TODAY’S WOMAN AND HER RIGHTS
Women’s rights are more than words in paper. That which makes human beings human, their inherent dignity and nobleness is neither male nor female. All human beings are born free and equal.”
Yet, there is little being said, too few conversations, and too little action, to stop violence against girls and women. Girls and young women around the world experience physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial violence and abuse.
Violence against girls and young women happens in all countries of the world and cuts across boundaries of age, race, sexuality, educational background and socio-economic status. Girls and young women can experience different forms of violence from conception through to their adulthood.
What are women’s rights?
Women’s rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls of many societies worldwide, and formed the basis to the women’s rights movement in the nineteenth century and feminist movement during the 20th century. – Wikipedia
In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in a patriarchal structure like ours in Nigeria they are ignored and suppressed. Pathetic!
From time immemorial, the patriarchal structure has exerted control over women’s lives. Women are considered second class creatures, of lesser value, deprived of their fundamental rights.
Practices that subdue and harm women to mention but a few are: wife-beating, female genital mutilation, Objectification of women, Child marriage, domestic violence, forced marriage, sex trafficking, mistreatment of Widows (Widow inheritance) are condoned as being part of the natural order of things and violent acts are primarily or exclusively committed against women expressly because we are women.
Sometime ago, I was at a training session, during our lunch break, we all had to go get our meal and we queued up to do that. We were also expected to go drop our plates when we finished eating. As I stood to go drop my plate, this guy lifted his plate and handed it over to me.
Please note: I was not the only person who wanted to go drop her plate, some guys also wanted to go do that but this guy singled me out. The reason is not far-fetched. I am a woman, the inferior specie, the one he could ask to drop his plate for him.
Anyway, the awful look in my eyes passed the message to him. This is the mindset of a typical Nigerian/ African man. A woman is inferior and should be bossed around. Jokers!
The “Feminism movement” is for men and women to have the internal freedom expressed in a secure and respectful environment.’ The different roles and behaviors of females and males are shaped and reinforced by gender norms, stereotypes and expectations within society. These social expectations that define what appropriate behaviors are for women and men create inequalities whereby one gender becomes empowered to the disadvantage of the other.
In a developing country like ours, all these practices that subjugate and harm women as earlier stated, are condoned as being part of the natural order of things. Violent acts are primarily or exclusively committed against women expressly because we are women.
Do you know your rights? Listen, nobody will give you your rights on a platter of gold. Nobody will hand it over to you. You have to claim it, you have to demand it.
Economic and social welfare rights
Sex discrimination where a woman is being treated less favorably than a man on the grounds of sex or indirectly by conditions applied equally to men and women.
Women still have a higher unemployment rate than men.
Health and reproductive rights, Right to education and training –
Access to education is still low, especially in the Northern parts of the country where withdrawal of girls for the purposes of marriage or for care giving is still practiced. According to ActionAid, “…educational developments in Northern Nigeria is lagging behind other parts of the country on practically every indicator, number of facilities, transition rates, girls enrollment, number of teachers…The girls are hawking wares or doing household chores…Low girls enrollment is bound to aggravate gender imbalances that skews present and future opportunities against women.” Nationwide gender gaps still exist at the higher levels of education.
Right to participation in political and decision making processes – Women’s participation in government is still below the 35 per cent stipulated in the gender policy.
Marriage, Separation, Divorce and Women’s property rights – this topic can never be exhausted in this article. Maybe in some other posts I shall write about it.
Violence against women – Violence against women and girls is related to women and girls’ lack of power and control, as well as to the social norms that prescribe men and women’s roles in society and condone abuse. Gender inequality and discrimination, where girls and women are seen as inferior or worth less than boys and men, are a root cause and consequence of violence against women and girls.
Girls, as females and as children, are especially vulnerable to violence. They experience sexual, physical, financial, emotional and psychological violence in their homes, their relationships, their friendships, their schools, their communities, their work, and in areas of conflict. All around the world girls and young women are subject to different forms of violence such as sexual harassment, dating violence and domestic violence. They experience harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, and fetuses may be aborted simply because they are female.
