When does one become a woman? – Temitayo Olofinlua

I have been wondering, asking myself a couple of questions these past days. The crux of my wanderings: what makes me a woman? When does one become a woman?

temi3Is it when she is when she is conceived? When the X cells of the woman merges with the X of the man; and voila the new being becomes a blood clot, or something like that, with the potentials of becoming a being? If at that point something happens and she is not grown into full existence; accidental or planned, is she a human being? Is she a female human? Or is it when her Mum or whoever carried to full term gives birth to her? When the doctor looks between her thighs and layers of flaps covering a small hole and not a tiny stick, sees a vagina and not a penis, then declares that it’s a girl?

Then, she begins to grow. At a younger age, unaware of whether she is male or female. She wants to do things that everyone does; to climb the trees, to play the football, and also to tend to her doll. Sometimes, she does not care about the doll. When that happens, does it make her less female? Does it mean she can be for instance more male, a tomboy? This stage of potential, of inertia, of everything just lying there with the possibility to be molded or shrunk like the cursed tree; does it count?

Truly when does a girl become a woman? Is it at puberty, when she notices hair under her arms and on her vagina? When she sees all these changes that make her look more like her mother? When she wakes up and begin to notice that her breasts ache even as they grow? When they become magnetic force that pulls the men’s hands to it, to be groped, even when she does not want? When her butts seems to have an extra layer that shakes left and right, rolls up and down as she walks? Or is it when her panties are now so small that they are strapped between the middle line of the butts, like a catapult? Or when they become the objects of slaps from moving bike men? Or when their eyes follow its movements, left and right? Is it when her own mother says; don’t wear that cloth, don’t you know you are becoming a woman? Unsaid in that statement is the talk that she is a woman and being a woman brings responsibilities, like how your dress, and how it has the power to trigger an erection in a man?

Does she become a woman when the cramps below her belly prepare the way for her monthly flow? Shy drops initially, then daring enough, as sure as the day, as sure as every cycle? That blood that her mother calls menses. That blood that when she noticed it her mother said that “she has now become a woman, and that if any man touches her, she will get pregnant?” That blood that says so many things without speaking a word. That they say is a sign of fertility. That blood that when you see it, you are not so happy but you are happy to see it anyway. It is the guest that you don’t quite feel like seeing yet, you pound yam for it and cook the sweetest of vegetable, then serve ‘it’ in your best plates. That visitor is one that women have for a great part of their lives. My eleven year old cousin anticipating her period asked me: “for how long will it go on?” “For thirty years or more,” I replied. She exclaimed: “thirty what?” In fact, it is a marker for the way her life runs many ways. Pre-menstruation termed as the “non-reproductive” days; the menstrual days are the reproductive days, days when if she perchance has sex with a man, she may get pregnant; and then there is menopause, when she is dry, when the blood stops flowing. You know, I’ve been wondering, is she more womanly in any of these phases?

Wait a moment, I am beginning to think; is it when she starts to wear makeup? When she trades all her tennis shoes andTemitayo1 slippers for high heels? When she makes hair that announces her arrival, making heads turn and men feel a bulge down there? Is that when she becomes a woman? When she makes something tick in them? Does that ticking affirm her womanhood? What is the difference between a lady and a woman? Between a lady and an African woman? Fela Anikulapo Kuti, famous Nigerian singer sings in Pidgin English:

If you call am woman, African woman no go gree, she go say: I be lady. She go say market woman na woman. She go say I be lady. She go say him equal to man. She go say him get power like man. She go say everything she do, him sef fit do. She go wan take cigar before anybody? She go wan make you open door for am. She go want make man wash plate for am for kitchen. She wan salute man, she go sit down for chair. She wan sit down for table before anybody. She wan take piece of meat before anybody. Call am for dance, she go dance lady dance. African woman go dance, she go dance the fire dance. She no him man na master. She go cook for am. She go do everything she says. But lady nor be so. Lady na master?

Is there a difference between a lady and a woman? Fela thinks there is. And it is not a function of age but a question of how the woman behaves, a social definition. A lady according to Fela is the one who does her things her own style, refusing to fit into the stereotypical cage that the society hewn for her. For the lady, the cage does not exist. But the woman, lives according to the societal codes already written for her by the society.

When does a woman become a woman? When she is first pierced by a steel rod called a penis, pain and pleasure so well mixed she cannot tell which she feels? At a time in history, that was a big deal. The woman’s blood or lack of it could cause a small war between two families or a bloody war between two communities. Is that when she becomes a woman? These days, it does not quite matter whether the man who deflowered her ends up as her husband. Does she become a “better” woman when it is her husband who broke the hymen? Better here means, preserved, pure, and other such terms that have to do with purity. Is it when she gets married and becomes a Mrs. Somebody … perhaps. It is at that time that she is the “found” rib that has been missing from birth returned to position, in the man’s rib cage. She trades off her father’s name for a ring and a new name; it does not matter if she does not like the sound, spelling or meaning of the name. Now, she has an appendage attached to her name, a dangling limb hanging from a severed socket. If she does not bear her husband’s name, she is not a complete woman, she is a woman who still holds on to her girlhood, her eyes at the back of her head casting glances at a past that should be forgotten. It is also marriage that makes the society think of her as responsible because she is taking care of a family.

temi2So, tell me when does a woman become a woman? When she gives birth to a child and become Iya Lagbaja*, Mummy Tamedo*; when she becomes the mother of a child and is addressed by the name of her first child? When she starts attending Parents-Teachers’ meetings, when she starts cleaning up after the children or when she starts packing lunch boxes? Does she become a woman when she can attend to the needs of her children and husband at once yet unruffled? Is that when? Responsibility is a key characteristic of women; they are the burden bearers, the ones that carry the troubles of the world on their heads and drag theirs with their hands, that’s for those who remember to take theirs with them. Some others, just get weary with the burden on the head, and drop theirs along the way, is that what makes a woman, her sacrifices? Is womanhood about a life of sacrifices, when she gives up her own existence for her family? When she dies gradually so that she can nurse their dreams to life; becoming a womb for their dreams yet with no space for hers?

In some places, she is not even a woman until she has a boy, a son for her husband, to carry on his name, his legacy. Only then does her leg get fixed enough in her husband’s house, only then does she have any rights to any property. Girls are not children, they believe in such communities, they may be “issues,” with serious issues; they don’t even keep the family line going. In these climes, it’s only the birth of boys that make a woman a woman, that roots her legs in her husband’s family unswayable by whatever winds. Till then, she has one leg in, one leg out and the coming of another woman with a son, can automatically push her away, of her position as wife, and as woman.

When does she become a woman? When she is silent, just seen, not saying a word. When she is bent by the troubles of the world? When she says “thank you” even when she is hurt in her? When turns her ear the other way when her husband moans away with another woman? When she stays in a marriage “till death do us part” even if she is battered to that death? Is it when she gives her body to her husband totally, yielding herself to him, as a log in the hands of a carpenter? Or as the pot in the hands of the potter, being shaped, molded to the taste of the potter?

