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Enita Akpojevwe: Why I Am a Feminist in Nigeria

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Recently, award-winning author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in an interview with the UK Guardian came out to say that she would be more successful in Nigeria if she is not a feminist.

“Feminism is not that hot. I can tell you I would sell more books in Nigeria if I stopped and said I’m no longer a feminist. I would have a stronger following, I would make more money” she said.

She is spot on in this case. Feminism in Nigeria is an endangered movement or belief; it is associated with so much bile, prejudice and stigmatisation. You are either ascribed to one or more of the following stereotypes; man-haters, angry nasty women, pro-abortionists, homosexual or pseudo homosexual, unmarried or a career woman, anti-motherhood ,an atheist, unbeliever, a bad wife or an amoral woman. . .

A little over a year ago, Senator Biodun Olujimi sponsored a bill to seek redress on gender parity issues which purpose was to permit women to have equal rights with men in marriages, education, property rights and employment etc. As we all know it was met with strong opposition based on cultural, political and religious colourations.

Is this the right way to swing? I leave that to your judgement.
According to the World Bank in 2015, the women population in Nigeria stood at 49.07%. Yes, almost half of our population are women; and the sad reality is that large factions of these women are handicapped socially, medically, politically and economically. Factually speaking,  we should highlight and enforce women rights in our country if we truly seek redress on our economic productivity, improved sustainable development. We should ensure that our policies are more representative for a more holistic effect in the society. Are we deliberately going to leave this faction of our populace undervalued, defenceless, faceless, unemployable and underpowered? In which case they are more vulnerable to abuse, poverty, health issues and even death.

Nigeria is a signatory to the Maputo Protocol otherwise known as The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. This guarantees comprehensive rights to women and propagates gender parity in core areas which would further empower the African woman. This seeks to address pertinent challenges affecting the girl child and women in Africa, which have been relegated to the background for too long. It has consequently hindered the growth and empowerment of these women. In so many ways, their dreams are caught short as soon as the doctors declare their sex in the labour room.

These issues such as child marriage/early marriage, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), stigmatisation, gender pay gap, rape culture, marginalization of all forms, denial of property rights and inheritance, etc. are familiar occurrences in our society which affects girls and women. They fight these battles silently and the least that we could do is empathize, commiserate and sensitize these issues. But alas, our silence is just another web in the tangling and vicious cycle.

According to Wikipedia, feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define and advance political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

What it means to be a feminist in Iceland or Rwanda which are of the world’s best countries in terms of gender equality, is very different from what it means to be a feminist in Semen, Syria of even Nigeria. This is why feminism is a relative concept and a ready tool which could be used to advocate and propagate women rights that we require in our society  – to enable women to assume their full potential and prospects.

It would be truly amiss for me as a typical Nigerian not to highlight the religious/ cultural angle that casts a shadow on the propagation of women rights in our country. Religion and cultural norms play a huge role on our stance on so many issues, as such most antagonists usually use this premise to expound why women rights should not be enforced or just given the cursory lip service. But then should this be a justification to hamper our development? Especially as it can be clearly seen that the lack of / enforcement of such rights are detrimental to our women and future generations yet unborn.

It’s truly amusing when certain individuals try to besmirch women rights and associate the affiliation of such rights to the breakdown of nuclear family, home values and the dynamics of marriage in general. It is perceived as a threat to the stability and dynamics of the family.

I would argue that this would in fact create a more stable, well balanced homestead; in most heterosexual societies women are wives, homemakers, mothers, breadwinners etc, whose roles in building the future and society cannot be overstated. So in that vein, why shouldn’t they be empowered in all spheres of life according to their capacities and abilities instead of the norm of limiting the scope of what they can even dream about?
I ask again why not?

So when people ask me why I am a feminist in Nigeria. These are my reasons as stated above and so much more. I simply choose not to be silent. I am a Christian first, a feminist second and both at the same time. (I will elucidate on this in another article.)

I stand with women rights. What about you?

