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Everyday sexism: What’s it really like #BeingFemaleinNigeria?

01 Jul

Young women pose during Lagos Carnival 2012. How much do their lives differ from their male counterparts?

In her famed TEDx talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie tells the story of the first time she was called a feminist, at age 14, by a male friend.

“It was not a compliment. I could tell from his tone. The same tone you would use to say something like: you’re a supporter of terrorism,” she said, later adding:

“Some people will say a woman is subordinate to men because it’s our culture. But culture is constantly changing.”

Adichie has used her pen and her platform to talk about the struggles of Nigeria’s women and on Tuesday, 30 June, young Nigerians began doing the same… in 140 characters.

It all started when Florence Warmate’s book club read Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘, the published version of her TEDx talk.

“We were discussing the book, started talking about our own experiences and thought we should take this to a larger audience.”

Eschewing their Whatsapp group, they decided to post a tweet using the hashtag #BeingfemaleinNigeria during their lunch break. At the time of publishing, the hashtag has been used 17,000 times. The tweets mostly focus on instances of sexism and discrimination that Nigerian women experience on a daily basis. Other tweets underscored the patriarchal nature of Nigerian society. Refreshingly, men have also taken to the hashtag. Some of the tweets can be read here

The hashtag came under some early criticism for focusing too heavily on negative experiences, but Warmate and her fellow book club members are adamant that campaign is about raising awareness, not perpetuating negative stereotypes.

“We realized even among our friends and male counterparts that they were not aware of our struggle. This is why we just thought to put it out there,” says Warmate.

But what can a hashtag do to change views and values that are centuries-old? Not much, admits Warmate.

“It is culturally engrained,” she acknowledges, though she adds that doesn’t mean gender inequality in Nigeria shouldn’t be called out.

“Society expects us to hide our success…men must respect our achievements,” she says.

Culture may not change overnight but what is certain is that by the time the Abuja-based book club meets next month, there are likely to be a whole lot more members.

What are your experiences of being female in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa? Tell us in the comment threads below.

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Opinion

 

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