This is the second in a series of posts from my impressive undergraduate students at ALU. Mojisola Komaiya focuses on women’s empowerment in urban Nigeria.

“Gender Inclusion in the Context of Nigerian Development”

Gender awareness in Nigeria is scant. After researching gender equality in Nigeria this summer, it became clear that gender education is selective in its audience. Not everyone is interested in gender inclusion and its relevance to society.

My interest in women’s development and gender inclusiveness began at a young age. Even today, I am frequently reminded of who I am or whom I am supposed to be. Gender activists argue that cultural, religious, and social biases negatively affect communities due to conflicting ideologies and a lack of knowledge about inclusivity. I would argue that changing this narrative counts for a lot in Africa, especially Nigeria. Their immediate community’s traditions determine many people’s thoughts. These traditions include patriarchial norms, early marriage, intimate partner violence, gender-based child labor, and even female circumcision. Over time, it has become clear that, in Nigeria, topics such as feminism, women’s development, and gender equality are taken with “one ear,” as we say in Yoruba. They do not fit with customary ideas of who women and men are supposed to be. Gender-inclusive or gender fluid behaviors are deemed “Western behaviors” antithetical to Africans.

Many factors contribute to the lack of gender equality in Nigeria. The most significant is the lack of honest and thoughtful leadership to improve inclusivity from the top-down. This is true of the country’s government agencies and development institutions that see women’s empowerment as a means of national economic progress as measured by GDP. Some organizations believe the quickest way to riches is to open an NGO for the tax benefits and means of fundraising. Such gender NGOs, which often operate in name only, expose the lack of consistency and passion in Nigerian civil society. Sadly, their primary objective is to create an excellent show; for example, the government uses false programs to showcase a blossoming gender-equal society. Apart from the government’s lack of effort, its desire to restrict and monitor citizens’ political engagement limits the degree of success gender activists enjoy. It limits the gender knowledge they can disseminate, and knowledge is power. Furthermore, those in government positions introduce certain information to specific groups to restrict social progress and keep themselves, the politicians, safe in their political support.

The road to expansive women’s development and progress in Nigeria will take more than just goodwill efforts, especially since many of these ideas are foreign to women and girls. Recently, the spread of feminism in Nigeria stirred the interest of many individuals from churches, communities, and groups who would not otherwise have commented on these concerns. This indicates that people are listening but not acting because the ideas are too abstract for them. We as Nigerians must do better for women and girls.

A TEDx talk on gender equality from Lagos State University.