Photo Credit: Rui Vale De Sousa | Dreamstime.com

Enita Akpojevwe is a die-hard Nigerian, foodie, fit-fam aspirant who believes in all things sane, strange and in-between . A Civil Engineer by day whose first love is writing and passion cooking. You can follow my random thoughts on my twitter handle @Akenitta

29 Comments

  1. A Real Nigerian

    April 24, 2017 at 10:57 am

    “is very different from what it means to be a feminist in Semen, Syria of even Nigeria”

    ??….!!!

  2. Kelechi

    April 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    We should all be feminist they say? if feminism is simply equal right for men and women, why not call it gender equality or better still egalitarianism ? and also why is it fighting for women right only ?.
    Bride price, adult video salary inequality, chivalry, ladies first, free entry for ladies at club, paying for a date, husband not ATM, and fighting wars are among the various issues men face in the society. But none of this issues are being addressed by feminist. Equality truly starts with addressing these gender skewed privileges.

  3. Nosa

    April 24, 2017 at 11:22 am

    The feminist movement has been bastardised, there is this angry lady at my work place, who always attack men. She is still unmarried and getting bitter by the day. Ladies please don’t stress yourself with this movement. It makes ladies age badly and to make matters worst I smashed the lady. So what is the whole point of her feministic view?

    • Agege Bread

      April 24, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      badt guy, Mr. Smasher, you have joined……bad gang

    • Enita Akpojevwe

      April 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      There are so many unmarried women who are not feminists . Let’s quit the wrong labels.
      She is simply a difficult person or personality based on your premise. But is that what makes her a feminist? I would say NO.

    • Mark

      April 24, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      “Ladies please don’t stress yourself with this movement. It makes ladies age badly and to make matters worst I smashed the lady. So what is the whole point of her feministic view?”

      Nosa – THIS viewpoint depicts you to be an epitome of high-level ignorant. People like you bring validity to feminism. “angry lady”, “unmarried”. “bitter”, “age badly” – stereotypical and an absolutely cliché. In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, a layman’s definition of feminism is this: Women’s right = Common sense. Its 2017 and not 1917, so you having a mythological perspective on what feminism encompasses is to your own detriment. Women bring meat to the meal (literally), and with more diversity in corporate organization (focusing on more inclusivity at decision making level) making more profit becomes an absolute giving. Loads and loads of studies back this viewpoint. So before you think of criticizing a moment you’re completely oblivious of, make sure you at least have the courtesy to empower yourself with layman man’s definition. That in itself is more precious than gold, and will make you not embarrass the genius in you!

    • For Nosa who smashed the angry woman

      April 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      I hate to break it to you, Nosa. But you just had an ‘UNfeministic’ cooch. That must suck because you clearly badly wanted to celebrate your victory against feminists.. You may also want to sit down for the rest of this response. You see, a feminist isn’t the woman who bashes men or who is constantly angry, a feminist is a woman demanding (and rightfully so) equal rights for the woman. It is not hard to understand but men like you purposely choose not to/ misunderstand every single article (no matter how simple) about feminism.

      Yes it has been bastardized but so has the Black lives movement, gay rights and every other civil right movement in the world. Now, should that make you talk down on these movements? I think not. Understanding shouldn’t be hard even if you wouldn’t support.

      Long story short, you’re as angry as the owner of the cooch you smashed. Question is why? Because feminism isn’t actually here to hurt no one. So why are you afraid?

    • For Nosa who smashed the angry woman

      April 24, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      *And men. Because of course, some men are feminists.

    • funmilola

      April 24, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      Chai!
      I’m disappointed.

  4. babym

    April 24, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Bravo! I completely agree with you. This is the first time in a verrryyy long time that I am in complete agreement with a feminist article. THIS is what I understand feminism to mean. Not all this who is cooking and who is not cooking palaver. I think the problem remains that the word feminism has been tainted soooo much because a lot of ppl have just interpreted it verrryy wrongly. I cant lie at a point, I didn’t want to be associated as a feminist again o because of all the negativity. BUT who in their right mind wouldn’t want agree with all the points raised above?? if you agree with it, then you are a feminist. Please let us not be ashamed to be called feminists, let us instead just educate ppl that want to make a mockery of this wonderful movement with their ridiculous versions of feminism 🙂

    • Enita Akpojevwe

      April 24, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      I am glad it resonated with you, it’s truly sad that the true message of the feminism is literally lost in translation and bias….

