Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman: A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants

Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman; A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants
Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman; A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants

Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman: A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants


Abstract: This study examined Re-Defining the Image of Nigerian Woman: A Case Study of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants. In 1835, Auguste Conte, in his treatise on The Positive Philosophy, stated that “the essence of God’s wisdom in creating Eve (woman) was not to undermine Adam (man) but to establish a balancing force between the creator and the created.It is, therefore, a truism that a woman is, by the very fact of her creation, a partner of man. It is unfortunate that the men folk have seen it fit to relegate women to an ignominious position.

However, in an effort to redeem the situation, women have awakened themselves to the self-realization that they can, in the essence of their being rise up to any occasion just as their male counterparts can. Thus women in Nigeria have risen up to the protection of their rights and the advancement of their desires.

Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman: A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants

Today, women in Nigeria are engaged in all endeavours of life; there are women in the academics, women in the professions and women in artisanship. Women in Nigeria, just like women in other parts of the world are re-defining their functions and, by extension, re-moulding their status. In these modern days, there are women presidents, prime minister, engineers, pilots etc. indeed, the Nigerian women have made significant advances in redefining their image.



1.1 Background to the Study

Womanhood (feminity) is not just an expression but a reality; a woman is created by Almighty Allah just as a man is; she is subject to the commands of Allah and his Prophets in the same ways as a man is. Almighty Allah declared to Adam that:

“O Adam, dwell, you and your (wife) in paradise and eat there from … (Surah 2 al Baqarah).”

It means, therefore, that women have originally been made as (mates) for men as opposed to slaves or chattels. A woman is a help mate to the man for her position is not that of an underling in the family but a participating member upon whose shoulder rests equal responsibilities as the man bears.

In years gone by, some ancient civilizations used to be of the misconceptions that women were vessels to be used and dumped at will; that a woman’s place was defined solely by her ability to keep the house, bear children and bend to her husband.


A woman is unfortunately defined in context rather than in natural personality; a woman, unlike her male counterparts, is not assigned her in alienable right as a natural person when she is being spoken about. It is common to hear men (and even some women) speak about women as an “item” rather than a personality. This is done in the grave misconception that a women has no individual right to occupy a meaningful pride of place in society.

In the traditional African society and e ven in some western countries of the world, a woman is seen to be a chattel and a house-keeper rather than an equal. In fact, women used to be seen as properties and indeed, in some communities, women could (and still can) be inherited just like other pieces of furniture and other belongings; it is known that in some communities sons used to inherit their late fathers’ youngest wives while brothers could inherit their late brothers’ wives (Kisseica, 1981) 13

Even up to these modern times when sophisticated modes of civilization causing waves of significant and laudable changes in society, some African men are still of the mistaken belief that a woman is theirs to use in whatever manner and to dump when their usefulness has exhausted.

The most disturbing issue in this matter of the obscurity of the image of women ideas the fact that the women themselves used to subscribe to the misconception that Almighty Allah created women not as helpmates to men but as the property of men. In the years gone by men could just go out and ‘acquire’ women when they felt like it and such women would passively succumb to the acquisition.

Often, in many communities in Nigeria double standards are set at the expense of women. There are certain beliefs and practices held by communities which the men folk can breach but a woman dares not even think of it. In such communities, a woman is severely punished if she dares to greet a man on the street even if he is her relation; childlessness in marriage is considered to be the sole curse of the wife who may be call as a witch, or any such worse name; the man is completely absolved of 14 any blame when his wife fails to bear a child even though the man may be at fault. There were certain jobs and tasks which were seen to be as the exclusive prerogative of the men folk; in as important a social endeavor as education, the female gender has been marginatlised so much so that today the ratio of men to women in the filed of education is as colossal as 10:3 – you would find then (10) educated men before you would find three (3) educated women.

In many ethnic groups in Nigeria, a woman is worth only what her husband and his family ascribes to her. Among the Kofyar people in Plateau state, a woman is supposed to be responsible for the whole household – she feeds, clothes and provides for the children. The only responsibility of the husband is to provide accommodation and children for the woman (Simmonds 1992).