Access to justice and equal protection under the law
Like I wrote earlier, all the laws which protect women in Nigeria is merely in paper. Also, the Constitution and certain laws in Nigeria still contain discriminatory aspects. For instance, Section 26(2) of the Constitution does not allow a Nigerian woman to transmit her nationality to her husband if he is a foreigner.
Poverty also prevents women from going to court to assert their rights. As a result, they leave issues to God.
Elimination of harmful practices, culture and discrimination against women
In some parts of Nigeria, women are still regarded as part of the husband’s property and as such cannot inherit her husband’s property but must be inherited alongside his other property by another male in the family upon the event of her husband’s death.
In some parts of Nigeria, women can’t acquire property in their name. Worse still everything she owns belongs to their husband even in the event of divorce. It is worrisome, that while a woman is viewed as the property of a man, it is not vice-versa This is barbaric to say the least.
Right to inheritance –
In some parts of Nigeria, female children are still discriminated against on issues of inheritance. With the decision in Mojekwu v. Mojekwu, in which the Court of Appeal declared the ‘oli-ekpe’ custom of Nnewi which permits the son or the brother of a deceased person to inherit his property to the exclusion of his female children as discriminatory, it was expected that discrimination against women and the girl child on the issue of inheritance would end. This is definitely not the reality, probably because the decision has not gained nationwide popularity and poverty prevents women from going to court to assert their rights.
The right to dignity, food security and adequate housing
One major hindrance to the right to dignity, food security and adequate housing in Nigeria is poverty. The majority of the poor are women.
These rights among others are to protect us as a woman.
It is however sad that many women don’t know their rights, some would even consider or accept they are inferior to men. Some women will fight tooth and nail against anything that seeks to raise their status, not knowing they are destroying their own future prospect. Unknown to them, they are accomplices to their own slavery. To make matters worse, these set of women are the ones who solely depend on their Spouse.
Some women become completely shattered when they lose their husbands. A scenario where a woman laments- “I have four children, my husband is dead, where do I start from? This woman’s in-law would wage war against her, throw her and her children out and take over everything belonging to the deceased. Why? It is patriarchy at play – Gender-inequality. Where women’s rights are not recognized
Yet, women will not rise up and speak together with one voice, while a group is lifting it up; another is pulling it down and the situation gets worse.
Listen, women’s rights means Equality with men. Women are Humans, We are not second class Citizens, and we are not a property to be acquired by men. We are not inferior. We are valuable beyond our private parts, we have a sense of purpose, we matter in our Society, and we are relevant.
So I ask, are you a today’s woman who knows her rights and is ready to walk therein? Are you a today’s woman who is not going to accept the status quo and continue to promote patriarchy? Are you a today’s woman who is fully aware that all these inequalities increase the risk of girls and women experiencing violence and they can hinder their ability to remove themselves from abusive situations or seek support?
Is patriarchy what we are going to hand over to our daughters? Won’t they be disappointed in us for not standing up for what is rightfully ours- our rights! Are we proudly going to allow our daughters carry on the way we’re going? Are we going to tell our daughters they are inferior to male specie?
I’m afraid our daughters will question us someday. I’m afraid our daughters will ask us someday how mommy could be a part of these shenanigans? How mommy could ever be a part of the generation of women who settled for a subservient life.
But I dare to be different, for I am a today’s woman. I am not lesser than a man. I have never and would never accept a lower social status.
I will not only exert my rights,
I will also inspire a generation of the girl-child who will not take passive roles in the economy.
I will inspire a generation of the girl-child who knows she is equal with the boy-child.
I am Bukola Afolabi Ogunyeye and I am unapologetically a Today’s Woman!
Bukola Afolabi Ogunyeye is the Executive Director and Founder of Morna International Children’s Foundation (MICF). She is a Child rights Activist, a Business woman, and an Author. She also has passion for women’s issues. She strongly advocates Gender equity.
Her hobbies are reading and listening to music.