Women all over the world are choosing to break free of traditions. This is incredibly visible in Nigeria, where Esther Nenadi Usman has truly broken the mold. She stems from the state of Southern Kaduna, but grew up to be one of the most powerful women in the country. Senator Nenadi Esther is the former finance minister for Kaduna, showing that part of Nigeria that women have a voice, and a right to express it.
Not only is she the former economic and financial minister, however, she is also changing the country on a domestic level. Born Esther Nenadi, she married Mr. Usman, a man of Muslim faith. Becoming Esther Nenadi Usman meant engaging in an interfaith marriage, therefore, something almost unheard of in her community.
Women like Esther Usman are now taking up important economic, social, and political positions, and they should. What Nenadi Esther aimed to achieve is to show that what matters is excellence, not gender. This is something that has met significant opposition in Nigeria, which continues to be a very traditional country.
The Argument Against Equality
Many Nigerian men believe that there is equality between the genders. They do not question a woman’s intelligence, nor do they question her ability to achieve greatness. They simply feel that a woman’s greatness lies not in her “wearing the trousers”, it lies in her taking on the role of the carer. In fact, many men believe that this makes women superior to men, because they can have the intelligence of a breadwinner, but the caring heart of a homemaker as well.
Of course, women like Esther Usman completely disagree with this. They believe that a woman should be able to choose to be a housemaker, but that she should equally be able to choose to move outside of those traditional roles. Rather than arguing with people in high power, however, Nenadi is reaching out to the youths. It is no secret that there is, in fact, still significant inequality between the genders in Nigeria.
Every day, around 147 women die in childbirth or due to complications related to pregnancy. This is not because the Nigerian health care system is of poor quality. In fact, some of the world’s greatest and most respected doctors come from Nigeria. Rather, it is because women do not have as much access to health care. Many continue to live in rural areas, where it is all but impossible for them to access quality medical care during childbirth. This is very different from men, who can generally be transported during what are in effect routine procedures.
Similarly, women have poor access to education. Many schools have been started in Nigeria, ensuring that all young people can have an education. However, gaining vocational or academic skills is still something rarely accessible to young girls. This is what Esther Usman aims to change. She wants to ensure equal opportunities exist for young girls and boys alike, and that the next generation will therefore drive forward true equality.