The 21st Century Nigerian Woman: Her Body, Her rights!
57 years after Independence, Nigeria remains one of the harshest places in the world for women[i]. The average Nigerian woman is exposed to child marriage, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, gender discrimination in the work space and is deprived of opportunities in the political arena. In addition, being a predominantly patriarchal society, hopes for gender equality across all spheres continue to appear dim.
In March 2016, Nigerian Senators rejected a gender and equal opportunities bill because it was perceived as ‘an attack on religious beliefs’. The proposed bill consisted an Act to Incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the Protocol of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, on the rights of women in Africa, and other matters connected therewith, 2016 (SB. 301).” The bill sought to protect Nigerian women from violence and provide them with the same marital rights as their male counterparts, including the rights of widows to inherit their husband’s property[ii]. One senator went as far as quoting the Quran, stating that the bill was against the doctrines of sharia law because it proposed to erode men’s rights by eliminating discrimination in areas of marriage, divorce, education, employment opportunities, ownership of property and inheritance[iii]. The bill is still under review till date.
For years, religious, ethnic and cultural undertones have hindered the process of creating and implementing favourable policies on women’s rights. Despite all the hurdles, the 21st century Nigerian woman is bold, ambitious, erudite, yet courteous.
According to a 2016 report by the London School of Economics, out of Nigeria’s 180 million strong population, roughly 49% are women[iv]. Out of the 49%, over half of these women live in rural communities[v]. The few who grew up in urban areas and had access to quality secondary and tertiary education are still battling with the harsh reality of gender discrimination in the corporate and political space.
Nevertheless, thousands of Nigerian women are finally overcoming a battle that has been long fought. This battle entails the individual right of a woman to control her sexual and reproductive system through effective and time-conscious family planning. Family planning has given 21st century Nigerian women the power to plan their offspring according to their emotional, physical and financial calendars. It is most effective through careful selection of suitable contraceptives; and fertility treatments.
The following have proven to be the most effective mediums of family planning, namely: long-acting reversible contraception, such as the implant or intra uterine device (IUD), hormonal contraception, such the pill or the Depo Provera injection, barrier methods, such as condoms, emergency contraception, and permanent contraception, such as vasectomy and tubal ligation[vi].
Studies have also shown that contraception/family planning is beneficial to women. It allows couples to have smaller families, so that they are less likely to slip into poverty, can afford higher quality education for their children and it ensures the health and survival of women. Of particular importance is the fact that it empowers women and liberates them to participate in available opportunities. Therefore, its role in empowering women cannot be overemphasized.[vii]
In commemoration of the 2018 International Women’s Day, the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), reiterates its commitment to improving the lives of Nigerian women through effective capacity building programs, advisory services and technical support.
“Education! Education! Education!
There is a wind of change across Africa, where women are occupying key positions and performing admirably in governance, corporate bodies and tertiary institutions. For women emancipation and empowerment to be a reality, free and compulsory education until at least secondary school level is key.”
Prof O.A. Ladipo, the President/CEO of ARFH
Association for Reproductive and Family Health
1st Floor, Block C, Millennium Builders Plaza, Central Business District, Abuja, Nigeria
[ii] Nigerian Senate votes down gender equality bill due to ‘religious beliefs’: The Independent Online. Published, 17.03.2016. Retrieved: 07.03.2018. Source: Nigerian Senate Votes Down Gender Equality Bills
[iii] FACT CHECK: Does gender equality bill seek to erode the rights of men? Published: 16.02.2017, The Cable Newspapers Nigeria. Source: Does gender equality bill seek to erode the rights of men?
[iv] Women in Nigeria make up 49 per cent of the population, but only four per cent of lawmakers. Published 08.03.2016. Source: London School of Economics, Women