When does she become a woman? When the muscles around her eyes weaken? When the muscles around her womb lose strength, when the eggs return to where they came from? When her waist loses its shape after many children have passed through? When her voice trembles losing its alluring sound? Is it when her grandchildren gather around her, she–the mother hen, they–the chicks, and listen to stories trapped in a past, stories of a glorious past, that she only passed through but never passed through her? Now, the weight of her gait leans on a stick, her back is bent, bowed as she no longer has the strength to bear any more troubles. Her hairs starts to grey and soon start to drop, strand after strand, leaving a pore empty, never to be refilled. Is that when she is a woman? When all that is left in her eyes are faint glitters that never were?

Does she become a woman when the earth covers her up? When the grave is tagged “Mrs. Lagbaja; 1945-2000”? When her children show their respect for her by throwing up the biggest party in the world? There are numerous adverts in the papers, that she lived a glorious life, her face splashed all over, a smile photo-shopped on the image; there are words that would be missed sorely by a committee of friends. Is it when they say “Sun re o”? When they bid her to sleep well or eat what they eat in heaven, wherever that is? Tell me; is that when?

Or am I just rambling? Is the word “woman” overrated? An antithesis of man? Of everything that he is not, of all that she is? Of all that she can become, or of all that she may never be? Maybe there is more to a woman than the trapping of the word “woman,” that word so affiliated with “man.”

*Lagbaja and Tamedo: are Yoruba words for Anonymous.

Editorial: Why are you nakeding yourself about?

A four year old boy once said ‘I’m nakeding about the house’ when asked why he did not wear some clothes after he got back from school. He used the word ‘nakeding’ as one would say ‘jumping’ or ‘singing’, something along the lines of ‘I’m nakeding because I’m happy’.

2One of the pleasures I had while growing up, was that of going about naked in my house. During the usually, hellishly hot, dry season, I could be found playing around the neighbourhood in either a pair of shorts or an underpant, rainy season found me and my friends running around buck naked anytime the rain started. The most cloth I ever wore, while growing up, if I remember correctly, was an undergarment we fondly called a ‘shimmy’ and a pair of shorts. Except it was terribly cold, wearing of clothes was not a prerogative.

I remember being told by my grandmother that she never got to wear clothes until she was about sixteen years old, it was one of her neighbours that actually drew my great-grandmother’s attention to the fact that her daughter now had a pair of breasts and needed to cover them up.

I was at the swimming pool the other day with my children, and was pleased to see a young, flat chested girl, of about eight frolicking in the shallow end with her brothers, in only a pair of shorts, the same type her brothers were wearing.

Shame was not a word I associated with the happy little girl, but in the name of protecting our children, it appears we are teaching them how to be ashamed of their bodies.

A couple of weeks ago, in Kenya, a young lady was stripped naked by a mob of men, because her skirt was deemed too short. This led to a protest hashtagged #mydressmychoice, a simple call for the society to stop what Abimbola Adelakun, in her article titled “How to treat a Naked Woman”, called “legislating the sartorial choices of women.”

Although the stripping and protests took place in ‘faraway’ Kenya, stripping women naked for their choice of dressing, is nothing new to Nigeria.

In the old Yaba, before Raji Fashola brought some modicum of sanity to the place, the traders were known for booing and stripping girls they consider ‘skimpily’ or ‘outrageously’ dressed ,naked, in a lot of cases sexual harassment also takes place while these ‘judges of our morals’ are ‘punishing’ these women.

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culled

In a book titled “Nigerian Dress: The Body Honoured”, Dani Lyndersay traced the costume arts of traditional Nigerian dress from Early History to Independence… and I’m sad to say this to the puritans, our ancestors (from the North to the South), except for the very rich, went about stark naked! And I mean men, women and children. They adorned their bodies, beautifully, with tattoos and other things like feathers, cowry shells and even leaves, but the adornment was simply that, not a means of ‘covering up’.

I dare say wearing clothes and shoes, became popular in Nigeria, more of a statement of fashion, of how rich you are, than to cover up in shame.

A few days ago, a young lady took to Facebook and complained bitterly about how an eight year old child, was ‘all over’ some ‘uncles’ thighs all the while wearing ‘only a pant’. She expressed disappointment at how ‘parents’ are no longer ‘raising their children right’ how this child is courting abuse, because a flat chested eight year old should be an object of desire.

3When called out on why she would choose to shame an innocent little girl, who was obviously enjoying the relief of not having to wear clothes in the hot afternoon sun, she claimed that the girl was making herself ‘vulnerable’ to abuse.

How in the world does a child go around making his/herself vulnerable to abuse?

Isn’t this the same line of argument proffered by rapists and would-be-rapists, ‘why was she wearing that gown?’, ‘what was she doing in his house?’

News flash – paedophiles(men or women who have sex with children), just like rapists and abusers, do not need provocation, they just are – in most cases – very sick individuals that need to be locked up or psychoanalysed or both.

Your child is at risk in your home, more than in the streets, and their state of dress or undress has absolutely nothing to do with this. Paedophiles are known to rape babies of 6months – can we say it’s because they are sagging their diapers?

Most people who abuse your children are often relatives or close family friends and even people who help out in the house. People in authority such as Imams, pastors and teachers, who have access to your child can also be sexual predators – (a sexual predator hunts down his/her potential victims the same way a frog hunts a fly). Abuse is about power and control.

A lion does not care how a gazelle is dressed, all it cares about is hunting it down and killing it! The same way a sexual predator does not care how his or her victim is dressed and is more concerned about assaulting the child or adult, sexually, expressing his/her power over the victim.

We need to stop body shaming, we need to teach our children the correct terms for their body parts and not using euphemisms to describe the penis, the vulva, the breasts, we need to show and teach our child4ren about respecting other people, their space, their choices, their lives!

We need to free ourselves from the mental shackles that have held us down for over a century.

Somebody said sex crimes are on the increase and surmised that it’s because more women are dressing more outrageously now, but I put it to you that sexual crimes are not on the increase, the reportage of sexual crimes has.

A few years ago, women would be afraid to point at rapists and call them out, because of the taboos our society has placed on it, because we shame the victim instead of the abuser, but now, more and more women … and children, are coming out and making their voices heard, they have found out that the people who need to be shamed are the men and women telling them to keep quiet about their abuse, the ones that need locking away are the rapists.

Of kids, mentors, spiritual forces AND that doctorate! – Adenike Olatunji-Akioye

5My ambition as a child was simply limited to wanting to be ‘great’. At some point, the specifics included Veterinary Medicine which was only my passion because it had a literal pot of gold attached to it. Further study (read Masters in Veterinary Surgery) fine-tuned what (if any) greatness I may achieve (yes! Still, its ‘greatness-in-waiting’) to this highly misunderstood art and craft which has very little to do with cutting and sewing, by the way.

