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Our customs can be beautiful but unfortunately not all of them are. It is a well known fact that Northern Nigeria is a patriarchal society and therefore upholds a lot of toxic cultures that are harmful to women and beneficial to men. Sometimes, these customs are so ingrained into our societies that they become mistaken for religion and that makes it harder to uproot and generations of women suffer from that. 

Some of these harmful practices that keep patriarchy in place includes:


Gender norms are taken seriously in Nigeria with girls being delegated to the kitchen , this delegation however has made generations of Northern men to see house chores as ‘beneath them because it is a woman’s duty.’ A lot of young men grow up with the belief that women are born to serve them and do their bidding. Grown up men are being spoiled by their mothers and sisters and they grow up not knowing how to do the basics like wash a plate properly or cook the simplest dishes. We can all agree that cooking isn’t for everyone but at the same time , most men in Northern Nigeria has never even seen cooking as the survival skill it is . Men living in dirty rooms is normalized because ‘boys will be boys’ while women are pushed into being the perfect housewives whether they like it or not. This culture leads to girls spending more time on house chores and less time in finding hobbies or other interest while they would have gotten more time on their hands if the work had simply been divided. 

This culture is so toxic that it basis the entire personality of a woman on something as simple as housework. Women are rated based on their cooking and cleaning abilities and those who are not good at that or have no interest are seen as lesser women and bullied by society.  I think the biggest tragedy to come out of this culture apart from overstressing women is the way it waters down their entire existence and personality to pots and pans. 


The life of the average girl in the North is constantly under scrutiny but it is usually not the same for boys. Boys are allowed to get away with a lot of things that are harmful to them and other people as well. Men are given more room to make mistakes and come back to the right path while a woman who does the same is shamed, ridiculed and condemned to the deepest pits of hell. These double standards are damaging in so many ways. It makes sinning or harmful acts seem less harmful when done by a man when at the end of the day the results are the same. For instance, just looking at Kannywood, the female actors are slut shamed and ridiculed by society for the simplest mistakes while the male actors get away with so much more. 

These boys will be boys mentally ignores the fact that men are half the population and allowing them to get away with wrong doings harms us all. 


A typical Nigerian Man believes that by marrying a woman, he is doing her a great favor and that is because of the way marriage is being portrayed to us. Marriage is seen not as a companionship but some sort of modern slavery and unmarried women are treated with utmost disrespect and disregard while unmarried men are not being treated the same. This mentality has led to a lot of failure because men think women are in abundance and therefore they have a right to disrespect or maltreat their wives because they are doing them a great favor by marrying them anyway. And women because of this belief also stay in abusive and harmful marriages out of fear of being stigmatized as;’second hand goods’ when they get divorced or out of fear of not getting another husband. 


Purity culture is very much alive in our society and this concept of purity is something that is especially reserved for women. Purity Culture is harmful because it either highly sexualizes women or dehumanizes them. Women are seen as ‘impure’ when they are touched by men while the same thing does not apply to the men who touch them and also this concept of ‘impurity’ even extends to cases where women are raped. One of the reasons why families don’t come out with rape cases is the fear that their daughter will be seen as impure by members of the society and even if the rapist is well known, he still thrives as a member of society while the girl hides her face in shame because of the belief that she has somehow become ‘tainted ‘from that act of violation.

 And another harmful thing that this causes is the obsession of the average northern male with the ‘virginity of the girls ‘around him even if he himself is not a virgin. Girls that are believed to have had sexual encounters with men are shamed, bullied and ridiculed even though the same treatment is not extended to their male partners.

 In some cultures some time ago, a white bed sheet is spread for a newlywed couple where the virginity of the bride is proven by the red stains on the white bed sheet and that is treated as a thing of pride. Not only is this a great violation for the woman , it also shows just how little the society understands the female body as not all women bleed on their first night . And it is a shame and quite embarrassing to admit that in 2020, a lot of African men still hold on to these misconceptions about virginity and deliberately refuse to learn better. 


Child marriages are harmful to the girl child. Her entire life is snatched away as she is forced to become someone’s wife even before she learns the difference between her left and right. Unfortunately, like a lot of other harmful practices such as encouraging women to stay in abusive relationships, this practice is wrapped in the garment of religion and a lot of scholars support these terrible acts and justify it as a religious act despite evidence that this is ruining the lives of women. Women are also trained in the act of their duties while their rights are taken away from them and sometimes even the sharia’ah courts that are supposed to help them attain those rights are responsible for that. Men are educated about their rights before marriage and women are educated about their duties. 

Women that try to speak out on those rights are framed as demonic and irreligious and other women are advised not to take them seriously or listen to them at all. Men generally tend to twist the scripture to benefit their own selfish purposes and unfortunately this is the norm in Arewa. 

By Hauwa Saleh


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