Nigeria Has Failed Nigerian Women and Girls

Former Nigerian Education Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank's Africa division (2nd L) Obiageli Ezekwesilieze speaks as she leads a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom in Abuja on April 30, 2014. Nigerian protesters marched on parliament today to demand the government and military do more to rescue scores of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists more than two weeks ago. Dubbed "a million woman march" and promoted on Twitter under #BringBackOurGirls, the protest was not expected to draw a massive crowd and turn-out was hindered by heavy rain in the capital Abuja. But several hundred women and men, mostly dressed in red, marched through the rain towards the National Assembly carrying placards that read "Find Our Daughters." AFP PHOTO / PHILIP OJISUAPHILIP OJISUA/AFP/Getty Images
Former Nigerian Education Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division (2nd L) Obiageli Ezekwesili speaks as she leads a march of Nigerian women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom in Abuja on April 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO / PHILIP OJISUAPHILIP OJISUA/AFP/Getty Images

By Gloria Adeyeye

Promises made but not kept; how can anyone fail at something if success was never promised?

For Nigeria to have failed its women and girls, it must first have implied at some point in the past that it would succeed at accomplishing certain things.

The kidnapping of close to 276 Nigerian girls is the highlight of how Nigeria has failed its women.

If Nigeria as a nation implied that its girls and women had rights, then that right should have applied by birth to little girls, growing adolescents, and women too.

nigerian protests over kidnapped girls cnn
Nigerians protest over kidnapped Chibok girls, April 2014. Photo/Cnn.com

Mention #bringbackourgirls and everyone the world over knows you are talking about the innocent girls that were in a school in the northeastern part of Nigeria and kidnapped by Boko Haram. Two years into the kidnapping of the girls by these terrorists, we still do not know a lot.

Rita-Dominic-during-a-protest
Nollywood actress Rita Dominic protests with other women in April 2016, after the Nigerian Senate did not pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill in March, 2016. Overtly incorporating parts of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the bill declared that a woman “shall not be subjected to inhumane, humiliating or degrading treatment” and “shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband.”

The Nigerian girl grows up and becomes a woman and she is overworked and under-appreciated at home and in the workplace.

Nigeria is still struggling to recognize both males and females as equals in the home and workplace. In my opinion most families headed by children birthed from 1960 – 1980 are still living as their parents generation did, not disturbed by women, taking care of the home, the children and bringing home money from some trading job or office job at the same time.

The expectations were high at the coining of the name Nigeria by a woman at a time when men were still the ones calling the shots. Nigeria got her independence from the British and with the end of the slave trade and the freedom gained with her independence came a lot of expectations. Nigeria as it was later called after the Niger River was actually suggested by Ms. Flora Shaw a British journalist in Nigeria in an article she wrote. She later became the wife of Frederick Lugard, 1st Baron Lugard, who was the last Governor – General in Nigeria from 1914-1919.

The world has changed since then with the discovery of the internet, connecting Nigeria to the rest of the world in seconds. Ms. Flora Shaw brought a promise with her, that women could be more and that promise still lives on today in 2016.

With independence and the promise of freedom was the assumption inferred that Nigeria would stand up for women and girls.  As Nigeria took her place after independence and the leadership in Nigeria fell in place women started taking a stand too.

We have Nigerian women like those from Anioma, who found a place for themselves in the years after colonization with the civil war. Taking their place alongside men like Obafemi Awolowo and Odumegwu Ojukwu, they stood up for themselves liberating women as they did so fighting in the war.

Funmilayo-Ransome-Kuti
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti

The Kuti family, headed by Mr. Israel and Ms. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti made influential contributions to Nigerian art, religion, and human rights. Ms. Kuti was an activist and a political campaigner and was the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car.  These women fought for the rights they believed in, they fought to take their place right along with the men.

Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, what that looked like changed with women like the Lijadu Sisters and the Sunshine Sisters taking a stand using music.

Have we progressed? Since then we have had women take their place as role models in Nigeria, as heads of large corporations, principals in schools, nurses, doctors, engineers, architects, etc. In 2016, women are in the presidential cabinet along with their male counterparts standing for what is right in Nigeria; they are wives to governors, they are special advisers to the president, etc.

The women of Nigeria have not failed, Nigeria may have failed us on the grounds of creating opportunities for us, but it has not failed us when we have found a place for ourselves. As we continue to fight for greater and equal rights, we know that even if Nigeria fails us we will not be failures.

Gloria Adeyeye is a freelance journalist and event planner based in the U.S. She loves art, history, and writing stories.