It would be nice to be able to say I had lofty ideals like working hard to earn a PhD while trying to juggle a busy home life but that would be untrue. I am one of those women who love work and if there’s any to be done, all else fades from my consciousness. I am also lazy. That sounds like a contradiction, right? But I have said this so often and believe it totally as I have seen it play out in my life. I hate hassles and believe very firmly in delayed gratification and will thus do whatever is required of me so that I can be left well alone to…..well, daydream, which is my absolute favourite sport.

But this PhD asked for my life and a half.

While studying to get the PhD was not an accident, being an academic most certainly was. Nowadays, I am almost one when I get into class.

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‘Ice-Cream how I love thee, shall I count the ways?’

I had done a Masters circa 2004, had a baby who was all sugar and spice and I wanted something else to do and, I naively assumed a PhD was one of those things. The first distraction was another baby who was a lot of work, followed by some institutional opposition because of some long-held belief that surgeons are not bound by the same rules as anyone else (very pompous lot, we are!) And then I tried and tried and the research just wasn’t as stellar as I wanted.

I had (along with most other PhDs, I suspect) visions of my work holding the key to human existence in the new millennium with award after award falling at my dainty feet. So, imagine my surprise when even within my department, others thought I should have done better. It stung and with it, came the realisation (very sad indeed) that I may have a perfectionist tendency.

My supervisor (poor man) tried to reconcile me with the reality of the conduct of research, especially scientific research in Nigeria. It did not help that the concept I was investigating is a little known phenomenon. I held onto my hypotheses tenaciously.

1I had the support of wonderful people who seemingly would enter my life, play their role and exit. Almost none had a major role in my life at any point and the support I hoped to get from established quarters from where I should was non-existent. Being a worker at the same university I was attending, I was required to work on the PhD part-time and I really couldn’t have done more if I tried.

This PhD must rank as one of the most sought after if the opposing forces that were arrayed against it were anything to go by. From not having a supervisor, to getting one and forces attacking him (unsubstantiated but….) to unbelievable dreams and household wickedness of great magnitude, the road was fraught with very many dangers.

 My work is mainly about some of the hitherto unexplored reasons for infertility; that a stomach incident that occurred because of lack of adequate blood supply to the gut could set up a series of events that could ultimately be responsible for derangements of almost every organ in the body and especially the germ cells which are the cells that mingle to form a new individual.

Being female, married with children had very little impact on my work in the sense that my family has very little idea about my work by choice. I leave work when I deal with the children and you really have to care before something can influence you in that way.

6I had help that matched the troubles I experienced and it would be ingratitude to not mention my biggest cheerleader, my 87 year old ‘friend’. She gave money, and boy, did she harass me. Some days she was the only reason I did not pack it in. The thought of facing her to tell her I gave up was enough to stir me to try one more time. There was that person too, who told me a story of a Deanship election in my faculty and asked, ‘How badly do you want this?’ because, he said, that is what will determine what will happen, not any of the troubles you face.

And there is BFF, with whom I really ought to split this with but she has hers and a lot of other accomplishments by dint of hard work. She encouraged, coaxed, threatened and loved me till I got to the point I finally decided, ‘Ok, maybe no awards will come from this but at least, I will advance knowledge and cause people to look in this new direction’. And this really is what a PhD is about. Not the end of studying (as many are wont to think) but a new look at what has been and stirring up new vistas of study. Of this one fact, I am proud to say I did.

Nigeria’s Woman Problem By Chinelo Onwualu

Chinelo Onwualu
Chinelo Onwualu

In my city, Abuja, an NGO called the Society against Prostitution and Child Labour has been collaborating with the city’s Environmental Protection Board to round up any woman found on a sidewalk after dark and charge them with prostitution. There is rarely any evidence of sexual solicitation in these cases. The only evidence used being the women’s locations (out of the house) and dressing (a vastly subjective “indecent”). These women, usually between the ages of 18 and 30, are often extorted for money with authorities threatening to take them to court if they don’t pay a “fine” of N5,000. There are no opportunities for appeal and no protection from arrest. And this has been happening without comment for nearly two years.

In 2011, a young woman at Abia State University was assaulted by five men who broke into her dorm room and raped her for hours. The assailants recorded themselves perpetrating the act and uploaded the video to the internet. To date, none of those young men have served jail time.

In July, on a 12-hour road trip to my hometown in Eastern Nigeria, I watched four popular Nollywood movies. Each one depicted a scene of domestic violence – from a boyfriend slapping his girlfriend for “disrespecting” him, to a husband shouting abuses at a wife who dared to contradict him and a father hitting his daughter. And in every film the abuse was treated as normal – unremarked upon by any of the characters.

The British Council’s 2012 Gender in Nigeria report shows that these are more than isolated incidents. According to the report “Nigeria’s 80.2 million women and girls have significantly worse life chances than men, and their sisters in comparable societies. Violence compounds and reinforces this disadvantage and exclusion.”

My country has some of the highest rates of gender disparity in the world. Women earn less than men, are less educated, 9jafeministamore likely to die in childbirth and are barely represented in positions of power and authority. Many of you might not think this is a problem, but research has shown that excluding women from economic, health, educational and political opportunities costs societies. Our security, growth and long-term welfare are seriously compromised and we doom ourselves to being a less productive, less healthy and ultimately less progressive society than we could be.

Economic Access

Women earn less than men – regardless of their educational qualifications. In Nigeria a woman with a Bachelor’s Degree can expect to earn the same as a man with a secondary school certificate and a woman with a secondary school certificate will earn the same as a man with no education at all. A woman can expect to be paid 20 to 50 percent less for doing the same work as her male counterpart. She can also expect a slower rate of promotion.

chinelo Part of this is because gender roles which place the bulk of housework, childrearing duties on women often lead women to choose lower-paying jobs that allow for more flexibility or are part-time. Women spend a much larger share of their time doing unpaid work in the form of informal household chores than men do. But a bigger part of this is gender bias. We have a widespread view that the proper place of a woman is at home under the dominance and care of a man (a husband, father or male relative). So women are not expected to work outside of the home unless there is a familial “need” for it. This is reflected in the Nigerian tax code which taxes men at a lower rate because they can be classified as “breadwinners.” Women with dependents cannot – even if they are the sole earners in their household.

When it comes to owning property and assets which can be used as collateral, such as land, women often face discriminatory inheritance practices which bar them from inheriting land or property from their parents. In many traditions inheritance is patrilineal – from father to son. So you have a situation where, “although women represent between 60% and 79% of Nigeria’s rural labour force, men are five times more likely to own land than women.” This affects women’s ability to access credit. Few banks will grant a business a loan without some form of collateral from the owner. However, even with collateral women have a harder time getting finance as men are twice more likely to get a bank loan than women.

