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Wana Wana: International Women’s Day – What Do Nigerian Women Really Want?



News flash….domestic violence and rape incidences are rising at souring rates; tell us something we don’t already know. Or perhaps we are just witnessing more newspaper coverage on the issue. At least that is progress of some sort. Social media is splattered with church banners and leaflets on special deliverance and prayer sessions against delayed marriages. We laugh but it is partly a representation of our accepted social constructions of womanhood; without the ‘MRS’ you are deemed incomplete.

Cultural inheritance laws haven’t changed; men are still viewed as being more valued to women. In rural communities only 7.2% of women own the land in which they farm and there is still a huge disparity in the income inequality trend within the formal sector. The board rooms don’t paint a different picture either with women still underrepresented as board members and only 4% representation at local government level according to figures from the 2012 Gender in Nigeria report.

During a women’s only business plan competition workshop which I compeered late last year, the questions asked signalled a huge rattling and swaying confidence issue amongst women entrepreneurs as the fear of giving their all to their ideas and businesses may arouse criticism on the home front.

Daily, I am reminded how embedded the objectivity of women is in our psyche. Recently, I was stopped by the police. After checking my vehicle documents and given the all clear, the police man asked if I wasn’t going to give them a share of the money that I had gotten from the men who “touched” and “squeezed” my body.

In a voice that carried with it a swirling cocktail of belligerence and humour I said, ‘bros but I no be ashewo now’. He told me I didn’t need to be a prostitute for men to touch me, ‘at least you must have a fiancé who is touching your body and giving you money’. He then adds that a body like mine has to be touched by someone or else it was a waste. This is just a sample of the many objectifying episodes we experience daily and unfortunately in many instances and for many women, we have become conditioned to objectify ourselves. Worse still, we have no protection over this in the work place, in schools or even on the streets. This is our normality.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Nigerian women are still dredging through the murky waters of patriarchy, socio-cultural constructions, and stereotypes daily. We are tearing through the walls of this ‘normality’ within the cultural frameworks that dictate what it means to be ‘African, Nigerian, and Woman’.

This years International Women’s Day theme is titled ‘A Gender Agenda; Gaining Momentum’. In all our dredging, we are gaining momentum, maybe not at the speed we want but I am certain we are moving. What we need is for all women to understand the role in which they play in the future of gender equality as well as a greater understanding that the men folk cannot be excluded from the debates to gaining that sustainable momentum. Socialising young boys and men to understand the value of women is key. For every hurdle they jump and every wall they break down is an easier step for the next young girl behind them.
As it has been said, a modern progressive world cannot happen without women and without equality. So I asked a few friends of mine what they would really desire in their lifetime as Nigerian women.

Here’s what they said….

Iheoma Obibi the Executive Director for Alliances For Africa says;
Changes in my life time I want to see, for young women not to be ashamed that they are not married and part of the MRS band wagon. That there is the political will to tackle the systemic, institutional and entrenched VAW (violence against women) as a public policy and health issue by our government.That the Violence Against Persons Bill is signed into law by the House and the Government of Nigeria domesticate the optional protocol on the rights of African women that they had signed.

Najite Dede, theatre director and actor says;
As a Nigerian Woman: I wish to be recognised as a whole person, not as an extension…. Someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter. I’m a human first! My body mind and spirit have a place, a space all their own. I wish for Nigeria to recognise, respect and value its women. To unleash us as a force for growth. I wish for a level playing field, that every woman be free to make a choice and live her choice. Whether to make babies or businesses stay home or travel the world.

Dolapo Ogunwale , spoken word poet says;
I wish for the freedom to be – beyond stereotypical boundaries and the patronizing, illusionary allowances of the patriarchal cultural system.

Glory Edozien, environmental project manager and writer says;
I want society to acknowledge my accomplishments regardless of the prefix by name. I’d like for men to see me as a person, not an object. But most importantly, I want society to see women as important contributors. Valuable human beings who have valid voices and opinions which should be respected and protected from those who think differently. I’d like for Nigerian women everywhere to teach their sons the importance of respect, for themselves and for women in their lives, regardless of social standing.

For me, I am optimistic that many changes will happen in my lifetime. When I interviewed the poet and writer Lola Shoneyin some time ago she said, ‘It’s about the luxury of having options and the value of being able to make choices’.
As a woman, I hope that options and choices are a freedom that would become my normality.

