By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Traditional practices and customs of the people in most communities not only in Nigeria, but other parts of the world have largely put most women in disadvantaged positions. In Nigeria, many depressive acts against women and girls have been attributed to culture and tradition.
The patriarchal society has denied women and girls certain privileges like access to and ownership of land, share in family inheritance, access to economic trees, access to education, access to political offices and others. Many women/girls are used as sex objects and forced into early marriage without any form of empowerment, yet demands are still made on them to contribute to the society.
Although the society is evolving, the male folk in many communities still see women/girls as inferior. However, increasing awareness and advocacy are reversing the trend in some communities in Plateau State and women who have had their rights recognized appealed to every family in every community in the state to carry women along in decision making, accord them their rights and see the positive transformation in their communities.
Resilience of the women in Riyom, Jos East, Pankshin and other areas in the state have paid off albeit slowly as their feats were recounted during this year’s UN 16 Days of activism aimed at ending gender-based violence. A group of rural women known as Change Agents in these areas, mentored by a non-governmental organisation, Women for Women International lauded the organization for empowering them to be able to advocate for their rights.
One of them, Hannatu John from Pankshin local government area told Saturday Vanguard, “We had a training: ‘From Women for Women’, on many issues including, how to manage resources, save money, do business, live in peace with our husbands, know our rights and access our inheritance among others. As a change agent, I was given further training on how to share in family inheritance either from our fathers or husbands.
“Equipped with this knowledge, since my husband is still alive, I went to my brothers and presented the issue of our father’s inheritance to them and asked for our share as our father’s daughters. They initially objected but through the advocacy skills, gradually, they understood and gave us (the daughters) some parcels of land to share among us.
“This was an eye opener because women in my community began to understand that as daughters, we are entitled to also inherit our fathers’ property. Even my husband has understood that women should have entitlement; as he will share his property among all our children irrespective gender. We are still advocating for widows to inherit their husbands’ property and gradually we will succeed because it is in the interest of peace, harmony and development in the society.”
Re-echoing this position, a Professor of Law, Dakas Clement Dakas SAN said any culture that excludes women/girls in sharing family inheritance is “punitive and uncivilized” and perpetrators of the negative culture and custom should be punished by civil authorities.
In his lecture at the University of Jos 31st and 32nd combined convocation, he noted, “A custom of this nature in the 21st century societal setting will only tend to depict the absence of the realities of human civilization. It is punitive, uncivilized and only intended to protect the selfish perpetration of male dominance which is aimed at suppressing the right of the womenfolk in the given society.
“This practice, I dare say, is a direct challenge to God the Creator who bestows male children only; female children only [as in this matter], or an amalgam of both males and females, to whom He likes. He also has the sole power to make one barren. Discrimination against women is not inherent in biological differences between the sexes but predicated primarily on social construction of roles and stereotypes that are, in turn, rooted in and perpetuate the economic disempowerment of women.
“Accordingly, consistent with its obligations under the Nigerian Constitution, CEDAW and related instruments, Nigeria must, in practical terms, make concerted efforts to end all forms of discrimination against women. Consistent with section 12 of the Nigerian Constitution, Nigeria needs to domesticate all regional and international instruments on the rights of women to which it is a party, such as CEDAW, in order to bolster the municipal legal framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of women.”