Let’s Give Credit Where it’s Due: The Money Moves of Nigerian Women
Let’s Give Credit Where it’s Due: The Money Moves of Nigerian Women
As a Woman growing up in Nigeria, there are two statements you hear and must accept as truth. The first one, is that men are the head of the family. The second is men are not expected to cook or partake in domestic work, because they must fulfil their role as the “financial provider”.
These two concepts are so strongly held in the psyche of Nigerians and indeed Africans as a group. Unless one probes further, it is very easy to accept them as the natural order of things. However, Women do indeed work and significantly contribute to the country’s GDP. They also undertake most of the domestic work – from cooking, cleaning and raising the children. In some religious sects, Women who work, are expected to handover their salaries to their husbands.
Towards the end of 2016, former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar, wrote a very detailed thread documenting why as an investor, he prefers loaning money to Women in community development projects. One major finding was that Women from low income homes repaid the loans on time and invested the funds back into their families and communities – whereas the men frivolously spent the money on marrying a second wife.
I was reminded of that thread and the discussions it sparked, when a few months ago, on the popular Nigerian reality show, Big Brother Naija, a fierce argument about joint accounts ensued on Twitter, with some Women stating they opposed the idea of joint bank accounts owing to many married Women being defrauded by their husbands, whilst others stated that because in marriage the man and the Woman are seen as ‘one’, nothing should be separate, including finances.
For a lot of Nigerian feminists online, it was not a topic that should be up for discussion especially given the high rates of financial abuse and deceit in most Nigerian marriages. Ibifubara Davies, a therapist and Founder of Nungu Health, is one of such Women who actively speaks on financial abuse as it relates to Women’s mental health. She has done work with finance companies like Halo Invest and uses her platform on Twitter to discuss money related issues and feminism. Davies is also a Woman who advocates that practices like secret stashes of money, must not be looked upon as deceitful acts, because Women often depend on that money in times of gendered exploitation.
Speaking with Davies over a WhatsApp conversation, she explained in detail how she learned to be financially literate and adopted a culture of saving from her grandmother’s, who would always stash cash away, and invested their money in wrappers, coral beads and gold. In an inspiring turn around, it was the sale of these materials upon the death of one of them, that gave her a befitting burial; in essence, Davies says, “she buried herself”.
As long as money is seen as the preserve of men alone, Women who earn more or have more in savings were emasculating their husbands, and could be physically abused.
Davies goes on to say that in Nigerian Ijaw culture, it is normal for Women to be the breadwinners. Such that, the idea of giving “credit” hardly arises. In her family however, she says that she and her siblings make a conscious efforts to recognise how her mother’s land paid for their university education.
While it is commendable that Davies’ mum received her due recognition, the act of praising the female breadwinner in Nigerian cultures is one that still needs to be normalised. Doreen Caven, the co-founder of feminist wellness group The Girls Like Me, is one Nigerian feminist who believes strongly in praising the female breadwinner. In a viral 2018 Twitter thread, Ms. Caven elucidated on how a refusal to acknowledge Women’s financial contributions as the norm, can be tied to domesticated violence. In the thread she argues that as long as money is seen as the preserve of men alone, Women who earn more or have more in savings were emasculating their husbands, and could be physically abused.
In the life of Nini* (not real name), the above played out in her home. A university student, she shared how her mum’s salary of 100,000 Naira, was what gave her father the budget to buy a car, one he never let her drive. She also narrated how the daily upkeep and feeding of the home was up to her mum. In all this, Nini says that her father continually compared her mother to other more well to do Women. She also says that at some point in an argument over money, her father hit her mum. She has said that because of witnessing the emotional and finance-based abuse her mum faced, she is sceptical about marriage and finds it difficult to accept any form of financial help from men. When asked what she thinks about financial independence, she says that her rule of thumb is this: “Anything I cannot give myself by myself, I do not concern myself with it”.
Historically, gender roles and gendered expectations have led globally to discrepancies in Women’s rights. The expectation that all Women must prioritise care giving as the only form of valuable work, can be argued leads to unequal pay and the systemic shutting out of Women in demanding fields like medicine and engineering. Additionally, the home is also said to be the first place that charity and character building starts for children. When it has been statistically proven over and over that African women as a group make more productive family investors, why do these Women not receive due credit? This sends a message to young boys that it’s okay to be entitled to Women’s finances and domestic output by virtue of being a man.
The solution to all this is quite simple: recognise all Women’s work, even in religious spaces – the unpaid and endless work “pastors’ wives” perform, especially when ministers are absent on long term missionary trips is astounding. Let’s give credit where it’s due. From the homemaker to the board director. Recognise the financial and non-financial work which Women do to ensure a stable society. Let’s do away with the idea of the first daughter being a second parent with no benefits.
As writer and feminist Caroline Criado Perez says, “There is no such thing as a working woman. There is only a woman who is not paid for her work”.
Written By: Angel Nduka-Nwosu – a Nigerian. Feminist. Writer. Journalist. Poet. Editor. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram
Header Image: Tara Fela-Durotoye is a Nigerian beauty entrepreneur and Lawyer, listed in Forbes as one of ‘Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women. A pioneer in the bridal makeup profession, she is the founder and CEO of House of Tara International and creator of the Tara Orekelewa Beauty range, Inspired Perfume and the H.I.P Beauty ranges. Tara, has 270 products, 23 stores, 14 beauty schools and 10,000 representatives all around Africa. Credit: Guardian Nigeria