So what do you really want?

Wana Udobang is a broadcaster and writer. You can check out her other work on or follow her on twitter @MissWanaWana


  1. magh

    March 8, 2013 at 9:21 am

    As a Nigerian woman, I wish my country can all be literate!! free education for the less fortunate and also we should all learn that females are not materials to be owned. we are equals

  2. Nenye

    March 8, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I want to be recognize as a woman of ventures

  3. say it

    March 8, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Nigerian women do not know what they want as far as im concerned……for every woman that wants something good, you would find another that would denounce it…

    • Partyrider

      March 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Again the question is what do YOU want.YOU!!

  4. Limog

    March 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I want many things and among them is that women should embrace the change from within first. We should learn that we don’t necessarily need men to be whole… to be complete. We should find completeness in whatever stage of we are-single or married. Hopefully, we this change takes place, the male folks will accept this change consequently.
    Also, that men should grow up and quit being intimidated by successful women.

  5. Tolani

    March 8, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I want to speak my mind and make decisions without the cultural stereotype of having to defer to a man. I want to be firm and not be called Margaret Thatcher or Anne Robinson or be told that ‘no man will marry you’ for being opinionated.

    My Mum once told me about a radio programme she listened to. The presenter was talking about the days when the chicken gizzard and other choice parts were reserved for the men of the house and women ate the back and other bony cuts. He mentioned that now a woman could go to the nearest cold room and buy a kilogram of gizzard to cook and eat as she pleased.

    My cool story shows us the reality of how society perceives women and the slow change coming to Nigeria.

  6. FlyHijabi

    March 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

    As a Nigerian woman,I want that every woman should be educated,to know who she is and what she wants for herself without being bound by man-made rules. I want the freedom to be who I am,to dress as I please and not be refered to as over dressed. Rather,my intellect should speak for me and of course,I want a family and to be the best that I can be to that family by instiling in them lasting values that will enable them contribute meaningfully to the society.

  7. colourfulbutterfly

    March 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I would like for Women to be financially empowered and take themselves more seriously,to do their decent bit to earn an honest living, equal pay for both sexes and to stop depending on men for finances. This is because this is the key to a lot of things, and to stop looking at themselves as a commodity.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      March 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Absolutely agree. I believe this lack of financial empowerment is a key issue and as long as young Nigerian girls are not able to gain their economic independence, Nigerian men will continue to wield this particular kind of power over the next generation of women.

  8. Excuse me!

    March 8, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Well written Wana! However its about changing mindsets, can this be achieved in our lifetime? ABSOLUTELY! Its about change from the bottom up! Changing the views of people who we communicate with daily! I love how Najite and Dolapo framed it!

    One of the most frustrating things I have found is when you are championing the cause of women, you are told you are a feminist! I like to see men and women advance equally. Women afforded the same rights as men, allowed to make the same decisions without respite! Not everyone wants to get married! Not everyone wanst children! Not everyone is ready to settle because society demands she does! Not everyone wants to be in the boardroom! We are all born differently but ones gender shouldn’t bar her from achieving certain milestones as and when she is ready to conquer!
    A 35 year old man is single and everyone says its OK. A 35 year old woman is single and she is sent to the nearest MFM branch!

  9. Tess

    March 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Nigerian women should learn be financially content & independent. Stop expecting a man to pay your rent, buy phones for you, even credit. Stop expecting a man to pay for lunch/dinner, and then acting surprised when he demands for sex afterwards. Until women start getting their acts right, i doubt if much will change in the way the society views women. Its left to women to change that perception by their behaviour.

  10. Retrochic

    March 8, 2013 at 11:31 am

    i want a society where women can work hard to reach to the pinnacle of there careers and not depend on men, i want more independent, loving and caring nigerian woman, for me personally, i want to somebody, i want to remembered for service to humanity, that is the most important for me

  11. madman

    March 8, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Nigerian women can start by supporting each other… too much PHD pull her down syndrome being displayed….also, passive aggressiveness bothers me. Really who cares about whose on anyone’s list? Forbes? Guardian? start by supporting each other’s work. RESPECT! No matter who is rich or poor.

  12. pynk

    March 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    sad but true. I think to a large extent, the men in our life also play a role. My father is the biggest influence in my life as far as going the whole mile and being happy and not making excuses for my choices. Its all relative sha.

