By Aminu Mohammed
It is no longer a secret that we have many single ladies and divorcees in search of elusive husbands to marry in the North. This has become worrisome not only to the women but their parents, who are tired of seeing them at home. The increasing incidence of poverty and idleness among our women may not be unconnected to a lack of skills and capital to embark on a meaningful trade or vocational training. Most women in the North are further impoverished following the death of a husband or incapacitation due to the loss of a job. In some instances, the family suffers if the breadwinner becomes sick over a long time.
Although appreciable progress has been made in increasing female enrollment in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across Northern states, even at that, the region is lagging in terms of education. We still have a highly marginalised segment of the society peopled by an armada of illiterate and disempowered women.
Have we bothered to question the rationale behind the increase in social vices, especially sexual immorality, in our society? Have we pondered the root cause of poverty and inequality in our midst? Do we still think that poverty is spiritual and caused by our actions and misdeeds? The fact is that we have marginalised our women and do not see the need for them to excel and go after their passion and dreams. Instead, we believe that women should just stay at home and take care of the kids while the man goes out to look for means of sustenance.
It is pertinent to note that parents spend a lot of money preparing for their daughters’ marriage ceremonies by buying all sorts of assorted kitchen wares and household items without prioritising the education and empowerment of their daughters. Many parents do not see the need for their daughters to have the requisite training or education to become self-reliant. That is why most women in the North become a burden to society in the case of divorce or the death of a spouse.
Have we asked ourselves why we have so many idle women living in squalor and deprivation due to divorce or the death of a spouse? What can we do to empower our women so that they can live meaningful lives and achieve their dreams? Most of these idle women have goals, dreams and innate talents that could be harnessed for societal progress. Of course, cynics and chauvinists may argue that women are fickle-minded and should not be allowed to chart the path to self-reliance. This is due to fear that they may not be submissive to their husbands. However, that is not always the case in concrete terms.
Of course, I believe in female empowerment for societal development, even though I am sceptical about the feminist utopia. However, I am indeed aware that an empowered girl-child through education and vocational training is a pride to her parents and the community. Thus, an empowered woman will ensure an excellent educational upbringing for her children.
I believe that parents should focus on allowing their female children to acquire vocational training and practical skills before marriage to support their families in one way or the other. The focus should not be only on marriage rites and traditional practices, to the detriment of her future wellbeing. The clothing materials, especially “lefe” and many boxes of clothing materials that we dissipate energy in gathering for the wedding activities, will never translate into wealth in concrete terms.
Parents should realise that marriage is not a poverty alleviation scheme and that giving away their daughter to a rich person does not guarantee her happiness. Some families even go to the extent of incurring colossal debt to procure the needed wedding materials to impress relatives, friends, and society, which leads to anguish and regret.
I must reiterate that disempowered women are a burden to society. Therefore, I believe that skill acquisition programmes should be inculcated in our women, especially those who are not fortunate to acquire tertiary education. Of course, those with tertiary education should also learn entrepreneurship to fend for themselves due to the limited job opportunities in the country.
Islam does not prohibit women from education, mercantilism and trade. Even the prophet’s wife, Khadija (RA), was an independent woman and a merchant. So, there is no basis for the argument that women should be locked at home without any meaningful enterprise only to serve as a tool for satisfying their husbands’ sexual needs.
It is not enough to marry off your daughter to a man without adequate skills for survival. Parents who do not see the need to educate their female children should make sure that they acquire a vocational skill or trade before marriage. This ensures their economic survival in case of a spouse’s death or loss of job. We cannot run a society where a large segment is marginalised and lack the wherewithal to participate in any meaningful economic activity. That will not augur well for the progress and development of the Northern region.
Aminu Mohammed is at the school of Sustainability, Christian- Albrechts- Universität zu Kiel, Schleswig Holstein, Germany. He can be reached via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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