All about #TheOtherRoom and a glass ceiling

A few months back, I applied for a position at an N.G.O. that was focused on gender equality (PS: I wasn’t successful) and during the interview process, it was clear to see that why they had decided to take on the task of social re-engineering and educating people on the equality of the sexes. A complex mix of social, historical and economic factors have shadowed the issue of gender roles in the Nigerian context as cultural and religious interpretations have been used to undermine the development of the girl-child.

The recent comments of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, during a news briefing in Germany during a State visit in October has sparked a huge debate on political as well as gender divides.

I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and … the other room

He was credited with the statement in response to a BBC Africa interview his wife, Aisha Buhari, had, in which she expressed dissatisfaction with the current running of her husband’s administration, claiming that if things continue as it were, she would not be making a move for Aso rock come 2019.

Some believe that this gaffe by the President should have been handled in a more measured manner given that 2016 is turning out to be a year for women (Hillary Clinton, Teresa May, Dilma Rouseff, Shamma Al-Mazrui) and yet some believe in the ‘hocus-pocus’ of voodoo and African spirituality as the culprit for such moves by Mr. Buhari.

Back to women; right now, they make up more than fifty percent (50%) of the world population (which in turn means electorate), they perform two-thirds of the work and receive one-tenth of the world’s income. The United Nations Gender Inequality Index is based on the premise that “all too often, women and girls are discriminated against in health, education and the labour market with negative repercussion for their freedom.” In Nigeria, the world’s seventh most populous country, women account for forty nine percent (49%) of the population i.e. about 80.2 million people, with just four percent (4%) as against seven percent (7%) for males, have a higher education.

Mr. Buhari’s response has been viewed as unguarded and pushing forth a stereotype especially in Northern Nigeria that women are solely relegated to domestic duties. Already, the office of the first lady in Nigeria is unconstitutional and apparently there is no effective communication on what role (either supportive or not) Aisha Buhari plays (asides being an unofficial lobbyist and diplomatic personnel).

Given the release of 21 out of over 200 girls abducted by the extremist group, Boko Haram, one would have expected that the on-going narrative of the head honcho of the Africa’s giant, would be that of affirmative action in securing the release of the remaining girls and appreciation of the support from the international community. As President Buhari further expressed his superiority over his wife and political adversaries, one questions what the work of his media aides are? Not too long, the President was called out for plagiarism at the #ChangeBeginsWithMe campaign.

Apparently aware that Mrs buhari had granted such an explosive interview in which she expressed her concerns (democratically so), the President was obviously expected to be prepped — there is chatter on whether the ego of the President was bruised and decided to burn his wife (which he could have done so at home but not on the international scene)

President Buhari’s comment has made the hashtag #TheOtherRoom trend on twitter with many asking what the other room is??

Mrs Buhari’s comment has set the tone on freedom of expression (probably out of frustration) and a much needed voice in the dynamic sphere of emerging democracies across the African continent.

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