By Sola Abe

Florence[1] was doing well in her business as a wholesaler who supplied loaves of bread to small retailers, but everything changed when her husband told her to stop the business. 

Florence’s husband was going to start a ministry and he told her that he needed her by his side. When she tried to reason with him on his directive, he threatened to take another wife who would be by his side if she failed to stop doing her business. 

Scared of losing the father of her four children, Florence left her booming business and customers to start a new life with her husband who had no source of living. 

Many years later, Florence regrets her actions.

“I wish I had let him take another wife. I wish I had continued with my business because sometimes when I asked my husband for money to do some household chores, he would speak to me in a degrading manner,” she revealed.

Although Florence is not as strong as she used to be when she was younger, she is determined to start another business whether her husband supports her or not. She is already saving for it and doing a market survey on what kind of business she can do. 

According to UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive human rights violations occurring in the world.

Speaking on the Economic Cost of Violence against Women, Lakshmi Puri said that research indicates that the cost of violence against women could amount to around 2 percent of the global gross domestic product. She noted the negative impact on women’s participation in employment and civic life undermines poverty reduction. She went on to explain that it results in lost employment and productivity, and it drains resources from social services, the justice system, health-care agencies, and employers.

Currently, there is more research and awareness on gender-based violence but many are focused on physical, sexual, and psychological indicators and little on economic violence.

According to the United Nations Fund for Women (1999), economic violence is when the abuser has complete control over the victim’s money and other economic resources or activities.

Research Gate explains that economic violence towards women occurs when a male abuser maintains control of the family finances, deciding without regard to women how the money is to be spent or saved, thereby reducing women to complete dependence for money to meet their personal needs.

It may also involve putting women on a strict allowance or forcing them to beg for money

A few weeks ago, a young woman identified only as Ife, shared the story of her housekeeper on Twitter. Although the housekeeper earns well enough to take care of herself, she never gets to enjoy her hard-earned money because her husband takes it from her. 

He demanded that Ife pay her salary directly into his account but when Ife refused, he beat his wife and gave her a black eye.

The housekeeper’s husband also earns well enough to care for his family but he spends his money on alcohol and womanising. 

Aware of the situation in her housekeeper’s marriage, Ife decided to open a bank account for her and pay half of her salary to it. At first, Ife’s housekeeper refused, fearing that her husband might suspect a trick and beat her again. 

But Ife went ahead and saved half of the woman’s salary into the account, while she told her housekeeper’s husband that she had become lazy so her salary was slashed into half. 

One month, Ife’s housekeeper decided not to give her salary to her husband, so, she lied that she had not been paid. Her husband called Ife and she confirmed the statement. 

Ife called to tell her housekeeper about her husband’s call and she happily thanked her.

According to Ife, her housekeeper said, “I’m done being gullible. We are going to live on his salary for five months just like we have been doing with mine. I also want to have some savings,” she said. 

Like Ife’s housekeeper, many Nigerian women suffer economic violence even though they work hard to make a living for themselves. Many times on social media platforms, debates on whether women should submit their salaries to their husbands have been had.

Sadly, many men still think that they should have control over their wives’ salaries as they note that it makes her a good woman.

However, in the past few years, there has been a rapid change in the economies of women despite ingrained gender inequality. Increased awareness of discriminatory practices has prompted greater demand for change.

Just like Florence and Ife’s housekeeper, many Nigerian women are becoming bolder in demanding change.

“I have four female children and I tell them that they must work and not even their husbands will deprive them of that freedom,” Florence said, with a determined look on her face. 


[1] Not her real name

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