Nigeria in Focus

Women Working Collectively for Change

Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Since then, the country has lived through a series of corrupt governments and military coups. Given these unstable circumstances, Nigeria's women have had to work outside the system in order to get things done and ensure their rights.

George Osodi
With over 130 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with over 250 ethnic groups. Nigerian women's rights vary by their ethnicity, religion and location. Women in the predominantly Christian South earned the right to vote and stand for election in 1958, but those in the Muslim North had to wait 20 more years. Rights vary by socioeconomic status as well. Poor communities control few resources, while the wealthy in big cities often make decisions that govern the whole country.

Many Nigerian women have decided the most practical strategy for change is to work together with other women. For example, Yoruba women of Western Nigeria
have made independent livings as traders for generations. Today, they exercise their power in women's market associations. They influence local public policy, and more recently, pool their money to support leaders who are accountable to their needs.

In northern Nigeria, many Muslim women of the Hausa or Fulani tribes still live under purdah. Confined to their homes, they are only allowed only to interact with male family members or other women. Still, they invoke the Islamic commitment to education by organizing to ensure their daughters' schooling.

In contrast, the Igbo community in Southern Nigeria traditionally employed a "dual-sex" system, in which men and women each managed their own affairs. Igbo women lost much of their power under colonial rule, but since independence, some of the old system is returning. Omus, or community women's leaders, have formed women's cooperatives that administer social services at local levels.

Nigeria's resourceful women are examples of what is possible in difficult political circumstances. Achieving formal political power is an ongoing challenge -- one that is on the horizon.

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Curator , أمينة المعرض , curateur , curadora



Nigeria is amazing!

It is not true that many hausa or fulani muslim women are "confined to their homes only allowed to interact with their husbands or other women in their families" maybe that happened in the past. I am a muslim hausa woman working as a community physician in northern Nigeria. From a study I recently conducted I found most of the hausa women had some level of formal or informal education. In fact some of the islamiyya schools(informal school) in one of the villages we conducted research in last year has a section for married women from all ages.In my practice I come across a lot of women who can read and write in hausa even without formal education. If I am able to get funding I have an interest in conducting a community survey to assess the literacy level as well as health seeking behaviour to explore how to disseminate health information to women in the community.

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
United States

Dr. Abubakar, many thanks for sharing your experiences and understanding with us and our visitors and our deepest apologies if we have misrepresented the experiences of Hausa and Fulani women. At I.M.O.W., we do work from the place that knowledge is co-constructed and am very happy to have visitors like you who clarify and build our understanding - and showcasing - of women's lives and experiences around the world. The source that we used for that particular statement was attempting to draw a contrast between the living conditions of women from different ethnic group for several decades after the colonial period. I do wonder if it made reference to "the past," as you suggested, or, more likely a leftover imposition of colonial rule. Thank you, again, for clarifying!

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