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Opinion: The girl child and the peculiar Nigerian problem

by Amarachi Nickabugu

 

I have not known a lot of women in my life. Well, I do not know more than a handful of men. I just don’t “know” people.

My name is Amarachi Amelia Nickabugu, and I am Igbo. Okay, I think that’s obvious. But I’ll tell us something that is not obvious. Being human is not always easy but being female, that is another dimension to hardship that is the lot of many average Nigerians. It is a sad thing – something that is, unfortunately, staring us in the face – that the divisive lines we draw to keep the Nigerian female out of the sphere of self development and progress would hurt us in more ways than we can readily imagine.

The United Nations tells us more than 4 in every 10 girls in West and Central Africa were married before the age of 18 and about 1 in 7 were married or in union before 15. What this implies for nearly every single one of these girls is that they do not go to school, they do not understand their bodies and minds, and they become a liability to themselves. Imagine a girl not being able to calculate her own menstrual cycle properly and you are already “supplying” children.

“Willie willie willie willie oh (do not really know the spelling of that jargon we used to sing). Mother in the kitchen, cooking rice; Daddy in the parlour watching feem.” And so it became, that millions of Nigerian girls think all they will be doing when they get older is cook for men who are watching film.

I have listened to several boys who are my age (I am 19) talk about their dreams. I hope those dreams do come true.  The girls have dreams too. But our dreams are mundane. They are convenient, but only for lazy people. Our aspirations are dull and humdrum. We all want to finish school and get married. For the ones in forgotten hamlets of Sokoto and Borno, school is what they hear about. School is what the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria went to, but her dressing is what bothers them. A Muslim woman dressed like that? Kai, Buhari must be stupid for even appointing her.

I have had a lot of problems growing up as a girl, in Nigeria. But we all have problems. The problem with our problem is that they accompany us from inception, like a follow-come phone charger; and we cannot shake this problem off unless we shake ourselves hard and vigorously, braving the odds of breaking down while at it. I have been a tad lucky, though. I have had books, and great teachers, and a father who once called me into our parlour at Nsukka, pointed to the TV, at the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria, and said to me, “You see, you can be anything you want to be.” At the time, I was not even a Law Student.

But my dad is not your dad. And your dad is not mine. And our dads are not our only teachers.

And you see, it is very interesting the way we interpret our own selves. We believe that by allowing us to be “assistants” and “deputies,” the world is saving us from stress.

We believe that by paying to our relatives, items worth millions as “bride price,” men are giving us honour.

The women of Saudi Arabia, for a long time, believed that by not allowing them to drive, society was being kind to them. I mean, what better way to be a “madam” than to sit at home doing nothing; and having someone drive you around?

We believe that by marrying us, men have saved us. They come on a white horse, riding into our lives to save us from the shame of “sitting down in our father’s houses.”

We believe, as dense as we have become, that the correct way is “ladies first” on the queue; men first, in real advancement.

We believe too, that if he touched you, you must have done something to warrant it. We believe we must cover up.

We believe daddy must send us more money, or does he want us to go and stand at the roadsides at night? A girl’s gotta have some cash for makeup and all. How about a girl should maybe work a lil, so she can have extra money for Rihanna’s Fenty and Kylie’s lipsticks? Well, no. That is not how these things work.

We believe our periods are a shameful thing. I mean, who wants blood on their hands, literally?

We believe we have the worth of only our jobs, and the glory of our husbands.

We believe that since Diezani Allison-Madueke thieved billions, she has spoilt the chances of other Nigerian women politicians. Abacha took much more but it’s okay. He is a man.

We believe that all men cheat.

We believe being a girl means being nice. We believe a temper is inappropriate.

We believe that women do not go to the moon. Our imaginations are home-based and locally made to fit local needs.

We also believe that it is wrong to have abortions, and also wrong to be single mothers. We are just the wrong gender, abeg.

We believe choice is a privilege.

And we believe because we have been taught so.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

 Amarachi is a student of the faculty of Law, UNN and the Secretary of a growing media brand; Clever Communications. She can be reached on Twitter via @Nick_Amara

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