If I have the power to change Hausa community, the first thing I will command is for all women to break the stereotypical limitations on their path and be themselves. Yes, majority of girls in my community, at least from the ones I know, have the common problem of dancing to the tune of the society which is usually in conflict with what they actually deserve. It is nevertheless the same case with boys, but the stereotypes, being patriarchal, hardly affect boys in a negative way. To highlight just one of the issues, let me explain what I observed about the behavior of our girls in colleges and universities.
Our girls grow up with the belief that going to the university is some kind of retention before getting married so they spend more of their time there on courtship than on academics. An average Hausa girl would have more than two male friends (who are somewhere in between boyfriends and normal friends) while in her teens. In fact they compete in having the highest number of male friends. A girl is considered unattractive and of lower class among her peers when she has none. That in itself is a big challenge to her academic performance. The setting is like this: our girls compete among themselves on possessing ostentatious items such as clothes, electronic gadgets and cosmetics which are hardly attainable with the money from their parents alone. They therefore depend on such friends to buy these things for them. Fortunately for the girls, the society also raised boys with the idea that they are in charge of taking care of ladies they are in a relationship with. It doesn’t matter if the boys are being supported by their parents themselves (which is often the case) or not. They get a monthly grant from their parents, be rest assured that boys in relationship (s) will spend at least one third of it on their female friends.
As one would expect, the boys who spend on ladies would expect something in return. The least and the most detrimental is keeping the boys company or speaking to them on phone whenever they so wish. Some of my friends think I am missing the point when I argue that speaking with a girl on phone for the whole night or some part of the night while in school is irrational and purposeless. As we are in school, I would rather spend the time with her studying than denying myself sleep only to speak on mundane things.
Now where am I heading to? Remember majority of the girls (the campus hot chicks) have multiple male friends, which means allotting time for every guy who in most cases is from different faculties, meaning the meeting is never for studies. If male friend X calls asking for a date, she has to remember to give him time she hasn’t given friends W, Y and Z. That happens all the time, all the week, all semesters. I forgot to mention that there are usually outside boyfriends or suitors (the sugar daddies) with whom she must also deal with. She ended up with little or no time for studies.
When you try to advise a girl to loosen up on friendships and concentrate more on academics, she tells you that she has to do it in order to find someone to marry after graduation (or even before, who cares?). To her, marriage courtship is like contract bidding: you consider multiple tenders and then choose the best one at the end. It would have been better if the bidding system in this case is chosen to be a closed one so that the bidding time is kept to minimum. That is regrettably not the case. It is public tendering: all parties are invited and the almighty client has time to screen them all. After all, girls’ parents have counseled them that it is not good to reject any person who declares his love to you.
What their parents failed to tell them is that being financially dependent on someone opens the road to exploitation. It is human nature to feel indebted to people we receive from sometimes without even being conscious about it. A friend of mine, Rango, narrated to me a drama he witnessed when he accompanied his friend to see a lady at their school dormitory. The friend wanted to take the girl out but she happened to have a test the following morning. She was begging him to allow her attend tutorial class that night because she hadn’t prepared sufficiently for the test but he didn’t want to listen. Rango had to intervene before the girl was allowed to attend the class. She thanked him for the intervention as she wouldn’t have had any choice but to go out with the guy.
Stories of that nature are very common in our community. Worst that could happen, which does happen, is for the girl in such relationship to be lured into sex against her will or even be raped. These are kind of rape cases which are rarely reported. Although there are many other factors that contribute to raped women’s silence, I believe being less dependent would reduce the rapist’s chances and give the raped more courage to take necessary action.
Most men don’t want to marry self-reliant women because they are a threat to their patriarchal dominance. The best way to deal with such men is for all women to be educated and be self-reliant so that they can also exercise their full right on choosing partners and how to live with them. Forget about men’s ego, just build your self-esteem and let them know that you can do it on your own.
If male students in school can do part time jobs or take loans to support themselves, then why not you? Trust me you have all it takes so don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You just need to break the stereotypical chain around your ankles and wrists and be yourself. If anyone should take credit for your progress apart from yourself, let it be your parents. In that way, men would have no choice but to allow you be the person you want to be.
Written by Sadah