The Culture Of The Preferred Gender Is Not Going Away
The year is 1990 and in a shared hospital room occupied by three women who all put to bed within minutes of each other, two women battle intense sadness and feelings of loss and failure. Two of the women just gave birth to their 4th and 5th female children. The third woman just gave birth to her 1st male child and looked happy.
Mary was one of the women in that room. Now a grandmother herself she recalls how difficult it was for women who didn’t give birth to male children and also lacked the support of their spouses. ‘I almost cried myself to death the night I gave birth to my 5th daughter, I even fell sick afterwards and struggled to love my daughters. I now know that it is not my fault that kept birthing girls and I am not incomplete without a male child’. 30 years later and not much has changed.
A Cultural History of the Female Gender in Nigeria
It is believed that over the years, gender segregation has been tolerated and assimilated by people and have become part of our people’s customs and traditions. We take a look at the historical perception of women examining three major ethnic groups in Nigeria;
In Igbo Culture
“The Igbos believe that gods, deities and ancestral spirits have control over the living and as such worship or reverence them. In religious matters, men play more significant roles than women. They perform rituals, make dedications, consult oracles, make sacrifices and pour libations while women devotees are involved in menial tasks of painting, decorating and beautifying the walls of the shrines,” Eunice U.Ibekwe writes in Gender Identity: A Force in Igbo Traditional Musical Practices.
In Things Fall Apart a book by Chinua Achebe, even the crops were gendered. An article, Essay on Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart writes, Coco-yams, beans, and cassava were “women’s crops”. Yam, the “king of crops”, was “a man’s crop.” In Umofia, all that is desirable and admired is associated with manliness. Anything demeaning or scornful is considered to be womanly.
In Igbo land, women do not inherit but can be inherited when their husband dies, sometimes by a man much older than them or younger than their children. Also, any man that dies without a son will have his property inherited by his brothers or uncles and his wife and daughters most likely thrown out of their own home even to this day.
In Yoruba Culture
Of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Yoruba culture is still regarded as far more mild and accommodating of female children. While a female still has some entitlement in Yoruba land, it is not usually equal to what a male gets, no matter how young he is. A proverb that expresses women being disadvantaged is Ai lokurin nile lobinrin njogun ada – the absence of male affords a female the opportunity of inheriting a cutlass. Cutlass as a farm implement is traditionally used by men. It symbolises power and the essence of survival. Therefore, for a woman to assume the mantle of leadership, the head of the household must be irresponsible, lazy, or dead. When this is not the case, women are understood to be substitutes. This is similar to Ti o ba nidi obirin ki ije kumolu– “A woman cannot be named Kumolu” for any reason. This name is given to men especially those who are potential leaders of their families. This confers much respect and dignity on them. It follows that where there are men, women are not reckoned with, the Journal of Pan African Studies notes.
In northern Nigeria, the major religion is Islam and Islam allows girls inherit properties. However, this region is equally bedevilled with the issue of a strong preference for boys, boys are seen are better income earners and more valued. Thus, the common phrase reflecting general attitude toward the birth of a girl-child is Ba a yi komai ba, mace ta haifi mace meaning that “nothing is gained by a female giving birth to a female.”
Girls are reared to be domestic caregivers and housewives and education is regarded as irrelevant as marriages are arranged between them and much older men for the financial benefit of their families. Only 31% of Northern girls are enrolled in primary school, this is less than half of the 77% of boys in primary school.
Gender Selection Chart
With its origin in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 AD), the Chinese Gender Chart or Birth Chart is widely used to predict baby’s sex. It is based on two elements: the mother-to-be’s lunar conception month and Chinese lunar age when the baby is conceived. If you are pregnant, with the help of the gender prediction calculation tool below, you could easily find out if you are carrying a boy or girl. If you plan to conceive a baby, it could guide you on the best time to get pregnant for preferred gender.
Nigeria is a deeply patriarchal society and this has left women still trying to negotiate their relevance in nation-building and even though in recent years we have seen more female participation n politics, technology, business and leadership. We now know that rapid economic development is dependent upon the elimination of gender bias. To move forward, certain beliefs must be changed about the value of girl children. We still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving equality of the sexes even in our own homes.