Rosemary Kpadoo Akure is a 34-year-old mother of 5 girls, who has been a victim of domestic violence for several years, and whose husband refused to cater to his family financially due to the fact that she had no son for him. The violent outbursts by Mr. Akure all came to a climax during the covid-19 lockdown when Rosemary almost lost her life after being beaten to a state of unconsciousness by her husband.
Inequality in the financial state of women has continued to rise in Nigeria especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps some experts may say the power of the financial difference has had a greater impact on the lives of women during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is evident in the rise of domestic violence against women. Intra-household tensions have risen since the lockdown and led to subsequent economic crises, increasing the likelihood and severity of Intimate Partner Violence. According to the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Helpdesk Research Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in Nigeria, some husbands took out their aggression by using coercive and controlling behavior as a way of seeking to escape their breadwinner responsibilities and by threatening divorce.
Apart from violence, the report also shows that women and girls who were subjected to violence face increased barriers to reporting violence during the pandemic. In the case of Rosemary, it was her neighbors who came to her rescue and sought help from the nearest medical facility and alerted the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP who waded into the matter immediately. One of the reasons many women remain in abusive relationships and put their lives at risk is their inability to support themselves financially due to their poor financial state. Gender experts have identified this as one of the tools of control used by perpetrators to keep their victims under their control. Women are faced with hard choices of feeding their children, sending their children to school, finding funds for rent and other daily utility bills. If women were financially stable, what kind of decisions would they make concerning their lives?
Some facts about the financial state of the Nigerian woman as shown by the World Poverty Clock reveals that the number of Nigerians who are extremely poor, living on under $1.90 a day, is now 94m and rising, making the country the poverty capital of the world. More startling is the fact that women account for more than 70% of these extremely poor. Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work. The Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access to Financial Services in Nigeria Survey 2018, shows that financial access is skewed towards male adults with adult men more likely to be banked than adult women.
What are the dynamics that have made men more violent to their spouses in this era of the pandemic? What is it about our systems that make men more likely to get formal financial support than women? Jacinta Ngozi Ike, Desk Officer, FCT Gender-Based Response Team says that many men in Nigeria are presently out of job and this has put pressure on their relationships with their wives at home.
The role of government can be seen to be either directly encouraging the increase in gender based violence of helping to reduce it and improve the financial state of women and further reduce their risk of being abused? Agnes Utahad, the Director Gender Social and Development Secretariat, FCT, says the government has set up referral centers where women can go to report cases of violence and can get training on their chosen skills. However, only few states in Nigeria have set up such facilities where women get help or begin the process of being rehabilitated.
It is difficult for women to contribute to the financial growth of the country when they struggle daily with domestic violence that mostly comes as a result of their financial inequalities? Domestic violence does not only affect women but also directly affects the entire welfare and well-being of their children. When those children are girls, the negative impact is even greater. UNESCO Institute for Statistics holds that forty percent of girls are out of school in Nigeria. Rosemary’s five daughters could have potentially added to that number if not for her determination to struggle and send her girls to school at all costs.
Research in different parts of Nigeria shows that poverty is a key factor contributing to the number of out of schoolgirls in Nigeria. The British Council Girls Education in Nigeria Report 2014 shows that poverty and employment simultaneously limit parents’ demand for education, and increase the tendency of pulling children out of school and into various forms of work. With over 60% of Nigerians, almost 100 million people, living in poverty, girls are often on the list of items to reduce family costs. When a woman is abused and thrown out of her home, like Rosemary Pkadoo Akure and her 5 daughters, such girls are directly thrown out of school. This leads to the reinforcement of the vicious cycle of uneducated girls growing up to become uneducated women, which affects their life decisions and financial state and which has the potential of exposing them to more gender-based violence.
The weak provision or total absence of social protection policy is therefore a critical barrier to the education of these groups of children classified as vulnerable children who are victims of parental quarrels, broken homes, family instability, and who are victims of domestic violence. There is a need to systematically implemented government policies on social and educational security.
Education, finances, and social stability of women are pieces adding up to the same puzzle. Nigeria women are some of the most resilient women in the world as many who have survived abusive relationships still struggle to meet up with their financial demands. A BBC report states that 40% of Nigerian women are entrepreneurs, which is the highest ratio of female business owners in the world describing them as driven, innovative, and passionate about uplifting themselves and others around them.
The need for the financial stability and equality of women and the fight against domestic violence as a gender bias is not only keeping women down but also restraining the country from reaching its massive economic potential. A McKinsey Global Institute report states that Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) could grow by 23% or could be increased by $229bn by 2025 if women participated in the economy to the same extent as men. What would liberating factors enable women to attain financial equality? Ene Ede, a gender rights activist, explains that many financial institutions will prepare to give financial support to a woman’s husband than give it to her directly which has the capacity to expand the business opportunities of other women.
Perhaps what the Nigerian woman needs, is a society that is less discriminatory and more supportive in how it treats and caters to the wellbeing of women in achieving their goals and aspirations. Cherie Blair a British Barrister, Writer, and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, once said, “The woman that has financial independence can make choices, they will also change the lives of those around them and ultimately shape the society for the better.”
This Story/Research/Investigation was Supported by the US Embassy via the ATUPA Fellowship by Civic Hive.
Story: Ehizogie Ohiani