Poverty amongst women is a global issue. I wonder when people say "it is a woman's world," if they really appreciate the importance of the statement. What makes them think it is a woman's world, when women are being marginalized and disadvantaged in various ways.
Right from birth, the signals appear. When a woman gives birth to a baby boy, the ovation and joy is very high amongst relations especially the husband even if the new arrival is the tenth male child in the family. It appears that men cannot have enough of male children. But when a woman gives birth to a female child, it is like "Okay, she has given birth.” No one is really head over heels in joy. The female child with no fault of hers has come into an environment where she is not really warmly welcome. That is exactly the beginning of her predicaments.
The Nigerian government has woken up to the fact that children’s enrolment in primary school tilts favourably towards the male child. Little wonder, they are talking about “girl-child education.” Parents are now being forced to register their female children in primary schools. The issue has been for the boys to go to school while the girls are married off as soon as the enter puberty.
One result, is that girls who don’t get an education, have children earlier. This is why we have incidences of VVF (a complication where urine continuous leaks from the vagina). This occurs when the natural birth canal is not well developed, yet a girl is giving birth to a child. The pressure of dilation during labour on her reproductive system does the damage which results into VVF disease. The young mothers with this VVF become social misfits. They are abandoned by their husbands in particular and the society in general. Many of them roam the streets as beggars. They become very poor as they cannot engage in meaningful economic activities to earn money.
Again, when there are many children, parents tend to give attention to the education of the boys than the girls. The impression seems to be that since the girl child will grow up and get married to a man, the money used in training her is wasted. But this is absolutely wrong.
The girl who has been denied education has no certificate to get a good job. Therefore, she makes do with what her natural talents can achieve and that keeps her very down below the poverty level. In our society and globally, educational attainment is one of the easiest ways to get rich. With your certificate, you secure a job and earn money. The more you read, the higher the pay.
In a case of a poor family, the female child is the first to be sent into the street for hawking of goods and wares. The female child automatically becomes a co-breadwinner of the family. This makes her to be poor, as the money she makes at the end of the day is taken from her for the upkeep of the entire family including the school fees for her brothers. She is mentally impoverished as she starts thinking and reasoning like a street girl. The nature of her activities (hawking) exposes her more to evil machinations of immoral adult males, who exploit her innocence. The man may have a wife and children at home and thereby rejects the pregnancy of this hawker. The parents, because of their own poverty level also reject her as they cannot imagine an additional mouth to feed. She ends up having an illegitimate child who will depend on her for upkeep. This young mother starts from that early age to take care of herself and a child. But the question is, what standard of life can she afford for her child and herself? Both of them become very wretched at the end of the day!
Women also become poor because of culture. A situation where the husband feels that the place of a woman is only in the kitchen impoverishes her. You find out that a woman who marries a chauvinist will end up a housewife, even with her MBA. She is not allowed to do any secular job. She stays at home, takes care of the kids while the husband provides all the finance. This wife, no matter how much she is being given, is poor. What happens if the marriage fails? What will she lay claim to? Nothing. She is just like the property in the home owned by the man. And this type of a man cannot give her so much as to enable her keep a reasonable savings. But if the woman is allowed to secure a job with her MBA, she would have earned enough money to be able to take care of her. If unfortunately, the husband dies, the woman becomes very, very poor as she may not even have developed the competence to work or manage the wealth of the late husband where the man has some. At that stage, it will be difficult to start anything and a Nigerian proverb says that “you do not learn to be left handed in old age.”
Women are also impoverished when their husbands die. When a man dies, his relations will come round and carry every thing the man owned. They do not bat an eye-lid over the children he has left behind. They do not even recall that the woman has suffered with the man to build the home. They callously cart everything away thereby turning the widow into a poor woman overnight.
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I am Chii Torti, a Nigerian. I am a Human Resource Management Consultant. I have an MBA in Human Resource Management. I have headed HR Departments in about six organizations. I have also worked as a newspaper columnist. I have published two books.
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