Health

One of the areas with the widest disparity for women in Nigeria is the access to health. Nigeria has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. Let me repeat that: One of the highest rates of maternal mortality. In the world. Our maternal mortality rate means that 144 women die each day and one woman dies every 10 minutes from conditions associated with childbirth. As a woman I am more likely to die giving birth than being shot by a gun or killed in car accident. Childbirth in Nigeria is more dangerous to a woman than smoking or drinking alcohol.

9jafeministaAccess to contraceptives and gynaecological care is appallingly poor and often actively discouraged. Our country currently spends 6.5% of its total budget on healthcare, which means that health facilities are often difficult to get to, poorly staffed and barely equipped. And because the major burden of payment for healthcare in Nigeria falls on the individual, the poorest women are the least likely to get proper care. In fact, the poorest women are six times more likely to die when they get sick than the richest women in Nigerian society.

There are also social barriers to women’s health. Many unmarried women worry that going to a gynaecologist or purchasing contraceptives – even when they have access to them – will signal that they are sexually active and expose them to derision and harassment. It is not uncommon for a woman buying a condom to be treated as if she were a moral pariah. Thus, many women leave the decision to use contraception to their partners and even more women’s first visit to a gynaecologist is when they are pregnant. The attitude of healthcare professionals is also a problem. Many doctors still treat their female patients with condescension – often minimising and ignoring their complaints. Nurses in Nigeria are notorious for their insensitivity and outright cruelty – particularly to female patients – making a visit to a hospital a generally unpleasant experience.

This has terrible implications for a woman’s health throughout her lifetime. Infrequent and poor-quality gynaecological exams mean that a woman could be struggling with health issues that she may not know about until they become acute enough to require emergency medical treatment. And since for many women, the decision to visit a doctor is not their own to make, it is not surprising that many women die from easily preventable conditions.

Education

While rates of enrolment for girls has risen worldwide – in some countries there are more women in colleges and universities4 than men – the gender gap in sub-Saharan Africa, and Nigeria in particular, has stubbornly persisted.

Nigeria has more children of primary school age who are not going to school than any other country in the world and more than half that population are girls. Fewer girls than boys make the transition from primary to secondary education and even fewer from secondary to university level. Overall, more girls drop out of school than boys. Lack of access to education is costly, but for women, it can be deadly. Women with less education are more likely to have more children, increasing their risk of dying in childbirth. And their children are more likely to be malnourished and undereducated themselves.

The poor educational statistics are a direct result of the poor status of women in our society. Despite our claims to free universal basic education, going to school is not free. Most parents still have to pay school fees, as well as the costs of uniforms and books. For most households, school fees are the largest expense in a family’s budget – next to rent and feeding. And for a lot of families that money is better spent on male child who will bring better returns in terms of higher income and carrying a greater burden of parental care. Many families still believe that it is more important for a woman to marry than to have an education and so will withdraw their daughters from school at various levels once they feel they have had “enough”.

There is also a perception that schools are dangerous places for women – and that is not entirely wrong. Nigeria’s educational system still uses corporal punishment which often leads to excess and abuse for both boys and girls. But research has shows that girls from the poorest backgrounds suffer a disproportionate amount of the beatings and public humiliations that come with this system. Girls are often required to do more school chores like sweeping classrooms, fetching water and cleaning school grounds which can cut into their study time. Finally, there are the dangers of bullying and sexual harassment from teachers and older students that can cause many girls to drop out.

Violence against Women

9jafeministaThe low status of women in Nigerian society is reinforced through violence and threats of violence. And the violence isn’t just physical. There is the verbal violence of harassment, bullying and intimidation. There is the sexual violence of rape and molestation and there is the “soft violence” of rumour-mongering, innuendo and insults.

The fear of all these things keeps women in their “place”. Many women curtail their social lives for fear of being labelled prostitutes and subject to physical and verbal harassment. Others limit their education and employment opportunities for fear of “overshadowing” their partners and being victims of physical violence. And many more circumscribe their personalities and desires in order to stay within narrow definitions of what makes a “good” woman.

Violence against women is a problem all over the world – regardless of education, status and location. According the UN’s 2010 report on Women in the World, most but not all of the physical, sexual and psychological violence experienced by women comes at the hands of family members, especially husbands, partners and fathers – and much of it is normalised. In Nigeria, statistics show that unmarried women between 15 and 35 are the most vulnerable to violence but this masks the fact that married women who experience violence within their homes are less likely to report it.

A high number of women in Nigeria believe it is acceptable for a man to beat a woman if she “disrespects” him. Acts such as speaking out of turn, taking decisions without permission, failing to submit to sexual advances and failing to perform household chores are all grounds for physical violence. And the question of rape is still a hotly contested issue where many regard it as a punishment for the bad behaviour of the victim.

There is also institutionalised violence against women where certain bodies are structured in such a way as to actively discriminate against women. Institutions such as the police, the judiciary, political offices and higher education where there are “entrenched cultures of impunity” for the perpetrators of rape and other violence, all work to harm women. For example, women are not allowed to post bail in Nigerian jails, law courts tend to favour men over women in domestic disputes and sexual harassment and rape is endemic in many schools and universities. Many men in positions of authority – especially in these institutions – regard opportunities to receive sexual favours from female subordinates as one of the privileges of their positions.

Soft violence against women is used to keep women out of patronage networks which disproportionally favour men. Women who try to break into these networks can find themselves the victims of whisper campaigns designed to destroy their reputations – and because the social consequences of a “bad” reputation are higher for women than men, many women simply opt out of the process.

The future of Nigeria

There are many reasons why despite our vast natural resources we continue to lag behind comparable countries but I think it ultimately comes down to one thing. Our society is deeply unequal. In fact, Nigeria is among the 30 most unequal countries in the world, particularly when it comes to income distribution. Yet, studies show that societies with greater gender equity have lower crime rates, fairer distribution of resources, and are healthier and more stable, in general. This is not an accident. Right now, Nigeria is like a runner trying to compete in a race while tying one leg to his back. We simply cannot progress as a country without the full and equal participation of women.

Our political system must be more accountable to women – they must take women’s issues of health, education, economics and violence more seriously. We have to begin by electing and appointing more women into positions of power. The lack of representation by women in political office (just 9%) is one of the reasons why our country has not allocated as much resources to sectors such as health and education that are key to our development.

And our social dynamics need to change. We cannot continue to accept violence against women in any form. We cannot continue to limit the opportunities of women and girls for our own comfort. For when we exclude women from participating fully in society, when we insist on narrowly defined roles for both genders, we are limiting ourselves to using only half of our resources, half of our creative spirit. Ultimately, when we work to hold women back, we are only holding back ourselves.

