the northern Nigerian town of Kano, women activists say the major issues
hindering women's development are poverty and lack of a good education. Since the mid-1980s, some state
governments in northern Nigeria began offering free education for girls up through secondary school. In other states,
it was made an offense not to educate a girl. But women's rights
advocates say those guarantees are not always enforced, and girls continue to
lag behind boys.
Bello is the national coordinator of a local NGO called Adolescent Health and
Information Project. The group is funded by a number of partners, including the European
Commission, USAID and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. She says, "Education is a major issue that
needs to be addressed in northern Nigeria. The education that is being promoted
should be really re-visited and especially for the women folks, because a good
majority of our women in northern Nigeria are not educated." Feminists
note that most girls drop out of school.
In some cases their families encourage them to marry; in other cases
they look for work. Some sell home-made
foods during the day and attend Koranic classes in the evening.
who complete secondary school find it harder than men to find jobs or go to the
says women would benefit from receiving both western and Koranic
educations. She says religion teaches
morals and ethics. But western education
teaches science, technology and logical approaches to problem-solving. These,
she says can help women get white collar jobs. "These two complementing each
other will empower any individual to attain greater heights in life."
says illiteracy will be reduced if both forms of education are encouraged. She says the Koran is sometimes interpreted
in ways that lead to the subjugation of women, "People
interpret it [the Koran] depending on their needs or when they need it to do
certain things or to suppress certain rights. This is not right. "
says such incorrect interpretations make it harder for women to enter politics
or find employment, which would give them independence and economic
also says one way forward is for people to begin to change their narrow
attitudes towards women. For example,
she says the Koran allows both men and women the right to a good education, but
many families focus on boys rather than girls.
Ibrahim is a journalist and a director at Kano State Radio Corporation. She
agrees with Bello that women need good educations for their own benefit and so
they contribute to national development, "There is abject poverty and as a result of that, women are deprived of
many things, including education. So issues to do with women rights, basic
necessities of life are very difficult for women to accomplish because of their
says the rate of poverty is more in the rural areas where tradition encourages
women to limit themselves to petty trade, like preparing cooked foods that
girls hawk to make money for the family.
says mistaken views of women make it hard for them to take part in politics at
both the state and federal levels. So they can't play more than a minor role in
administration, science and technology and politics. Ibrahim calls these "problems
of gender imbalance" and says society must solve them in all fields, including education,
politics and employment.
women to progress honestly we [the government] need to empower them, we [the
government] need to make sure that women can stand on their feet to look after
their children with or without their husbands, she says.
says to empower women, the government
must do more to make sure that girls stay in school and that most of them find
may be slow going, but Ibrahim welcomes what she calls the current social
revolution, with more girls staying in school and even going to the university.