Özgür TÜFEKÇİ and Mohammed HASHIRU

1 Introduction

Though it is common knowledge, Nigeria is highly characterised by patriarchy from time immemorial (Aina, 1998). Despite deliberate attempts by governments and NGOs, patriarchy appears to dominate all spheres of the Nigerian economy and politics, thereby only entrenching patriarchy in the state. Generally, the highest populated African state continues to define the roles and responsibilities of men and women as manual and domestic, respectively.

How to Cite:

TUFEKCI, O. & HASHIRU, M. (2021), How Patriarchal Power Structures Undermine Women’s Empowerment And Gender Equality: The Case Of Nigeria, In M. İnce Yenilmez and G. Ş. Huyugüzel Kışla (Eds.), The Economics of Gender Equality in the Labour Market: Policies in Turkey and Other Emerging Economies (pp. 238-254). London: Routledge.

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The nature of patriarchy in traditional Nigerian society not only paves the way for men to dominate women but also impedes the activities of women in formal and informal decision making, which further weakens women’s empowerment in the country. Evidently, women in the largest economy of Africa are not key players in political nor economic circles. It is a worrying phenomenon, especially now that women in leading economies have exhibited a significant level of ability in shaping political and economic discourses. A country which is a hub of African commerce continues to struggle to bring a significant number of women in the same round table with their male counterparts for decision making despite the constitutional provision of equal rights and privileges among male and female citizens. Patriarchy prevails amidst gross violations of women’s rights through domestic violence, female genital mutilation, among others. Politically, women have been relegated to political offices at the lower level, with an insignificant number of them occupying those spots.

Unlike previously written papers and articles on the subject matter, analytical examination in this chapter will be in the context of feminist theory of discrimination and constructivist theory of identity. Employing an interdisciplinary approach of secondary data analysis and literature review, this chapter is divided into three subsections with objectives of examining gender equality in Nigeria, assessing women’s empowerment attempts, progress and hindrances while juxtaposing them with the role of patriarchy in undermining them.

2 Theoretical framework

A theoretical appreciation of feminist theories with regards to discrimination against women will help to throw more light on the topic discussion. These theories take both economic and political shapes. In the realm of economics, feminists consider gender more than the study of women’s status, which is at the heart of analysis. Radical and institutional analyses explain that discrimination theory of feminists accepts that labour markets structure and other social and economic institutions inspire individual economic actors. Postmodern and socialist feminists have pushed for the recognition of power culture and ideology gender composition in addition to the systematic elements and material oppression of women which is frequently integrated into patriarchy theories. Gender theory emphasises the process by which social and economic institutions are shaped by gender (Figart, 2005: 513). According to Bergmann (1987: 145), feminist economists have a self-imposed task to produce the design for a future which is more equitable. Figart (2005: 513) defines discrimination as not a dummy variable. He mentions that labour market discrimination is a multidimensional economic, political, social and cultural forces interaction in both the family and workplace which results in differential outcomes involving status, employment and pay. In general terms, gender discrimination refers to a situation of unfavourable attitude, behaviour and treatment apportioned to either males or females as motivated by tradition and culture of a group of people. It explains the pattern of behaviour which is apparent in the belief and opinion of people regarding what the political, social, cultural, economic and religious mode of relations between women and men (Onwutuebe, 2019: 2).