Far and Away – a story by Ifelanwa Osundolire

Miracle-Ndubisi-still-nursing-the-injuries-inflicted-on-her-face
Sourced from pyeworld.wordpress.com

From the Editor: The housemaid, in Nigeria, encompasses all that is wrong with the way our country is presently structured. She is the avatar of what the patriarch wants a woman to be, cleaner, washer, primary caregiver for the children, often abused sexually and assaulted by family members, the housemaid is the poster child for suffering that the West has embraced as ‘the African Child’. Not that there are no male servants, but the majority of people serving in our homes are girls between the ages of 9 and 16, most people prefer it so because they are easier to ‘control’ and it is not likely that they’ll ‘sexually abuse’ our precious children.

The story you’re about to read is actually more anecdotal than imagined, it is something that was experienced as a child by the author, who was sad that he had not spoken up when as a child he had gone to ‘piss’ inside his aunt’s bath, but the woman had taken out her rage on the housemaid, who of course knew nothing about it. His point was ‘why do we keep quiet in the face of unfairness?’

We leave you to enjoy and maybe reflect on the story of ‘Patience’…

Two slaps landed in quick succession on the younger woman’s face before she could cover it with  both arms to deflect a third.

Somewhere in a corner, a fan whirred noisily, periodically flicking the leaves of a stack of papers on a table and raising dusty minions that swam about the small living room around the arms of a madam who was beating her maid with reckless abandon. The others looked on without saying a word.

There were three cushion chairs, two side tables, a television and a fan –witnesses, mute consorts with the people in the 9jafeministaroom. The madam’s husband, who occupied a sagging chair by the desk that bore the table fan and two little children – the man’s nephews – who had their arms gathered in neats folds on their laps switching between watching the lone bulb hanging above their uncle’s head and the raining blows that threatened to tear the maid to shreds. The oldest of the children – about seven and the younger about four, wore matching pleated white shorts with lilac trimming at the edges that conversed in purples with the permanganate hued ankara skirt the maid wore.

“Why did you piss in the baff? I say why did you piss in the baff?”

The madam in her mid-forties, had a yellowing complexion that bore a sharp contrast to the fading black hue that was the colour around her ears, her knuckles and the back of her ankles. Her small haloed eyes sparkling with rage, lent her narrow bony face more depth. Her braids flew in the face of fury and wrapped around the beaded neckline of the green kaftan she wore. She wasn’t asking the questions expecting answers but the maid persevered all the same.

“Madam I say it is not me!”

“You say it is not you …  Is it me you are talking to like that? Is it me you are talking to?” Her questions were accentuated by further slaps that sounded like thuds against a shield of arms.

“It is not you, it is not you then who is it? How many of us are in this house you useless girl. Is the baff where to piss? Ehn…Is the baff where to piss? And you,” she turned towards where the children sat “… what are you children just sitting and looking at like mumu. Oya get inside!”

The children scurried towards a bare door.

9jafeministaThe maid called Patience – in her early teens, by now was negotiating her way slowly towards the nearest the door, away from her domestic assailant. The blows hurt but what hurt more were the words of her mother – words she still remembered before leaving their little hut in Otupko in Benue State. Words that gave her hope that she would ‘only’ be travelling to ‘help’ these people. A hope that died when her mother paused to count the money the agent had paid in return for her service as maid for one year. Patience smarted at the sting of the madam’s ring as it caught her right knuckle in searing pain that ran up her forearm.

She couldn’t hold up much longer. She made a dash for the entrance door which was open wide but barred by the net shutter that prevented mosquitoes from entering, she tore away from the arms of her madam, as the older woman tried to pull her back by the neckline of her tee shirt. The black tee shirt gave way too easily as Patience hauled herself against the net shutter. It wasn’t bolted and yeilded to her weight, she stumbled her way to freedom on the two steps that led to the bare earth of the outside and the wide boughs of the almond tree that shaded the front of the unpainted bungalow she called home.

“Where are you going?” The woman screamed from inside. “Don’t come back into this house today. If I see you in this house I will kill you.”

Patience ran a couple of metres away from the house – out of earshot, turning to face the receding house before she finally stopped. She then folded her arms in defiance and began breathing hard as the pent up streams of tears she had held back for so long began to flow easily now that their dam was broken. She hadn’t done it. She hadn’t urinated in the bath. She didn’t know who did it.

She couldn’t help but wonder whether her two elder sisters – Ene and Florence, who had also ‘travelled’ the year before her 9jafeministawere facing the same things. She wondered if they ate dinner before going to bed. She wondered if they slept on the bare floor beside an empty bed no one ever slept in. Maybe they had more caring madams.

She missed their mischievous trio and battles with their other brothers. Even in lack, the company of all seven of the kids was all the home that mattered to her and the brief moments with her father, in the little time she got to know him before he left home and never came back. Patience looked around the alien surrounding she had lived in for almost 6 months now, the trees, the grass, the idling livestock, the people and their strange language.

She looked up at the wide skies and imagined she was a bird. She would fly away and see blues and greens in its splendour, the wind beneath her wings.

She imagined herself in far away lands where she was queen and had numerous servants and vasals tending to her every wish. She would not be a wicked woman like her madam. She would be kinder, more considerate, more human.

She ran her gnarled fingers through her matted hair down the nape of her neck. It was thick with sweat and hurt badly. She couldn’t see the scratches and the little welts that had begun to form just below her hairline. She couldn’t see the blood either.

OIO

We leave you to enjoy and maybe reflect on the story of ‘Patience’.

IFELANWA: Adventurer, humanist, writer and 70% Female (or so he claims)

9jafeminista: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I am a BIG dreamer, child in an adult’s body, an architect in Real Estate. And I love to write. I

Ifelanwa Oladapo Osundolire
Ifelanwa Oladapo Osundolire

once attempted to travel from Lagos, across the Sahara desert to London by road with Newton Jibunoh.

9jafeminista: You sound like the very adventurous type. You’re a biker and a mechanical toys lover … You own a bike right?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Yes, I adore sports bikes and I would make them my primary means of transport if I could. It leaves you to the thoughts in your head and 1000 rpms revving beneath your yansh. I genuinely love adventure. I think being born a Nigerian limits how far I will be willing to go for adventure. That notwithstanding, I still scrape the little I can to sate my adrenaline thirst.

9jafeminista: Would you say being a man is also an advantage? I know very few female bikers.

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I can’t tell. I haven’t been a woman before. Truth is I’ve only met one. I only see a few like Speediva on the road with their Yamahas. On a serious note, I think our society silently limits women’s foray into the adventurous.

9jafeminista: How many women were on that trip through the Sahara?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: On the Sahara expedition we had quite a number you’ll be amazed to know, almost 15. And9jafeminista there was this one Sola Obiwusi who clocked more driving time than almost every other guy. She practically singlehandedly drove even when she took ill on the trip.

9jafeminista: How many men?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Men were about 40. Or let me say 30 taking out the camera crew and soldiers and officials.