It is an unimpeachable truth that until recently; a woman was derived any chance that would be her own woman-she was prohibited from asserting her right in any manner whatsoever; it was a taboo for a 15 woman to express an opinion in the presence of men folk because she was thought to be without the faculty of reason. Indeed, the woman was perceived to be lacking in such hereditary factors like intelligence, physique and temperament which interact with social and cultural environment to produce a unique pattern of characteristic thoughts, feelings and actions that combine to constitute a distinct, individual personality (Kisserca, 1981)

Womanhood is symbolic of tenderness, love, kindness and compassion but, unfortunately, the men folk used to perceive these glorious qualities as weakness. The greater love that a woman showed to her fellow human beings, the weaker she is seen to be; the more compassionate that a woman bestowed on humanity, the more foolish she was thought to be. Thus, in spite of shared socio-cultural values, beliefs and practices with men, the woman used to be taken as only a shadow of the men folk (Simmonds 1992)

The culture and traditions of some ethnic communities in Northern Nigeria have stringent restrictions where the women folk is concerned. In 16 some communities, women are completely without individual identity. The woman is not allowed to inherit any item of her dead husband’s, she cannot go out to seek employment but has to rely on and manage whatever is given out to her by her husband and master (Tahzib, 1983)

Generally, family life and organization used to revolve almost entirely around the man; even though the woman as wife bears the children and keep the home, she was of no significance; she could not think for herself nor for her children but if anything went wrong with the children or in the home the woman would be at the receiving end of the rebuke, admonishment and even the physical remonstration over the situation. As a matter of fact the status of women in Nigeria used to be an ignoble and harrowing one which gave rise to an image of them that was so indistinct as to be obscure.

However, fortunately for nations all over the world, this ignoble and un-redeeming image of women is now changing for the better. The men folk and their female counterpart have now awaken to the harsh reality that a woman is not a shadow but a real substance of bones, flesh 17 and blood who possesses a brain of the same size and function as the man; that a woman is also a glorified creation of Almighty God and so she deserves to enjoy all the rights and privileges which a man does. It has now come to the realization of the whole world that a woman is equally capable of attaining feats which were in there to felt to be the exclusive ability of men. Indeed, men have now come to accept the truth that if they are to achieve desired success in their endeavors, they have to carry their female partners along. The fact is that the image of women in the world in general and Nigeria in particular is now being re-defined.

The acquisition of modern education by and employment of women in the formal sector have necessitated radical changes in the functions which women now play in their homes as well as in the larger society. There is now a vast difference between the image of the Nigerian woman 25 years ago and the image of the Nigerian woman in the 1990s and the new generation.

Today, the Nigerian woman is not the sit-right house-keeper and bearer of children; she is no longer the dependant who subsists on the 18 meager offerings of her husband and master. The Nigerian woman is no longer the passive sufferer of insults and violence; she is now an inheritor rather than the inherited. The Nigerian woman has of recent redeemed her image; she has now begun to occupy her pride of place in society and gladly enough, the men folk has taken notice and accepted what is the women’s inalienable right.

By the very fact of the acquisition of western education by and formal employment of women, the economic state of the home has changed so much better that now families can now afford to eat and live more comfortably than it was before. Some misconceptions which used to be held by the larger society are now becoming extinct. The desire for a brood of children who used to be managed by the woman is no longer in fashion; since women also go out to work, fathers have found that they can no longer afford to have children with no one to look after them.

Modern trends which have been created by advances in science and technology have evolved what can best be described as a female headed households. A working mother now gets more recognition from 19 her husband and children because more often than not she pays of contributes a significant amount of house-keeping money and the children’s school fees;. Thus the working mother is now more visible and by implication more acknowledged than the husband (Tahzib, 1993)

The Nigerian woman of these days is economically viable thus being accepted in businesses, trades and other economic endeavors and this makes her socially recognized. Women were also contracted in marriage only for the two purposes of house-keeping and childbirth; it is now no longer so.

Women such as Indira Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and many others have played their roles in re-defining the image of women in the male dominated world by politics. In Nigeria we have such politiclal giants as NgoziOkonjo – Iweala, ZainabMaina, Diezani Allison Madueke in politics; Zaynab Alkali, Grace Alele-Williams, Esther Kwanashie in the academia; CeceiliaIbru, Hauwa Ismail, BolaladeAdesokan in commerce and industry. There are so many thousands of 20 women out there in Nigeria who are gallantly taking on the task of re-defining the image of women in Nigeria.

Re-Defining The Image Of Nigerian Woman: A Case Study Of Zainab Alkali’s The Descendants

1.3 Statement of the Problem

There is no gain saying the fact that women have been degraded to the position of inferior creatures to men. A woman’s voice is not given as much consideration as it should be; the personality of a woman is almost always taken for granted. In most situations, a woman is evaluated by her child-bearing status and/or her skills; she is not considered by being worthy of being assigned any communal or national responsibilities.

However, secularization trend and psychic mobility have promoted women (and even men) to redefine their image. Women have begun to adopt the attitudes that are changing their roles in their homes and the larger society. Communication technology has made it possible for women to imagine, see, hear or read about the activities of women in other nations. This has made women in Nigeria to sit up and re-awaken their sense of self-worth.

Women in Nigeria have come to the realization that they are no longer subservient to the men folk; they are now aware that, as creations of Almighty Allah, they also hold a pride of place as an integrate part of society.  In a general sense, women in Nigeria are now redefining their image in such a positive way that the men folk are taking notice.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.