  5. Ade

    April 24, 2017 at 11:29 am

    All I want to say is that I don’t want to marry a feminist, I prefer my traditional wife. A lady that I have been seeing for a while, just told me she is a feminist. I am grateful I dodged the bullet, who has time to be argue about cooking? smh

  6. Chief

    April 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Upon reading this article i’m tempted to be critical of it .Misandrists need to be honest with themselves and not just attack men under their ugly ideology feminism.Stop putting an African spin to feminism,it’s a western sociological terminology.It is truly disingenuous to our African culture and tradition.It’s not part of our culture.It’s a fight against nature,i don’t mean this chauvinistically rather i mean this scientifically.No matter how inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims are,still doesn’t take away the fact that women are more privileged in Africa than men.

    Even back in the day women like Queen Nzingha,makeda and queen of kemet(Nerfertiti) contributed to Africa.What of the present Mrs Alakija who has ambition and also quite successful,is she not living in Africa? Yes the idea isn’t debatable that men occupied most positions and have also benefited from patriarchy but to say that women have no right seemed just flat out untrue.Sad to say that there is a continued imposition of western culture on us Africans as if we have no district characteristic.Our culture is neither respected or even acknowledge anymore.Western culture/feminism/modernity are contaminating our traditional values as Africans.Feminism is challenging our traditional belief systems and also promoting diffussion of new ideas and models of life,in particular it sought to impose superiority as the norm.I noticed that the trend of feminism in Africa is pathetic and it’s becoming irresistible.Women should say no this ugly ideology that’s destroying homes,running marriages and turning submissive African women against their men in the name of fight for equality.

    To clarify,i’m not misogynist but i’m not a fan of the evil terminology that’s trying to emasculates me,strip me of my manhood and chastise me just because of my gender.I’m not a fan of it because it has changed from pro women to anti man.Anyway i’ll just mind my business until simps allow women gain conscious and realize their efforts to tranquilize men do harm than good.

    Bottom line,it’s characteristically and categorically wrong to say that Nigeria /Africa is depriving women of their full humanity because our system has made it very easy for women.I feel sad that women of this generations have allowed themselves to be led astray by the false doctrine of feminism.To the writer,Why don’t y’all misandists vermin move abroad and join your man hating sister Chimamanda?

  7. PEN

    April 24, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Herein lies the problem; an analogy of an angry male is never used as synonymous as to all males are angry. I find it deeply problematic that it is somewhat construed that all angry women are feminists. Women are individuals as males are, and as such, an action or reaction of one female shouldn’t be used to paint the whole gender. This in itself demonstrates the privileges that come with one being male. You are judged individually, and not as per the stereotypes of genders.

    • The Real Oma

      April 24, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      @PEN, very salient point.

  8. good

    April 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Good article. My favorite is men bashing women for not being financially stable while ignoring all the factors that contribute to it – no job opportunities, being paid less for the same job, sexual harassment and coercion at work and….hours at home doing all the housework. Point of disagreement: The cooking and domestic issue is very important. The default should be both spouses should share domestic duties, especially if they’re both working. Otherwise It’s totally unfair and automatically puts the woman on the back foot. Men want women to be financially independent while they remain domestically retarded.

  9. Jide

    April 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I am NOT a feminist, I am an egalitarian. i.e. I believe all gender are equal and deserve equal rights. Many women are dumping the Feminist agenda in their thousands, as it has been bastardized by some angry and hate filled women. Some men are being blackmailed to identify as Feminists, so they are not refereed to has backward men. Not Me. Most so called Feminists in Nigeria, still enjoy woman privileges that are ‘anti-feminist’ and are quick to jump on the feminist bandwagon when it suites them. What I have also noticed is that ‘STRONG WOMEN DON’T NEED FEMINISM’ strong women are just strong. We all need to come together and lead a movement that caters for all humans.