9jafeminista: How far did you guys get?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: We went as far as Agadez in Niger Republic.

9jafeminista: Why didn’t you guys finish the journey?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: War in Libya. Coup … in Niger. We could have become diplomatic bargaining chips with the size of our cavalcade.

9jafeminista9jafeminista: In the story you sent to us (coming up in our next issue) you examined the life of a house maid. Especially the under-aged ones in Nigeria would you say the girl’s experience kind of sums up the experience of housemaids? Generally

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I can’t say for certainty but I believe largely it does. We treat them like property don’t we?

9jafeminista: Why do you think the maltreatment of maids is the norm?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Because we lack what I call mutual self- respect.

9jafeminista: What does mutual self -respect mean?

Newton-Jibunoh
Dr Newton Jibunoh

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Older people to younger people, employer to employees, parents to children … masters to servants. I want to believe we believe subordinates do not have as much right to existence as superiors have. So we ride rough shod over their person, goals and super impose our wishes on them.

A maid for instance can’t ask for a second helping. She shouldn’t have an opinion, she should just be the silent mule that hauls the family’s cargo. How does one live like that?

9jafeminista: Would you say this is a result of the fact that generally women are expected to be all of the things you’ve listed above? The neck, the one that should not have an opinion? The one not allowed to go on adventures because it is dangerous?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I think we limit girls in a sense.

9jafeminista: Have you ever wondered why there are more female underage helps than male?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: The males are a threat of theft and peadophilia. More so we tend to believe girls do better as house helps. Even though we started that indoctrination when boys have the liberty to play football while their sisters are busy helping in the kitchen.

9jafeminista: In your opinion how are women limited and how does this affect men?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Women are limited by the patriarchal structure of the world in general. As girls, they can’t9jafeminista climb trees or fight. As young women they should keep their virginity for their husbands (don’t get me wrong I advocate for keeping ones virginity). They can’t leave home till they marry. They have to change their names when they marry. They have to be the one to stay at home to cater for kids while the husband provides.

I think this subjugation gives men power. But in the same breath I think an equal appreciation of our complementary roles is essential to prevent anarchy. I also think embracing fairness and having a mindset of reviewing age old ideologies will help restore that balance.

9jafeminista: Were you a Virgin when you got married?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Yes I was. Oops! No I wasn’t…

9jafeminista: But you advocate for virginity before marriage

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: Yes

9jafeminista: Isn’t that a little hypocritical?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: It’s not hypocritical. Sex outside marriage is a sin. Selah. That I failed at it doesn’t mean I don’t consider it the ideal thing.

9jafeminista: In your collection of short stories ‘On a lot of Things’ you were able to write comfortably in the female voice how were you able to do that?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I think I am 70% female. In my constitution.

9jafeminista: Would you say you’re a feminist?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I dislike the tag feminist as I observe it’s becoming a haven for bitter and reactive women to society. I prefer the tag humanist.

on stage9jafeminista: One last question … So you believe in jazz? As in ogun abenu gongo?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: (laughs) Yes

9jafeminista: Really? Go on then… Tell us why? Have you seen it in action before?

Osundolire Oladapo Ifelanwa: I haven’t seen it in action before but I premise my belief on the fact that there is more to this world than the things we see and in that little grey area, super natural powers exist. I believe well over 90% of the cow horns tied in red scarves are just charlatan bullshit. But that doesn’t invalidate my firm belief that there is dark magic if I can call it that.

Michaela Moye: On Career, Love, Sex and Orgasms

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Michaela at work

9jafeminista: Let’s talk about your job(s) then, what you’re doing presently what you’ve done in the past… That big dream you chase after…

Michaela Moye: Ooookaaay!!! My jobs…They’ve been many! I remember someone told me to cut out some of my jobs so my CV doesn’t make me look like a flake. (Laughs) I love every job I’ve had. Right now, I’m a producer and a show host (I hate that OAP acronym), anyway, I’m a producer and host on We 106.3 FM, I recently moved from producing Love Talk to working on Morning Mojo – I like that. Even though I loved working on romance and sex stories, I like the fact that on Morning Mojo we handle more gritty topics (not that love cannot be gritty) but my feminist agenda can really soar here, I think.

I am living my career dream, as far as the type of work I would like to do is concerned. Ever since I was a teen, I wanted to be involved in radio. A few years ago, I joined an awesome team to script a radio drama and now, I’m producing and hosting. It’s great!

Before this, I had a temporary communications position at ActionAid Nigeria, another great experience.

My first job was at Leadership newspaper. I was at university – there was a long break and I needed a job. While discussing my love for writing with Kareem Baba Aminu (he’s now the editor of Sunday Trust), he said, “Why don’t you write for Leadership?” And that was it…my sister helped me get the ball rolling and I was hired. My first day of work, the newsroom door was opened, I was shoved in and told, “find something to do.” So I did. I read copy until I convinced my boss to let me have a column. My first article was on Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding!

After that I ran a column there for a few years, until I graduated university. By then I had a few pages to my credit. I skipped law school to continue working there and it was a great year – I went on a short tour with some Naija music acts and reported the whole thing. It was amazing

9jafeminista: In the course of doing your job have you met with any kind of sexism? Maybe not as extreme as the one that happened between you and Marang Motlaleng, but sexism all the same

Michaela Moye: Yes. I had a co-worker at leadership who would refer to me as ‘baby’. When I told him I didn’t like it, he apologized. But guess what, my nickname became baby! I laugh about it now because I know he didn’t have bad intentions. To be honest, I find newsrooms to be rather sexually charged. So sometimes, a comment might be sexist, but sometimes it’s flirting or banter with sexual undertones.

One colleague kept harassing me to date him. My then boss thought it was funny that I kept refusing the guy – we were both single, why not give it whirl? I kept saying NO! That’s not the point! Just because we’re single doesn’t mean I want to date the guy. The last straw was when the colleague went to our boss to have a heart-to-heart about his feelings for me and could our boss talk to me? I was so mad. After I had my say, he stopped asking me out.

But that’s about it…my competence has never been questioned or anything like that

9jafeminista: What’s your take on love?

Michaela Moye: I believe that true love is not romantic, romance is deceptive. A person can be romantic with several people at the same time. As for as my thoughts on marriage… I don’t think it’s for everybody… at least, not in the conventional way… a couple living together all the time etc. I’m not big on long distance but God knows that when I get married, I will maintain a place for myself where I can just chill sometimes and be by myself

9jafeminista9jafeminista: So how do you measure the love which is not romantic?

Michaela Moye: let’s take my relationship with one of my nephews – it’s definitely not romantic, but that is true love right there! Here’s the thing, a couple can be together for three months and the romance is beginning to fade. What is left is their commitment, not even the friendship sef. Committing to making the relationship work, and accepting that if it doesn’t work, they will both walk away without trying to damage the other… that is love to me.

