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Being a girl child in a typical Nigerian household

Being a girl child in a Nigerian household is not easy. You’re groomed to always be on your best behaviours, there’s no room for mistakes…

Being a girl child in a Nigerian household is not easy. You’re groomed to always be on your best behaviours, there’s no room for mistakes or compromise. Daily Trust on Sunday spoke to a few women on what it means to be a girl child in a typical Nigerian household.

Although some cultures idolize the boy child, especially when they are the first born, but the girl child is still highly valued in the family and so much is expected of her.

The Nigerian girl child is taught and exposed to many values and behaviours right from a tender age. She is trained to be respectful, courteous, hardworking and responsible because she would one day become a wife and mother. She is saddled with a lot of responsibilities.

As a girl child, she is constantly reminded that she’s the pride of her family, and so cannot afford to disgrace her family or ruin her family’s name. She must always appear prim and proper, walk with head held high. In some homes, these cases are more severe if the girl is the only child or the first child.

Although in some families, children are treated equally, the case is always different for male children. Some of them are extended a certain level of grace if or when an offence is committed. They would receive less query/punishment from their parents as compared to what the girl child would receive if she commits the same offence.

Blessing Akan recalls that growing up, she was made to do all the chores while her brothers played around. She said she was always reminded by her mum that she was a woman and was responsible for the house.

“The way I was trained as compared to my brothers was tough. I ran all the errands in the house while the boys were told to focus on school and sports. My brothers became so relaxed and used to me doing things for them that they couldn’t even do things for themselves.”

“Little chores like making sure the house was neat, beds laid, breakfast made or at least the ingredients needed to cook had been set, all fell on me. Now, I have grown brothers who can’t cater to house chores except they have someone around them,” she added.

Blessing notes that growing up in such an environment made her see men as superior. She explains that “I never really understood the logic behind me doing the work and the boys relaxing. So, I began to see boys as some special kind of being or kings of some sorts because they relaxed while every other thing was handled by I and my mum.”

Another young lady who identified herself as Anita Chibueze said that being the first child and being a girl came with a lot of pressure. She mentioned that right from when she was young, she was advised by her mother to always be of good behaviour if not she won’t be found worthy for marriage.

“In my house, it was always, ‘clean up your room; a man cannot marry a dirty woman’, or ‘have you made food for the house, a man doesn’t like a woman who can’t cook’ or ‘don’t go out too much; a man likes a homely woman’,” Anita said.

According to Anita, she found the situation very annoying because as she did all the work, her brothers were either watching TV or playing video games. “I could be tired from handling so many chores and yet these boys would just be arguing about football or cartoons,” she said.

She also mentioned that even with academics, she had to push through to stay top of her class and even when her brothers failed, she wasn’t allowed to because they were supposed to look up to her and gain some form of motivation to do better.

Anita also explained that being the first child and being a girl can prove to be very difficult especially when you don’t have parents who are exposed to a different kind of mindset. 

“I personally feel like I grew up too fast. I was put through so many values and behaviours as a child which made me mature early. This is because I was reminded that I had younger ones who looked up to me, I wasn’t given room to make any mistake of my own rather I had to learn through the experiences of other, and I was also being heavily prepped for the future.”

“From an early age, I was going to the market. By the time I was in JSS3, I was able to go to the market and buy all my school essentials by myself. Meanwhile, I shopped for my brothers till they got to university. Not until recently did they learn how to cook because they eventually found themselves to be on their own,” Anita added.

Another lady, Tessy Agba, also mentioned that she and her kid sister weren’t given much leverage compared to her other siblings. She said in her family, girls were regarded as trophies of some kind so they were made to work harder and perform better than the boys.

She recalled that so many times she was caught engaging in a bad behaviour or rough sport of any kind, she was reminded that she wasn’t a boy and shouldn’t behave as one. “I could be riding bicycles with my friends in the compound and my mum would scream that I should come down before I injure myself meanwhile my brothers would be doing same and she won’t say a word.”

She also mentioned that certain times when she brought up the conversation with her mum about how the girls were treated differently from the boy, she would say to her; “As a woman, you’ll always be criticised and considered inferior, therefore you have to behave properly and excel in every area of your life and not give room for anyone to look down on you.

Tessy however acknowledged that the training and values instilled in her by her parents helped her become the woman she is today. She explained that “Because I’m the one who matured first and picked up so many responsibilities, my brothers and parents have more respect for me. They consider me to be very responsible and reliable.”

Mrs Agba, who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday, noted that she put so much pressure on her daughter to be on her best behaviour because she knows the world is harsh on women and wanted to create a girl who knew her value, worth and would come out facing the world head strong.

Mrs Agba added; “I don’t know about other mothers but I feel a deep sense of peace and joy when people applaud my daughters for their good behaviours. With boys, you can expect them to go astray and the public won’t be hard on them but its never the same with a girl.”

Mrs Amina Haruna, who has a girl child as her first child, noted that the issue wasn’t the pressure being put on girls rather the way the boys are treated as kings.

She mentioned that; “we are naturally taught as women to be submissive. A girl who grows up in a household where boys are treated differently as compared to girls, is bound to be overly submissive to any man she comes across because she would see them as superior.”

She further said that; “Even though I know my girl is supposed to head the chores and be responsible for the house, I also make sure my boys partake in house chores so they don’t grow up with the mindset that girls will always be subservient to them while they lazy around.”

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