Among the universal theories of discrimination among women in public spheres is the one developed by Sanday. She explains that women’s contribution to earning a living remains a major factor which determines their status. In performing its three functions – earning a leaving, protecting itself and reproducing – men exhausted their energy into earning a living and defending in the human community. This allowed them to have greater control over strategic resources. The overdependence of women on men to a larger extent resulted in male domination (Sanday, 1974: 190). In a nutshell, division of female and male activity is a major determinant of discrimination against women. This leads to the occupation of a lower position by women in both social life and in the labour market. Related to this universal theory is Sacks’ developed feminist socialist theory, which proves that handicapping women did not emanate from a private property because it is not all men that have such. Instead, employment given to men allowed them to work more often than women for privileged classes. A vast difference between public life and household life limited the duties of women to the household, and as women got excluded from social production, automatically their status waned as compared to men (Sacks, 1974: 208). Another theory is the patriarchy-capitalism theory which tries to bring together capital system analysis of Marks and Engels and patriarchy feminist analysis. With the aim of presenting class and gender divisions as a goal owing to the charges of destroying the unity of working-class movement and diverting attention from the conflict of the main class, patriarchy-capitalism theory explains the handicap of women in the capitalist system via the inconveniencing of women with housekeeping and gender professional segregation. Women’s production is therefore reduced by housework as lower salaries due to professional segregation increases the dependence of women on their husbands. This creates a vicious circle that makes it impossible for women to earn a higher salary and ultimately justifies such a division of household duties (Acker, 1988: 62).

A constructive framework, on the other hand, paves the way for a theoretical conceptualisation of the struggle of activism. The struggle of feminists situates power in social structures and pursues to fight this power. Against other universal theories of discrimination, this one emphasises that women are not necessarily powerless and can be made powerful through struggle. Prugl (1996: 16) maintains that constructivism views go with global governance. While realism emphasises on the international system structure and liberalism on actor agencies, constructivism involves both structure and agency. Under the impact of globalisation, sovereignty transformation has paved the way for women in the political space to turn into visible participants in the subjects of law and international relations (Sassen, 1998: 81). Sassen further argues that the critique of feminists’ sovereignty must be developed because globalisation creates loopholes for nonstate actors and subjects to participate. Women and other nonstate actors can access more representation in international law and as well contribute to its making in the circumstance where the sovereign state is no longer seen as the special representative of its population in the international arena. For instance, the Optional Protocol to CEDAW which allows complaints to be made with the UN against countries that refuse to protect the human rights of women. The Protocol makes it possible for a group or individual women to submit their violation complaints on CEDAW to the committee (Kardam, 2004: 103).

3 Gender equality in Nigeria


6 Conclusion

Going through the literature of PPS it is evident that this famous African adage – until the story of hunting is written by the animals too, the hunter would continue to be glorified by hunting tales – summarises the panacea. It means that until women who have not given in to a patriarchal psyche become exegete of religious verdicts, texts, societal norms and culture male exegetes shall continue to build on the PPS of the society in the name of God. This goes to reply the famous patriarchal argument that women do not need to lead in order to feel or be empowered when in essence the body of patriarchy, which shapes the power structure in the society, can do so owing to the leadership advantages their own structure continues to provide. Both Islam and Christianity, which are the leading religions in Nigeria, have been used by the PPS to further bring women under the control of men through the repetition of verses and their exegesis by the patriarchal exegetes who determine the meaning what God and His prophets’ decree for the society. Though these religions were alien to the lands of Nigeria, the culture and tradition of the land before the advent of Christianity and Islam seem to be mostly encouraging and supporting PPS even though women were actively instrumental in those times. It is these collective shapes, influenced by the religion, culture and tradition, that translate into the patriarchal political nature of the state. As evident is the poor performance of women in the most recent general elections held in 2019. The government of President Buhari appointed very few women in his government in the wake of several women among the least who contested but lost elections. Not only are women poorly represented in the highest political portfolios, but the same is the case in the local and national party positions. The violent elections in some areas that barricade many females who want to vie for political positions are largely perpetrated by men and have resulted in some women perceiving politics to be “dirty” and meant for only the masculine gender. The largely occupied masculine in the game of politics has also discouraged women who are nurturing political ambitions, and even if they do, they go in for less competitive positions where they end up not inspiring the massive representation of women because they are least represented in the party decision-making body. One of the effective solutions to this problem is, first and foremost, to identify and accept the problem itself. When people (women) toil to ensure that they get equity in every sphere of life, they show lackadaisical attitudes towards established policies to salvage them since the PPS is so deeply rooted in the society. The kind of epistemological orientation of these women is the one influenced by the PPS. Breaking away from the PPS epistemology would require a form of rigorous education of women on the need to survive a world without the PPS.


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