9jafeminista: That sounds like hard work

Michaela Moye: (laughs) But Relationships are hard!!!! I’m probably single right now because I’ve been too lazy to work at one I’ve never been romantic about marriage so i never felt bad when anyone implied that my single status was a problem or made me less than… maybe it’s just my inherent strong headedness. However, it’s important to add that I am interested in getting married – in so far as we can agree on the terms and conditions of our marriage contract!

9jafeminista: Since we are talking about love, what’s your take on sex? A man once said he believed pre-marital sex was a sin, and this view appears to be the prevailing opinion right now in Nigeria… I use the word ‘opinion’ because it’s actually not what is happening.

Michaela Moye: I pay no mind to hypocrites. I knew ever since I was a teen that I would not be married as a virgin. However, I9jafeminista made up my mind that I would wait until I was ready. I was 20 when I “lost my virginity” and even though I would have preferred a different partner, I was ready and chose to have sex then.

Sex should be enjoyable. And in my opinion, is not the right place to seek emotional attachment – that’s just a distraction from the physical pleasure one could be enjoying. Women should take their orgasms into their own hands and that includes giving themselves permission to enjoy sex. When it’s a physical ailment, then, of course, that’s a different matter and requires medical attention

9jafeminista: Why do you think women have this idea that they are not supposed to enjoy sex or have orgasms?

Michaela Moye: It’s the repression that has been sown in generations of women. Sex is bad. Sex is for men to enjoy. Sex before marriage is a sin. Masturbation will lead you to hell, etc

mich2
Michaela Moye

And you know, many women have one issue or the other with our bodies. Maybe focusing on the wrong things, distract from the pleasure. Or we’re not as cognizant with our bodies and don’t even know what would do the trick.

Ayodele Olofintuade: In a survey carried out recently by a condom manufacturer they found out that a lot more women cheat on their husbands than previously imagined, do you have any theories as per the repression of women?

Michaela Moye: I think men and women are more alike than we care to admit. Men cheat. Women cheat. It has always been that way. What is different is that women have been considered graceful, beyond-sexual reproach etc and so even they would not be so open to admitting to an affair besides one could be repressed with a husband, or expected to be a good girl… and with a lover one can be as free as one wants.

Marang Motlaleng: From Botswana with … assault

From the Editor: If we had followed the age old fashion of giving sensational titles to stories the title of this piece would have been ‘Botswana Diplomat assaults female journalist’, because that was exactly what happened on the 28th of September to Michaela Moye, a writer and journalist who works with a radio station in Abuja.

9jafeminista
Michaela Moye at the birthday party .

From the Sudan to Timbuktu, Zimbabwe to Zanzibar, our reality as women is the patriarchy, which has eaten so deep into our society that we have all been crippled. Women are the ‘softer sex’, the ones expected to smile at catcalls, assaults, violence. We are the ones expected to forgive and forget because men are the ‘hard sex’, the ones that do not cry, men are children, mere babies who ‘cannot’ control their impulses.

When a woman is assaulted or insulted, you were asked ‘what did you do to warrant this?’ When you were raped you were asked ‘why did you go to his house in the first place? Why were you dressed like that?’ Nobody asks these men ‘what the fuck is wrong with you?’ In most cases, these psychopaths literally get away with murder.

From childhood, you are socialized to be ashamed of your body. Your body is inherently sinful, so you need to cover it up in order not to ‘tempt’ boys, but there are times that your covering up might be ineffective, in this case a man may be ‘pushed’ by your ‘ethereal beauty’ to invade your personal space and touch you (inappropriately), in this case you’re supposed to smile indulgently, pat them on the head and coo ‘boys will be boys’ (giggling also helps).

A recent article examined the Nigerian Constitution and concluded that the Nigerian Justice is no Lady’ It is apparent from the tone of the constitution (which uses he for ‘everybody’) that the Nigerian woman is considered (or not considered at all) as a second-class citizen. This is predominantly the stance of the constitution on women all over Africa.

So when Mr Motlaleng, decided to touch Ms Moye’s body without her permission he was affronted that she would protest, the question he and other men present during the assault asked was ‘what is wrong with you?’

Read Michaela’s account of the incidence.

marang
Marang Motlaleng

On Saturday 28 September this year, I went for a birthday party. In the wee hours of Sunday, while the party was still grooving, I decided to take a break and workaholic that I can be, I was checking my emails. Suddenly, this chap, called Marang Motlaleng materialized in front of me. He’s someone I have mutual friends with so I thought he wanted to talk to me. I lowered my phone and in that moment, he reached forward, grabbed and squeezed my breasts and started running away. I gave chase and caught him. We both fell and I tried to get in some punches and kicks but I was lifted off him. I must tell you that I have NEVER been more disappointed in Nigerian men as on that day. They were actually telling ME to calm down, that such behavior is expected. I was so mad. I couldn’t believe what they were saying to me.

One guy, who I had never seen before, kept on saying, “I saw what happened, just let it go. Man!” Even thinking about it now annoys me no end.

Anyway, there was a lot of ruckus. In the midst of it, Marang even threatened to beat me up – he and a bunch of guys he was hiding behind. I dared him to bring it on but he didn’t. 9jafeminista

I made up my mind to write to his consulate – Botswana High Commission – and inform them of their staff’s assault on my person. Fortunately, a lawyer offered his services pro bono. We wrote the letter to the consulate, copying Marang. The only thing I asked for was a formal apology from Marang and a statement printed in a national daily about Botswana’s commitment to gender quality.

Neither the apology nor the statement have been forthcoming. In fact, Marang hired a lawyer, who wrote to my own lawyer citing Diplomatic Immunity.

My lawyer says that we cannot sue. I was hoping that there would be some provision that states that diplomats/consular staff, that commits an offense outside the course of official duties, will be liable. I am considering embarking on a campaign for some policy amendment.

My plan is to continue engaging the Botswana Consulate and of course, harnessing the power of the internet until some proper action is taken against Marang. I am told that he has acted inappropriately to several people and I am hoping that they will stand with me.

What is my feminism shaped of?

Tokunbo
Tokunbo

I have long wondered if I would be this ‘strong and very opinionated’ woman had I stayed and schooled in Nigeria. You see for me feminism was a Western concept started by the Suffragettes who I studied about as part of my history lessons of a  British education system so you’ll have to forgive my misguided beliefs as I only found out about the likes of Queen Sheba, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and many others just over a decade ago.

So when I was asked to contribute to 9jafeminista it got me thinking about the things that have shaped me into this modern day British-Nigerian unapologetic feminist that I am.

Firstly I’ll need to pay homage to my mother – despite becoming a widow at a young age of 33 with 4 young children all under five and me her youngest at just six months,  growing up I always heard my mum say she never remarried because she didn’t want her children to suffer in the home of a new husband. The significance of this never really resonated with me until my late teens/early twenties when I started to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of marriage in the African context. And for this and many more reasons I am eternally grateful for her as showed me first-hand what it means to have feminist values and how to be strong and resilient.

