Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gender, Socialization, and Violence – My Reflections

The socialization process in my immediate community is built upon a strong chauvinist tradition that has relegated women to the backseat in all spheres of human existence.

On a general note, while boys are trained from birth to aspire towards economic independence by acquiring academic and vocational skills, the girls are conditioned to prepare for a life of total dependency on the males, as full time, unskilled, uneducated, and unemployed housewives.

The average member of the society here holds the belief that the place of a woman is simply in a husband’s house, without much inclination towards empowering them with any occupational skill that could make them become productive members of the society. The only production they are seen to be fit for being only the production of babies!

This mentality leads to many families not inclined to put in much resources and effort towards educating the girl child. The enrolment rate for girls in schools is very low. Despite the fact that the last National census showed that the population of women is higher than men in Nigeria, more than half of the girls don’t get to acquire Secondary education. The main cause is because their education is not regarded as being important since they’d end up simply becoming housewives producing babies in some man’s house.

Girls thus conditioned to prepare themselves for life by learning to make themselves attractive to get a husband, do household chores and take of babies. Not much importance is placed on their schooling, the few who go beyond secondary school level have to work extra hard to survive in the male dominated and controlled schools.

Being so completely dependent upon the men folk and not equipped with much occupational skills to fend for themselves, many girls go through life silently enduring all forms of physical and psychological abuse in their husband’s houses.
They are usually married off at very early ages, sometimes as young as 12, thus they are often physically and psychologically not matured to handle the complexities of marital life. These girls are not able to do anything even if when faced with various kinds of abuse from husbands who see them as properties they acquired for their personal pleasures and to take care of their houses. The societal conditioning makes the girls themselves to simply accept all the abuse as being normal, they believe that is how it should be and that there is nothing that can be done to effect change!.

In many homes, their acceptance of tradition supported discrimination makes it a taboo for girls to aspire to higher education. Most girls end their academic pursuits at the primary school level or at best, the secondary school level.

There is a widespread belief among many people that if a woman is given access to higher education, she will not be humble and subservient to her husband as their perception of tradition requires.

The few girls who manage to go ahead to universities, polytechnics, or colleges of education mostly aren’t allowed free choices in their courses of study. Pressures from the home or from those around them condition them to go for ‘lady-like courses’. Though not officially acknowledged, the schools themselves seem to have an entrenched discriminative policy in place which places higher priority on admitting more boys than girls into institutions of higher learning.

My observation is that the girls grow up believing in and upholding the traditional view of their role being mainly limited to the domestic tasks. consequently, they tend to grow up accepting these false beliefs, and acting with the wrong conviction that they must tailor their values and attitudes to be in tune with the society’s expectations of them, even if it is dehumanises them!

Gender related violent crimes like rape and sexual harassment in schools and the workplace are bye products of the society’s definition of what the woman is.
The social stigma attached to rape makes most rape incidents go officially unreported. Many victims of gender related violent crimes simply suffer the physical and psychological trauma in silence. The few government agencies and Nongovernmental Organizations involved in women rights issues, are not well funded and equipped to carry their activities. And they laws of the land do have prescribe stiff penalties for gender related crimes even if perpetrators are convicted. Rehabilitation facilities are virtually nonexistent.

Though it is quite complicated and enormous, the task of effecting transformation has potential possibilities for achieving success. Many females have worked hard through the unfavourable system and made a success of their professional lives in diverse field, without in any way neglecting their roles as wives and mothers.
These women serve as role models whose achievements can be used to guide girls to see the possibilities that exist for them if try!

Viewing socialization as an ever evolving process, there is cause for optimism. The emergence of many women in leadership positions in diverse spheres of societal activity places them in position to make sure public policies are designed and implemented with due consideration for gender equality.

Currently, there are many serving female ministers in the Federal cabinet who have really proven to be equals (if not betters) of their male counterparts (Prof. (Mrs) Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i of Education and Dr Okonjo-Iweala of Finance are examples).
A host of other notable women are also holding top management positions in both the public and private sectors. The contributions to the national policy debates have in many ways being helpful in getting policies being designed and implemented with consideration for gender equality.

Most importantly, these women’s outstanding performances in their professions coupled with their proven moral integrity, is certainly having an affect on the societal perception of a woman’s worth and abilities. This will go a long way in changing the society’s perception of girls. Though it is a long process, it is one which is sure to make a change as time goes by.


  1. Ibrahim,

    It's encouraging to hear that there are some women who are able to break out of the traditional role of only being a housewife and mother. It is a start and hopefully they are doing whatever they can to better the lives of women.

    I think everyone wins if all members of society are treated fairly and equally. However, sometimes it is difficult to convince people of this idea.


  2. Gwen,
    I agree it is sometimes hard to get some people to agree.
    It sometimes has to do with inferiority complexes or sociocultural upbringing.
    But it is glaring, an educated woman is more likely to be a good wife and mother than a stark illiterate!


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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.