For Nigerian girls, education is the key that opens doors to progress
un article par Nnenna Agba, UN Women
I grew up in Nigeria, in a culture where bearing a son validates
a woman and her family, and a male innately holds the
superior position in society over a female. At 11 years of age, I
escorted my mother to deliver her fifth baby girl, my youngest
sister, and watched our mom die in the hands of an unfit
The author, Nnenna Agba
click on photo to enlarge
My mother had succumbed to the confines of her society;
even though she already had four healthy daughters, having a
son was a traditional standard she was determined to achieve,
even at the expense of her life. Realizing the underlying
factors that subjected her to such a predicament presented a
vivid picture of my position as a girl in Nigerian society.
Almost immediately, the importance of education took on a
different meaning in my life and in the lives of my four sisters.
I went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a
Master’s of Science in Urban Affairs. With my education, I have
been able to sponsor my younger sisters’ education in Nigeria,
thereby increasing our likelihood of having a progressive
future that far surpasses the traditional limitations defined by
For Nigerian girls like my sisters and I, education is the key
that opens the door when an opportunity to succeed beyond
customary expectations knocks. Education is a fundamental
right, to which I firmly believe we should be naturally entitled.
It is the only chance most Nigerian girls have to rise above the
cultural and traditional system of stratification that continue
to cast women as inferior to their male counterparts,
economically, politically and socially. Women who have been
able to escape such subjugation have done so mostly by being
empowered through education. A good education offers
Nigerian girls the opportunity of being valued members of
their society and for this vital reason I am devoted and driven
to ensure that my sisters continue with their studies.
For girls in Nigeria and around the world, education can
enable economic independence, pave the way for political
participation, and empower both men and women with the
necessary knowledge to actively and effectively oppose
oppressive norms that perpetuate different forms of violence
against women. And in contrast to the culture of gender
inequality that persists in Nigeria, education serves as an
avenue of exposure to a cultural alternative. Nigerian girls
stand to benefit from this exposure, and the possibility of
such enlightenment poses a major threat to extremist groups
such as Boko Haram.
Though we dream and yearn for the miracle of immediate
solutions, I know that change does not occur by magic, nor
does it take place overnight; rather it requires the dedication
of time and relentless collective effort. My mother’s death is a
product of unjust societal norms that facilitate perverse
gender inequality. A society’s customs are engineered by its
past generations, and in the same fashion its future citizens
can redefine the culture that rules them by cultivating a new
norm through education.
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(The following is continued from the main article listed above.)
I am an optimist and I believe it is possible to change the world, to better the status of women globally and particularly in places like Nigeria. This is not because I am naive or unaware of the shortcomings of many efforts to effect change. My optimism stems from a desperate place—a core belief that the world as a whole, leaders and citizens, must awaken to the urgent need to end injustice against women. For me, necessity and possibility have become synonymous because living with the consequences of gender inequality makes it all the more obvious that change is imperative.
While my heart bled over the sorrow captured in the “Bring Back Our Girls” cry for help, my mind desperately indulged in a renewed hope that Nigeria might no longer ignore the agony of women and girls. Unfortunately, it often takes the presence of pain to garner the passion of a nation to vehemently advocate for change and demand action by its government. Although Boko Haram is perceived as an opponent to progress, the greater obstacle lies in a broader reluctance to take action in protecting girls in Nigeria who simply want an education.
Nigerian girls, like my sisters and I, desire and deserve for our aspirations of becoming valued members of society to be realized. Education is the vehicle towards living this dream.
The author: Raised in Nigeria, Nnenna Agba gained popularity when she went on the widely watched television show America’s Next Top Model. . ... continuation.