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Tokunbo with her mum

My feminism was shaped by the books I read by authors such as Maya Angelou, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda  Adichie, Zora Neale Hurston, and countless others. Books in which strong Black women were a common feature even with their flawed but unapologetic ways.

It is shaped by the song ‘Superwoman’ in which Karyn White lambasts her husband when he starts to take her for granted by crooning
‘ I’m not your superwoman
I’m not the kind of girl
That you can let down
And think that everything is okay
Boy I am only human
This girl needs more than occasional hugs
As a token of love from you to me…’

My feminism is shaped by the friendships I have cultivated with other strong, confident and amazing women I have met across three continents.
It is shaped by the men who allowed me to be both strong and feminine in equal measures.

Lately my feminism has been redefined and further shaped by the many modern day  African women feminists I have encountered both in the Diaspora but also on the home continent. Women like the Ogwuegbu sisters who are fearless not just because of their numbers but mainly because of their unapologetic feminist stance. Women like Wana Udobang, Saratu Abiola, Olabukunola Williams, Chika Unigwe, Funmi Iyanda, Abena Gyekye and so many others have shown me that feminism is not a Western construct thus reassuring me I would still be the same unapologetic feminist I am today had I been born and raised in  Ojuelegba and not Camden Town.

My feminism is who I am not what I seek to be.

Yes to Domestic Violence: Why we should all give up and give in (I)

From the Editor: At 9jafeminista, one of our aims is to document the experiences of Nigerian women from all walks of life. We are particularly interested in examining why Nigerians believe we do not need equality, that things are just fine the way they are .

Marriage is a big deal in Nigeria. Domestic violence is a common occurrence. In actual fact, the Penal Code endorses violence against women, as long as there’s no ‘bodily’ harm caused (for more on laws that shows Nigerian women as second class citizens you can check out this link).

In spite of the fact that people know how damaging domestic violence can be and how it has often led to death, over 90% of women in Nigeria believe that there is nothing wrong with a man beating a woman.

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Ayomikun

Meet Ayomikun, a 30years old woman who, besides running second-hand clothing shop, is a printer at Mokola (Ibadan). Ayomikun has been separated from her husband of 6years for the past five months, she has tried everything within her powers to bring about reconciliation between them.

She told us her story in an interview which we’ve transcribed below. The unedited audio version is here . The transcription was edited for easy reading.

9jafeminista: What’s your name?

Ayomikun: Oluwadamilola Ayomikun

9jafeminista: What do you do?

Ayomikun: I’m into buying and selling

9jafeminista: Do you own a shop?

Ayomikun: Yes.

9jafeminista: Where’s your shop located?

Ayomikun: At Mokola market (Ibadan)

9jafeminista: What are your educational qualifications?

Ayomikun: I attended Command Primary School and St Louis Girls Grammar School, here in Ibadan. For my tertiary education I attended Federal Polytechnic, Ede

9jafeminista: So what course did you read?

Ayomikun: Marketing

9jafeminista: What kind of things have you ‘marketed’ before?

Ayomikun: I’ve marketed some banks, like Intercontinental Bank, now Access Bank, then one microfinance bank, Easylink Intercontinental, then Cadbury… But now I’m marketing myself

9jafeminista: You’re building a brand

Ayomikun: Yes

9jafeminista: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Ayomikun: In a higher place, to become a higher person. I see myself going to Dubai and even the UK to buy stuff, instead of these second hand clothes.

9jafeminista: Would you mind sharing your story with us?

Ayomikun: Before I got married I was once a gospel artiste, I write, and sing. I was writing for a newspaper called Daily News for Celestians, I had a page there. After that I worked at a Law firm in Ikorodu. Then I met my husband. We met in 2002, at Mokola (Ibadan). We courted for about eight years, I was preparing to go into a tertiary institution.

9jafeminista: Are you saying that when you met him you were still in secondary school?

Graphic1.Ayomikun: No, I’d left secondary school, I was applying for admission into a tertiary institution. When we started dating, then I was even a virgin, but due to all these Mokola stuffs he didn’t believe that he can still find someone like that. After some years he requested for sex, which I decided not to give him because in my heart I’d decided that whosoever I got married to, that was the person that will deflower me. So the guy was like ‘don’t worry, we’re getting married very soon.’ Then I later accepted my fate, we had it. The first time I had it, it was so painful, but then it was a pride to me, because we were getting married. After I gained admission into Federal Poly Ede, we continued the relationship. We eventually got married on February 21, 2009.

After we got married he asked me not to work, but I told him I can’t be a housewife, we dragged the issue until we decided that I’m going to work.

9jafeminista: What was he doing?

Ayomikun: He was into interior decor. He then helped me to get a job at a microfinance bank, three months later, after coming back home from work, that night, he had already written a letter that I should withdraw, that he doesn’t have any interest in the job any longer, that I should stay at home. And then we’ve been having a minor problem about the issue of baby. That day when I returned from work, he had already written a letter which he asked me to drop at my office. I didn’t even know he had helped me to write a resignation letter.

9jafeminista: You mean he wrote a resignation letter for you.

Ayomikun: Yes. I didn’t even bother to go through it. The next morning I went to drop the letter, my Oga now said ‘sit down,1 what happened? What kind of letter is this?’ I said ‘my husband asked me to give it to you.’ He didn’t even tell me what was written in the letter. My boss was shocked and asked me ‘Mrs Ogunbiyi what happened? Why are you leaving the job?’

I was considered the best marketer in the company back then, they were about to increase my salary.

In order not to ruin my home, I decided to pretend that I knew about the letter. I left the job and stayed at home for another three months, I became uncomfortable because I’m not the kind of woman who stays at home, I’m a very hard-working person. My husband and I started quarrelling again, because I can’t stay at home, we finally agreed that I should find a job. So I went to my brother (my blood brother) who helped me to find a job at Intercontinental Bank (Ijebu-Ode), I was shuttling between Ijebu-Ode and Ibadan, I would leave for Ijebu-Ode on Monday morning, come back on Friday night, everything was going on smoothly, but after three months my husband started grumbling, ‘I can’t condone it anymore, we said we’re looking for a baby and we’re living apart, we are in a far distant relationship. I can’t have you anytime I want you, I eat jungle food, etc’

I was finally able to persuade him that instead of resigning I should ask for a transfer, but the bank refused, because I was new and I am not even allowed to have a child until I’ve worked with them for three years, so I was like, I will not wait until this thing will ruin my marriage, so I decided to quit. I returned to Ibadan and started sitting down at home again. Later on one of my husband’s sisters called me and said ‘instead of sitting down at home, I have a shop at Alesinloye,’ she was working at a printing press at Bodija then, that I should assist her. My husband accepted that I should work with her.

9jafeminista: Let’s pause here.