To Be A Woman: Get A Husband

To Be A Woman series: Part 1

This new series is about what makes a ‘woman’ in Nigeria.  Interestingly, it has absolutely nothing to do with age: a 17-year-old can be classed as a woman while a 22-year-old is seen as a girl, or the slightly elevated rank of lady, but not a woman.  Attaining womanhood all has to do with meeting three essential criteria: get a husband, push out living children, keep your family in one piece.

Once, I was chatting with someone and he referred to me as a woman. He quickly apologised and corrected himself, saying, “Sorry, you are a lady”.  I was rather confused and asked him, “Wait a moment, am I not a woman? Or what do I look like to you?” Thinking he was trying to be legalistic, I continued, “My 18th birthday was quite a few years ago now. I am a full grown adult”.   He replied, “Women are married”.  I was ready to slap him.  My right hand was spread out, prepared to smack him back to the 1700s.  It’s just the boundary of WhatsApp that saved him.

160605_woman pounding_ILRI_flickr
Source: ILRI, Flickr

I am maddened by this whole girl-lady-woman thing; but after eight months in the country, I am accepting the fact that I may never be honoured with the title of ‘woman’, as I am indifferent to the idea of me getting a husband and would prefer not to have children (more on this in the next couple of weeks).  Yet, I can’t help but marvel at the ordeal to Nigerian womanhood and respect.

Whatever gender you are, you may accomplish so much and become something but you’ll never be a full human until you acquire a spouse.  There is just something about having another person on your arm that makes you seem complete and attain society’s approval.  You don’t even have to love the person.  Marriage has nothing to do with love; it is simply a rite of passage that every respectable person must go through.

While it is essential for a male Nigerian to establish an independent life and self-attained sustenance before he gets married, it is not so for a female.  It’s not necessary for her to be earning money or have a vehicle before she gets married.  In fact, males tend to find self-reliant females unattractive and mothers are often disapproving of their daughters owning cars, as it may put off potential suitors.

You have to be found.  You can’t go looking.  If you’re in your late thirties and still unmarried, perhaps you were not worth finding.  Last year, I heard of a well-to-do ‘lady’ up north who was so tired of waiting to be found that she placed an advertisement on a radio station for a husband with a cash reward attached.  Needless to say, she was soon betrothed.

Marriage is when a female discovers her worth.  Feel free to calculate your bride price at , where you’ll be issued a certificate showing your monetary value.  Check out mine below.

160605_Bride Price Certificate
I am worth N371,500 (£1,285). This amount is payable to my parents by the hypothetical groom.

My price is most likely going to plummet in the next couple of years because being overeducated downgrades a female’s worth.  So, it’s best to get married before you achieve a doctorate or you’ll be too clever for a husband.  Besides, smart women are known for wanting less children…



Image|Source: DFID, Flickr



  1. I laughed while reading this, because a few weeks ago a male colleague and I got into a discussion about this.

    He mentioned that he’d gone out for a meeting to see a lady at her office, then he proceeded to say “Sorry, I meant to say ‘woman’, she’s married and so she’s not a lady. A lady is a single female”

    I decided to school him by consulting google, the term “Lady” is simply a polite way to refer to a woman.

    The girl-lady-woman thing is a classic case of when semantics are used in cloaking societal expectations and validations.

    PS: The bride price app is hilarious. 😀


    1. Thank you very much for your comment! From the lack of responses, I was beginning to think it was all in my head. I’ve heard what you described a number of times.
      You know, in actual fact, the words (girl, lady or woman) don’t bother me. It’s the lack of respect for being in the lower ranks that gets to me. Unmarried females, whatever age, are constantly belittled.
      Come to think of it, what about the 45 year-old who has never been married? Is she a lady or a woman? What is the cut-off age?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You nailed it! It’s not the derogatory name-calling and snide remarks that actually gets to me in our society. It’s the assumption by some that there must be something wrong with you. Also the veiled insults from younger married ladies who seem to expect a certain kind of “respect” even from women older than them. Simply because they’re married and you aren’t. This attitude usually springs forth after glancing at one’s ring finger. What a mind-set! Thanks for sharing- author. You made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

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