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 for 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 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 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 aggressions 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 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 Nigeria 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 extreme 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?
What is the role of the government in helping to improve the financial state of women to further reduce their risk of abuse?
How can women 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 per cent 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 cost.
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 attain financial equality?
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.