    • Engoz

      April 24, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Feminist o, egalitarian o, all GRAMMATICAL JARGON! Me I have chosen the word feminist. The kind of anger it evokes from you people tells me you are not really an ‘egalitarian’. The test of the Nigerian male and his so called egalitarianism is in the home. If egalitarianism is the ideology that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities, and you argue for the restriction of roles like cooking, ‘washing plates’, taking care of the kids on the premise of gender, my brother you not an egalitarian. Tehehe! Please prove me wrong, that you can equally take on these ‘domestic’ roles as an egalitarian.

    • good

      April 24, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Funnily enough, I get irritated that many women who I perceive to be benefitting from the feminist movement are the first to shout about how they are not feminists for whatever nefarious reason. I’ve decided not to argue terms with people: if you are interested in gender equality then we can relate. One more response, of COURSE Nigerian feminists are angry. How is it possible to be a woman, want gender equality or be a feminist and not be angry. I don’t even live in Nigeria and every time I read Nigerian news or even watch/listen to Nigerian entertainment, I’m ticked off….

  10. john

    April 24, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Yawnnnn? ..no amount of garnishing will turn that hate movement dressed as a trojan horse called feminism into a positive movement ..it is like a nazi or boko haram telling you the advantages of being a nazi or sharia..if you truly believe in equality of things whether man or woman or even children and animals ( which should be the right way) ..them my friend your an EGALITARIAN ..simple…if I ever discover ure a feminist, my discussion with you ends immediately , I dismiss u unknownly whether in a business or in a relationship unless I manipulating and using you to my advantage( money wise)

    • smh

      April 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

      John, a small man with a horrible attitude who is most likely broke seeing as most rich or even just busy men have no time to be on BN 24/7 commenting and fighting women. I highly doubt anyone who identifies as a feminist would want you for business or relationship. So please be sure to identify yourself as a misogynistic broke man everytime you meet a woman. Thanks

    • John

      April 24, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      @smh Just take a look at your vile comment and u wonder why I said I avoid ur type..believe it or not ( I dont care) I have a manifacturing company here in Nigeria with branches in lagos and onitsha .. with about 189 workers under me ..I am a successful business man ( even though I admit I inherited it at the age of 26 and it has grown from strength to strength) I bet I am more successful than ur entire family put together..u think I am jobless like u frustarted online feminist that scan every article looking for men to bash..continue looking at me thinking I am ur mate..No go find work do..feminists expecially the black ones are the dumbest broads you can ever encounter.. I always laugh when they repeat that nonsense they hear on CNN about women being paid less, for where in Nigeria..pls can anyone identify which company or organisation that pays women less in Nigeria..is it the government or private companies like mtn or Etisalat or banks that even prefer hyring women..pls which ones and I will apologise..I dont know whether feminists all read from the same textbook or programmed in one factory

  11. AceOfSpades

    April 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I think everyone should do what suits them. If someone says they can’t increase your salary because you are a woman, sue them!
    If they say you can’t enter a place because you are a woman, shame them!
    If your father won’t share property because you are female, work hard and get yours. It’s his personal decision which is crooked of course
    If a female is raped, get police and charge the person to court.

    The whole idea of making it look like the world is against women is not true. Did it occur to you that she’s a writer and needs this attention? Like I didn’t even know she was a feminist when I bought ‘Half of a yellow sun’. She is even adding home values and all to feminism which is starting to make it look like a joke because wether you like it or not, there are some things you can/can’t do because you are a woman/man.

    That her feminist talk about her book is not true. I can bet Paul Adeyemo and Chief and John will buy her next book just to see what that ‘feminist’ has to say and is that not her achieving her aim (which is to sell books).

  12. Weezy

    April 24, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I’m a feminist, and have been one for 13 years. Proud of it.

    Chimamanda can be full of shit, quite frankly. Didn’t Chimamanda only embrace feminism publicly in the last couple of years? Her TED Talk “We should all be feminist” came out in 2012. Meanwhile, Half of A Yellow Sun, her book that was most acclaimed by Nigerians, was released in 2007. Weren’t Nigerians celebrating when Beyonce used her words in Flawless in 2013?

