The Struggles and Pains of the Nigerian Woman

by Charles U. Ofoefule

‘Black’ they say is beautiful and there is no contest on the trueness of this statement. The Nigerian woman has been characterized as an epitome of black beauty; exhibiting so much strength, willpower and having a good portion of the Darwin’s instinct for survival. Over the years, her survival has proven her to be the fittest among the Nigerian species.

An exposition into history would undoubtedly unravel many experiences that the Nigerian woman had had to go through compulsorily. A truth is that: while many politicians are deeply engrossed in their dirty chess game of politics and corruption, the average Nigerian woman daily endures the agony of her numerous struggles.

The pains of the Nigerian woman are real and have sadly become her daily manna. For long, the gender apartheid and discrimination has only but worsened her condition. Coming from an age long history of oppression the Nigerian woman has exhibited excellent valour in her battles for existence.

The Heroes of the past shall never be forgotten by history. Imagine the grief and emotional torture of having your set of twins, triplets or even single baby, whom you had nurtured in your womb for nine months, forcefully taken away from you to face the ultimate penalty of death; simply because of their skin colour or multiple birth state. The fathers usually saw it as a being a result of the sins of the mother or the curse of the gods.

I thank God for Mary Slessor who led the crusade that put an end to the killing of twins in Calabar and even environs around it where such atrocious acts were committed. The thought provoking question today should be: ‘How many Mary Slessors do we still have in Nigeria?’

A good number of the male population in many parts of the country have taken to drinking alcohol, smoking, idleness, gambling, etc as their occupation. The woman is left with the option of engaging in both male and female tagged jobs just to ensure the very survival of their immediate and sometimes extended families.

It is a known fact that many families across the nation have mothers as their bread winners. Struggling and striving everyday irrespective of harsh weather conditions, many women have taken up the daunting task of family upkeep and with a near supreme-sacrifice, a lot of them have successfully seen their children through tertiary education.

Little wonder, markets around the country have women in greater number, 75% of mobile traders (including hawkers of goods on the streets) are mothers and about 65% of the work force for rural agriculture come from females.

Many more women, having no one to run to, become ever available punching-bags at the mercy of the fists and anger of their husbands: who most times claim to be ‘the man of the house.’- A title that is evidently ceremonial.

Stories of abominable acts would eternally remain incredible. In spite of the very extensive awareness campaigns, presence of western education and health care, it is still; most deeply painful to know that in some circles, female circumcision is still widely adorned: A practice which portends grave dangers for its victims.

Of course, there is no hiding the fact that the prime target of female genital mutilation is still the Nigerian woman. In some cultures where female virginity is not celebrated or encouraged, it is so touching to see or hear of how young damsels must go through very painful and dangerous rites aimed at the loss of their virginities.

Some ladies including mothers are regular subject to sexual abuse, slavery, hard labour of different magnitudes and assaults of diverse sorts. Oh! ‘The Nigerian Woman’ how truly agonizing is thy pain!

It has been widely said that: ‘the African man is Polygynous by nature’; but the truth is that it is the woman who once again bears the pains and blames that arise from polygyny. A man is often free to engage in adulterous acts and extra marital affairs but a woman is greatly forbidden to even think of it let alone attempting it. Even these masculine adulterous practices eventually (as they often do) lead to polygynous homes, the wife is often the one to blame. The shames of such acts are allowed to fall squarely on her.

In most Nigerian polygynous homes, it is funny but yet bitter to know that it is the mothers who are left with the Herculean task of child upbringing and welfare amongst other communal responsibilities she must live up to. The man as a matter of fact, is placed on the wives’ timetable in which a regular rotation occurs on which wife have to serve his table and warm his bed as well. He only functions as an agent of procreation.

Yes, many might argue that many cultures support polygyny. It only further buttresses the point that in the end, a larger number of women would have to bear the heartbreak and pains that arises from the process and practice of polygyny in Nigerian.

Take a moment, pause and reflect for a while; from even the days of military rule, there has never been an administration that did not come up with ‘women empowerment programs’. From one seminar to another, one workshop to the other; with so much acclamation, these governments proclaimed such program; but let us ask ourselves: how many Nigerian women have been truly empowered by these programs? How many poverty stricken homes have been salvaged? How many more families have been established with much assistance from the government? The answers to these questions lie in front of us.

When several markets in Lagos state, Nigeria, were demolished for reconstruction and no substitute or alternative put in place for the market women to continue with their trade, these women did not just fold their hands in idleness. Again, with valour, they strived to set up other petty interim sources of income. With daily increases in hurdles, struggles and pain, they still manage to survive.

A walk along the sub-urban, rural, minor and major streets of many states in Nigeria, you would clearly see the bold handwritings of struggle, pain, strive and weariness on the face of the Nigerian woman. It might interest you to know that: even in the midst of the extreme penury that characterize a good percentage of Nigerian women, she still constitutes a lesser fraction of the unemployed, a lesser percentage of the unemployed and a fewer number of annually prosecuted criminals. Like when the captivity of Zion was turned, I look forward in good hopes to that time and moment when the Nigerian woman who no longer be characterized by the contents of the paragraphs above; a period where joy, peace and comfort would be understatements in characterizing the life and wellbeing of the Nigerian woman.

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Anonymous April 4, 2016 - 8:31 pm

Even after 7 years of writing, this article still portrays the bitter reality

sophlames November 30, 2009 - 3:45 am

Im going to have to say this article is slightly weak and not the full story, most of those women u see in the market are doing their part to raise money for their familY. Their husbands are usually out there making money also by other means. I know of lots of women who go into polygamy willfully and are not forced they are educated and did it by choice. I think u have made an over generalisation.

Everywhere on the planet they talk about womens right and empowering women. U mentions the government making plans to uplift women, to the write of this article, my question simply is this, how many plans have u seen made by nigerian leaders come to life, that u would expect the women empowering and poverty elevation become effective. They havent even been able to elevate the men out of poverty let alone the women. Are there women who struggle in nigeria yes. But i think u have over dramatised it. If a women struggles in a marriage its her fault she chooses to stay. Yes i know that its hard to walk because some are housewives and may have no other source of income. But please tell me which developed country places their abused women on benefit schemes that pays them. The only people that recieve benefits are the people who meet the requirements, which are both men and women. Seeing that nigeria does not have this for either sex, the woman might have no choice. But for those who have jobs and can sustain themselves they dont take non sense.

Anne May 18, 2009 - 1:30 pm

Truly, not only Nigeria women but also Africa women, are passing through alot in order to keep the home. I know it’s not a curse rather an avenue to make other women from other parts of the world value their lives as well as their home, no matter what it’s going to cost them because some day things will definitely turn around for good.

Suzi February 17, 2009 - 8:44 am

Wow, I had no idea when I started dating men from

Africa how much this was just the way it is. I have heard this over and over from everyone and it was my own experience. I feel in love with the most amazing man, I still miss him. He however had 5 wives in Africa and a pregnant girlfriend who he lives with, and I was the bad one for dating a friend of his when we were broke up. I will never understand, so thank you for telling your stories I feel I’m not alone or crazy this really is not easy to date an African man. I give up!

Henrietta Eberegbe February 10, 2009 - 1:44 pm

yes, many nigerian men need to change their stupid mentality regarding submission caused by the ignorant preachers who claim to own monopoly of the truth, using religious scriptures. Stupid cultures must be abandoned

ik innocent uzuh February 9, 2009 - 7:34 am



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