Friday, August 12, 2005

Nigeria: the Time Machine

Many people have had the idle fantasy of being able to Time Travel: the source of the popularity of H.G. Wells' classic novel. Well, in Nigeria, you dont need future technology to do it. The attitudes, norms and expectations of the people are a snapshot of 1950's England, especially when it comes to gender relations. A rising star of the ngo-world here was interviewed in a local women's magazine, saying that she thought it possible to be strongly feminine and 'submissive' at the same time. This someone who is yet to be 30, is Wharton Business School MBA educated etc.

It takes a few moments to absorb the fact that in Nigeria, many women place a great deal of value on being a submissive wife. To a Brit like myself, it is especially hard given that that value disappeared with my grandparents generation.

Of course, you can't take one comment and generalise it to the whole culture: there are huge differences in gender relations between the three main ethnic groups (hausa, igbo, yoruba), with igbo women perhaps winning the award for most submissive and yoruba women take first prize in least submissive.

The fact remains however that attitudes around gender in Nigeria are decades behind elsewhere in the world. And without an emergent vocal feminism, the equivalent of first and second generation feminist movements in the West, its difficult to see how attitudes will change.


Ore 10:48 am  

I would love to dismiss many of your comments as the ramblings of a supercilious Westerner, but I do have to say that many of them are spot-on, particularly about gender and patriarchy in Nigeria.

Ultra-conservative gender roles are so ingrained in the minds of many that I often feel like I'm fighting for a lost cause when I discuss gender with friends and family. I believe that men and women are equal and should be seen as such in society. A wife should be a partner, not a subordinate, to her husband. And no, feminism does not mean that you hate all men.

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