had to say:

Nigerian women tell their stories

"Having lived in the UK, being a woman, in my opinion, has never really had a huge impact on my life. However, living in Nigeria, every day I am reminded that I am seen as a second class citizen. The way I am spoken to my men, the belittlement and the entitlement. Just a few months ago, I was passed over for an apartment because the landlord 'didn't want any trouble from single women'. What that trouble could be and why it's different from single men, who knows?! Moving to Nigeria has made me even more deeply entrenched in my feminism because the difference between the treatment of sexes is clear and something HAS got to give" -  Angela.

"I think being a woman in Nigeria is a rollercoaster of emotions. You almost always have to strive more than everyone else to prove your worth or to even be treated as a decent human. It's either you're being denied rent for being single in Lagos, or there's a likelihood of being sexually abused by one person. On some days, you're happy that you have friends and other women backing you up, doing great in your various fields. And other days you're completely consumed by the country's patriarchal nature. I know it's international women's day, so I am hoping today more than ever, that women in Nigeria start getting equal opportunities with their male counterparts, in the workplace, in religious institutions and even in their homes" - Nana.

"Growing up, my mum tried as much as possible not to limit me because I was a girl, and it made her in-laws livid, still does. But I'd still see those limitations everywhere; in school, while playing, etc. I remember thinking a couple of times that I definitely wanted to come back as a boy in another life. But I've come to appreciate most parts that come with being a woman, unapologetically. As an adult now, Nigeria is still constantly trying to remind me about what I can and cannot do, just because of my sex. I've heard it from my professors, random men on the street, other women, and even lawmakers! But will I listen? No" - Adaobị.

" Being a woman in Nigeria is a strange kettle of fish. I often chuckle with amusement to see the clearly expressed shock when male clients and colleagues discover that the GidiRealtor is female. Simply because I use digital platforms to market my real estate business and I clearly do an amazing job at it, it's assumed that I must be male, crushing it in a male-dominated field. The arrogance expressed openly is that you are to take it as a compliment and not an insult that because you're a woman the level of your work is expected to be below par. When the quality of your work is being touted as done by a man, this is simply because society still hasn't adjusted to conventional job roles being reversed by the sexes. No one seems to appreciate that as a woman nothing stops me from reaching the peak of my career, especially in the digital age. Anyone can be someone and excellence isn't tied to just one gender" -Tonye.

"One time I was driving with a friend home from work. A male friend. While driving IN MY LANE, another man driving a minivan tried to overtake me. He was not driving alone, he had a man in the passenger seat. I horned for a few seconds until the worst happened. He completely removed the bumper of my car. I snapped. I stepped out of my car with the jack ready to fight the man till the last. He proved very reluctant and wanted to form correct until my Male colleague stepped down to negotiate "man to man". Long story short, the car was fixed. Then the man sitting in the passenger's seat blurted out shamefully to my colleague "Oga you no suppose give woman car make me drive". I looked at him with shock. He repeated it again. Then I called him pathetic and said he had a shallow mentality. He replied with "you are the one that is mental" I knew he was illiterate. Next thing we were throwing insults (I'll never do that again today sha, can't argue the worth of a woman with an illiterate) Sha sha he did the usual "my wife will never talk to me this way" "your husband should be ashamed" etc Anyway that day I realised that Nigerian men hate women. However, my workplace is filled with women who make living in Nigeria as a woman worthwhile." - Stephanie.

This article is part of Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa's 2019 International Women's Day series.


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