Mrs. Omoye Percy is from Edo State but lives in Elele, Rivers State. She used to be a full time housewife before Nigeria entered an economic recession characterized by rising costs of goods and services and not much money in circulation since 2016.
Today, she sells children’s clothes and shoes at the popular Elele Market after persuading her husband to rent a shop for her there and to give her some money with which she travels to Aba in neighbouring Abia State to buy goods to resell.
What informed her decision to start working?
“My husband is the type that believes women should not work but take care of the kitchen and ‘the other room’. As soon as the recession started, however, he changed his mind,” she said adding that “now the entire family’s needs are not met by him alone. I support him in my own little way.”
Mrs. Percy is not alone. Another lady- Mrs Ruth Onyia -is busy submitting her curriculum vitae to anyone she feels could help her get a job- any job at all.
“The recession is really biting hard. My husband said I should resign my appointment with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Lagos when we got married fifteen years ago but now, he is even helping me to look for a job personally due to the recession,” she said.
The GbaramatuVoice decided to get the views of some opinion leaders on the issue of whether women should work and support their families.
One of those interviewed is the king of Igwuruta kingdom- HRH Eze Samuel Wekhe.
He said:” Women working and supporting their families should be encouraged. It did not start today. In the olden days, they supported their husbands on the farms to plant crops like maize, cassava and vegetables while the men took care of the yams and so on. They also helped in selling the fishes brought home by the male folks in the island communities where the people were predominantly fishermen,” he explained adding that no part of the Rivers peoples’ culture prevented women from working.
Also commenting on the issue was a clergyman and medical doctor-Rev. Abraham Olungwe. To him “women should work. Even in the Bible, God referred to the woman as a ‘help meet’. Also, Ruth went to work on a farm to be able to meet her needs and, from there, she met her husband so it is not a new thing. The reality of the times we are living in is that all hands should be on deck to ensure the family survives the recession,” he stated while condemning the culture where a man will marry as many as four wives with none of them working.
Malam Sadiq Abubakar- a practicing Muslim and school proprietor took it up from this point. Hear him:” The Quran does not forbid women from working. Indeed, the Prophet Mohammed, may the peace of Allah be upon him, married a first wife who was a successful trader. So any Muslim, who tells you women should not work, does not know the Quran.”
What about the aspect that permits men to marry girls as young as nine “as long as they are menstruating,” he said this was no longer tenable in the light of modern day economic realities.
“Imagine one marrying four young girls-teenagers who should be in school- just because the Quran permits it. In fact, the Emir of Kano- Alhaji Lamido Sanusi- recently banned polygamy by poor men in his kingdom. I am sure this will spread to other areas gradually and, with time, become the norm. We cannot just go on interpreting the Quran to suit our carnal and selfish desires. Do you know, for instance, that whenever any of these men who engage in this condemnable practice die, the women they leave behind become destitute and willing tools in the hands of terrorists and criminals? The Emir of Kano said that much. My own wife works,” he concluded.
In order to get the views of another female on the issue, the GbaramatuVoice met a lawyer attached to the Relief Law Chamber in Port-Harcourt- Barr. Kelechi Okezie. Here is her response.
“Women should work. Any belief that goes contrary to this should be condemned totally. See how biting the current recession is. The cost of everything from foodstuffs to school fees and so on is rising so how can men be left to take care of all these alone?”
She queried adding that “for women to be able to perform this role well, the education of the girl child should be given as much priority as that of the boy child. If my father was the type that discriminates, I would not have been a lawyer today. I contribute to the upkeep of my immediate as well as my extended family just like any man does.”
Ekezie concluded by urging the government to give out soft loans to Nigerians generally and to women, particularly as a quick way out of the recession.
“From what I heard, some trillions of naira is in the treasury of the Federal Government. That is close to our budget for two years under the previous administrations not to talk of the looted funds the government is recovering left, right and centre. What is the government doing with all the money? Giving out soft loans, at this point, will go a long way to get us out of the recession in the shortest possible time.”