The panel titled ‘Harnessing the Potential of Women in Northern Nigeria’ was a display of women power. This is a power panel. A panel of powerful women. When you have Aisha Umar, the relentless Saudatu Mahdi and Hauwa Shekarau on one platform and then you throw in Kadaria Ahmed with her masterful moderation then you have a feast. A feast of dissection, puncturing issues and finding loopholes and then stitching them all together to solve a jigsaw puzzle.
The panel began a little bit unassuming, but soon took shape of the fiery dragons of the panelists. It was a discussion of the choices of the northern woman, about her right to choose what she wants to be and not to be dictated upon. Every woman deserves the opportunity to an education.
Who is the typical northern Nigerian woman?
Hajiya Saudatu tells us that hitherto, during her own time, the typical northern Nigerian woman has reached her pinnacle when she is able to recite the first Juz’i of the Qur’an, that is just about 1/10th of the holy book, basically the equivalent of knowing ABCD and 1234. That is what is assumed to be the norm for a woman.
The northern woman is led to believe she can only aspire to be good in certain directions. Be a good wife and be a good mother. So it is a struggle to fit into these instances and be correct always. The northern Nigerian woman lacks exposure and opportunities.
What are the potentials of the Northern Nigerian Woman?
The potential of the northern Nigerian woman has no limits. But why does she not harness them? Our panelists raise the issues and give us the answers. Because she does not know her self esteem.
Women have power already and when you add the economic empowerment to that power in the ‘other room’, the combination is lethal, says Aisha Umar.
The average woman with education, exposure and opportunity, all this combined, the sky is only her beginning. However it is always a constant navigation of religion and culture.
To move forward our panelists suggested changing the nomenclature, to that of equal opportunities. Change the nomenclature from construction and deconstruction to negotiation and dialogue. It is worth noting, that the north is not monolithic, not just a single entity, it is a complexity of different cultures and religions, however no matter the religion or culture the main issue is patriarchy, and that needs to be navigated through constant education and communication.
How do we navigate?
We have to popularize this negotiation practically and make it widespread through education. The northern woman is not always illiterate. Many are lettered in Arabic, hence are not really illiterate. So it’s a matter of education as well as behaivioural change and creating more and more awareness and upping the psyche.
Practically also, using the tool of legislation, which unfortunately the politicians are not courageous enough to stand up to. It is unfortunate that the legislative system has no room for women who are abused and sent out of their matrimonial homes at 2am.
Our power panelists concluded: If I see it a right to educate my daughter, then I also have a responsibility to that girl in the rural side of Dutsinma. A responsibility to expand the education line. Men must also take responsibility. We need male gender champions, to help women continue to organize and not agitate.
I am not giving room for he who does not like me to continue to dislike me. I am giving room to the person who does not understand me, who has refused to see what God has provide in me, who has refused to harness the resources that God has placed in me. ~ Saudatu Mahdi.
Written by Sada Malumfashi