    She is the most famous author in Nigeria, male or female, and has been so since at least 2007, and I would argue any day makes more money than any other writer. The reality is that Nigerians read her novels regardless of her feminism, and she couldn’t possibly get more support unless she made the books cost N500. I really don’t get what Chimamanda’s angle is. It’s as if she is the only Nigerian in the world that is a feminist. The constant complaining about herself is annoying. Its one thing if she would focus on actual things going on in Nigeria (eg. gender equality legislation, child marriage in the North), maybe highlight the work that other people are doing to change things.

  13. Chief

    April 24, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Where is my comment BN? You people should fix this problem of censoring comment.Haba!!

    • Q

      April 24, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Lol. It’s probably a stupid comment as most of your comments are!! ?

  14. Bonsra Alfred

    April 24, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    This feminist movement sef what exactly is the aim or purpose of it? Gender equality? In which aspects? If it really is equality then it has to cut across all boards not just on favourable topics. Agreed society in general has not treated the girl child and women well, but this can be addressed without any labels or “funny” movement. As a man I would not let my girl child go through any of the issues you outlined above and I am taking that stand without ascribing to any feminist movement but simply out of a basic human emotion LOVE. The Bible speaks of the power of Love (1Cor. 13:4-7). That is what should be preached and taught not an idea that serves as an excuse and a cunning means for NON CHRISTIAN ideas to be adopted into society under a banner of feminism. Look at countries that have started adopting this idea what is the family structure like in these regions? What about divorce rates? A ship cannot have two masters. Within the family structure any true Christian would know that the headship rest with the Man.(Ephesians 5:22-24) If these verses do not sit well with any Christian reading them then you need to have a rethink of faith which still in some ways makes my point about feminism’s distorting effect on Christian values. Where do we draw the line? Equal right at home? Its already made its way to places of worship whereas the Bible clearly states otherwise (1Tim 2:12). These are not repressive or restrictive impositions on women but are rather wise arrangements put in place by a God who’s primary quality is Love and as such Christian men are encouraged to Love their wives (1John 4:8, Ephesians 5:28,29). Finally I would like all to look critically into what this feminism movement has warped into over the course of time and you’ll really see where they are heading. Third wave Feminism for instance now addresses issues of sexuality and I don’t mean the educational kind but rather the kind that openly challenges female heterosexuality and supports ungodly sexual practices (1Cor 6:9-11). MY STANCE on feminism is this, women have a right to fight for what they believe in and as such anyone who chooses to be a feminist is totally and completely well within their right to do so but no true Christian who has critically looked at what the movement stands for can support it without a conflicted conscience.

  15. John

    April 24, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    @smh Just take a look at your vile comment and u wonder why I said I avoid ur type..believe it or not ( I dont care) I have a manifacturing company here in Nigeria with branches in lagos and onitsha .. with about 189 workers under me ..I am a successful business man ( even though I admit I inherited it at the age of 26 and it has grown from strength to strength) I bet I am more successful than ur entire family put together..u think I am jobless like u frustarted online feminist that scan every article looking for men to bash..continue looking at me thinking I am ur mate..No go find work do..feminists expecially the black ones are the dumbest broads you can ever encounter.. I always laugh when they repeat that nonsense they hear on CNN about women being paid less, for where in Nigeria..pls can anyone identify which company or organisation that pays women less in Nigeria..is it the government or private companies like mtn or Etisalat or banks that even prefer hyring women..pls which ones and I will apologise..I dont know whether feminists all read from the same textbook or programmed in one factory

  16. Ria

    May 29, 2017 at 12:28 am

    John, I hate to burst your bubble but you don’t have to reel out your life’s achievements. Who knows if you’re lying or making it up? The point here is to make sense with your argument not bash others into accepting your view.
    I actually want to write an essay on Feminism in Nigeria and I found myself here. The comments have been enlightening and at the same time saddening.
    However, I don’t think feminism is an offshoot of westernization rather it’s, like someone rightly said, decriminalizing the act of being born a woman. As far as I know, all over the world men are considered superior to women and women are put in subjugating roles. This, I presume, is the birth of feminism.

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