March 4, 2024

Economic violence: Nigerian women taking bolder steps

Economic Violence. Photo credit: YALI Network

Rosemary Eno was doing well as a wholesaler who supplied loaves of bread to small businesses but everything changed when her husband ordered her to stop the trade.

Eno’s husband was going to start a ministry and he needed her fully by his side. When she tried to reason with him on his directive, he threatened to take another wife who would be there for him if she disobeyed.

Scared of losing her marriage, the mother of four left her booming business and customers to start a new life with her husband who had no source of income.

Many years later, Eno regrets her actions.

“I wish I had let him take another wife. I wish I had continued with my business because there are times when I ask my husband for money to do some household chores and he would speak to me in a degrading manner,” she said, her eyes distant as if looking into the past.

Although she is no longer as agile as when she was younger, the mother of four is determined to start another trade whether her husband supports her or not. According to her, she is already saving for it and doing a market survey on what kind of business she can do.

The former UN Assistant Secretary-General and deputy executive director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, said violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive human rights violations occurring in the world.

According to Puri, research indicates that the cost of violence against women could amount to around two percent of the global gross domestic product.

The former deputy executive director stated that the negative impact on women’s participation in employment and civic life undermines poverty reduction.

Puri further explained that it results in lost employment and productivity, and drains resources from social services, the justice system, health-care agencies, and employers.

Currently, there is more research and awareness on gender-based violence but many are focused on the physical, sexual, and psychological indicators with little on economic violence.

According to the United Nations Fund for Women (1999), economic violence is when the abuser has complete control over the victim’s money and other economic resources or activities.

Research Gate explains that economic violence towards women occurs when a male abuser maintains control of the family finances, deciding without regard to women how the money is to be spent or saved, thereby reducing women to complete dependence for money to meet their personal needs.

It may also involve putting women on a strict allowance or forcing them to beg for money.

A few months ago, a young entrepreneur identified as Ifedayo Agoro, shared the story of her housekeeper Bukky Adegoke on Twitter. Adegoke earned enough to take care of herself but she barely enjoyed the fruit of her labour as her husband forcefully collects it.

Adegoke got a thorough beating and a black eye when Agoro refused to pay her salary into her husband’s bank account as he instructed. Even though Adegoke’s husband earned a good salary, he lavishes his money on alcohol and womanising.

Aware of the situation in her housekeeper’s marriage, the young employer came up with a plan.

“I split her salary in half, told her husband she’s lazy and I can’t continue to pay full salary for someone who’s lazy,” Agoro revealed.

She added: “I opened another account in my name, paid the remaining half of her salary and extra into the account and gave her the debit card to the account to do as she pleases. We did it that way until I was able to convince her to open her own bank account.”

One month, Adegoke decided not to give her salary to her husband and lied that she had not been paid.

“I’m done being gullible. We are going to live on his salary for five months just like we have been doing with mine. I also want to have some savings,” Adegoke told Agoro.

Like Adegoke, many Nigerian women suffer economic violence even though they work hard to make a living for themselves.

Many times on social media platforms, debates on whether women should submit their salaries to their husbands have been had. Sadly, many men still believe that they should have control over their wives’ salaries as they note that it shows total submission.

However, in the past few years, there have been a rapid change in the economies of women despite ingrained gender inequality. Increased awareness of discriminatory practices has prompted greater demand for change.

“I have four female children and I tell them that they must work. Not even their husbands will deprive them of that freedom,” Eno said with a determined look on her face.

This story was first published on Wellbeing women Africa and on Medium.

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