Hausa women live cloistered, and Islam teaches them that men should satisfy their needs. Although women’s seclusion tends to be more intense where modern Islam is stronger, peasant women often flout that seclusion. All women, young and old, abandon it when heavy work in the fields requires them to—during the harvest, gleaning, and sorting of grain—but they remain under their husbands’ control.
Hausa Women;10 Facts You Must Know
- The Kano River Project in 1971 created irrigated areas for growing wheat or tomatoes. Most agricultural workers there were men, but for some kinds of labor, especially planting bean seedlings, the company preferred to hire women.
- Most of these women were fairly old, menopause allowing them to leave their homes more readily. Some were widowed or divorced and had no choice. They were preferred to men because they received 30 to 36 kobo per day (1 naira = 100 kobo) for their work whereas men received an average of 2.2 naira.
- These women, reputedly docile and passive, in 1977 organized a surprising demonstration. More autonomous toward their employer than in their households, having discovered that one of the company’s officials had offered them twice as much to work during the weekend on his farm they went on strike for a pay increase. The company refused them and broke the strike by hiring women from a little farther away who knew nothing of the affair. These women soon learned of it from their comrades and struck in turn. The company had to give in and doubled their wages.
- The change in women’s thinking is particularly noticeable where they have more responsibility. This is the case in eastern Africa, where men’s migration and the inability of women to follow them have made women the majority of the population in the countryside.
- A study done in Transkei showed that 79 percent of women farmers were married but 60 percent were de facto heads of businesses.*7 It may seem surprising that so many women whose husbands were migrant workers should have preferred this system, but the reasons were above all economic. The men who remained at home were elderly.
- Forty-five percent of women had attended rural schools for fewer than four years, and almost as many could neither read nor write. Yet of those who had gone to school, many had participated in extracurricular religious groups that played an important role in their future organizational life. The youngest ones recognized the vicious circle of poverty that oppressed them (60 percent of households suffered from malnutrition).
- In general, they considered the land they had sufficient—because they lacked the time to cultivate any more—but wanted help in equipping themselves and increasing their livestock and their harvests and recognition of their autonomy. Eighty-seven percent said that they would like to go to night school, and 60 percent were ready to organize to participate in self-development programs.
This is evidence that the education of girls, hardly widespread even now, is of primary importance for the future.