  13. wannabe

    March 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    The men are misled by some ladies and Society, Most relationships are messed up ’cause of misplaced values. There are good, bad and ugly people not Men vs Women

  14. Bellanaijathegreatest

    March 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I think they should be able to re-engineer themselves or re-brand themsleves. Today’s world allows more freedom than before and womenn should be aggressive enough to pursue more options available in life, for examples choosing desired courses in the University, choosing to marry after 30 or before 30, or fighting for family inheritance. However, when you talk about choice, the independent spirit is an accessory of choice, and that means each woman should cultivate the mindset that she can do whatever she wants within legal limits not within cultural limits

  15. Babes

    March 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I want a society where women will be respected for who they are. I want to see sexual offenders especially rapist and child molesters prosecuted according to the law in Nigeria. I want to see many more women excel in politics and many other areas of endeavour. I want to see women not pressured to get married at a particular age. I want to see woman not feel validated by being with a man. I want to see woman not play the fool to men in the name of desiring a meaningful relationship.

  16. AW

    March 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I want better health care and awareness for Nigerian women. I am sick and tired of Nigerian women falling victim to all sorts of cancer. I want that assurance given to us that the best medical care will be gotten here in Nigeria and we won’t have to spend a fortune or travel abroad. I know cancer can be terminal, but let us have all options available to us here in Nigeria.

  17. chinedu

    March 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    i tink empowerment of woman and discrimination of women should just be excluded they are also human so respect them

  18. Sel

    March 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Women, we are our own problem…who puts pressure on you to get married
    Your mom, or auntie or even your female friends

  19. Busayo

    March 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm


  20. Mz Socially Awkward....

    March 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    What I want is to see Nigerian women being enlightened in every sense of the word. As someone else already stated above, we are our own worst enemies and make it so easy for Nigerian men and the Nigerian society in general to continue patronizing us on all fronts.

    I want to see our girls growing up with more understanding of their own value, being taught as much by their mother-figures and older respected females. I want to see young women aspire to more than just a wedding dress because they see the amount of potential they have to affect the world around them both prior to and after getting married. I want to see Nigerian mothers raising their sons right and not according special, detrimental privileges to one sex that could have severe consequences for the society later on.

    And I would like to see a female presidential candidate in Nigeria sometime soon. Are there already women living amongst us with the ability to lead a country? I would like to find out.

  21. Idak

    March 8, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Happy International Women day to ladies like Wana who without debasing their sexuality and flaunting their fleshly endowments are deploying their talents, soaring high and making definite statements of womanhood. Many of such women abound and on this day, i salute them. May your collective strength never wane.

  22. Mike Budd

    March 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Jamil Smith had this cool tweet today: “On International Women’s Day, I remember my grandmother, honor my mother, encourage my sister, cherish my wife, and love each of them.”
    Seriously, a Women’s Day?!
    I was so surprised that I decided to protest (and support) in a personal way: I did something totally new for me, a poem.
    To all women, with Love, Mike

  23. bhee

    March 10, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I’ll want our men to stop finding a wife for the things they dont want to do (clean, cook, etc). We are all humans and each one should take responsibility for their own care. You can work hard and create jobs for people to do those for you but resorting to finding a wife as the solution of your laziness is inhumane. You’re committing a crime!!!!!

  24. mia

    March 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I would want Nigerian women to stop being the stumbling block against one another. it’s so easy to say we want women empowerment and find that we are the ones shooting one another in the legs. ever worked under a female manager who thinks who can never find the good in her fellow women? who can never understand the pains you feel when you have menstrual pain or the struggles some women face when they are pregnant? ever worked under a woman who sits on every beautiful woman’s promotion? we need to come off the unnecessary rivalry! i would also want women to stop settling for less: marrying a philandering fiance because you don’t know when the next man is coming, sleeping with a married man because you just think you need a man, any man! i would also want Nigerian women to raise their boys and girls equally, not asking the girls to come and stay in the kitchen while the boys sit in the living room playing games. my plenty thots…

  25. brendz

    March 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I love being pampered by my husband and love the fact that he makes me a better me and because i am happy, i would recommend the same for every other woman, now that may not cure to all ills…..but Let us woman be happy if we do NEED men! If we do WANT babies and still have a high flying career. Me, i WANT and HAVE it all

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