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Below the (poverty) line

Ina Bara balanced heavy loads on her small frame with ease. I was in my first year of school when I first met her and the other women who cleaned the hostel and washed clothes and played for students. I always wondered why they had to do this. These women were old enough to be our grandmothers. Yet they balanced water on their heads. Bent their backs under the hot Zaria sun to wash our clothes and plates. And the hostels were never dirty. Up until I had started living in Zaria I had not seen this kind of poverty up front. In my head. These women’s children should be the one’s taking care of them. 

Ina Bara died last week. A friend came to visit and  told me about her death. In her absence I had thought about her dying. The last time I saw her she was fetching water for my neighbour. I greeted her like I always did

“sannu Ina bara” “sannu A’isha ” she replied. When I asked how she died I was told she was sick. The friend who told me said she might have had Tuberculosis. And I remembered the bad cough she had before I went home after the first semester. I imagined Ina Bara lying in her home or in a hospital, her frail body even smaller from the sickness. Later on another friend said she heard that Ina Bara had built a house. I was happy when I heard this. Because all I could think of when she died was that she didn’t leave anything for her children. Even though she had worked so hard and for so long.

A lot of women in Arewa are like Ina Bara. 70% of Nigeria’s poor people are women and a higher concentration of these women are in the north. With more than half of the population of Northern Women out of school and without any trades or business skills. The possibility of escaping the poverty line is grim. Women like Ina Bara do not achieve a lot because they’re in a system where literacy and education are key to making money. In a culture where women are expected to take care of children and their homes. Breaking this obstacle wouldn’t come easy if not through sheer willpower. Ina Bara was able to do this. But for every one there are 100s of Arewa women who would never be able to build a house who would die leaving nothing for their children. 

It is ironic that a culture that demands that women should take care of their children and homes. Does not give room for the same women to be comfortable enough to do so. I’d like to think that Ina Bara wouldn’t have died if she had enough money for healthcare or if she wasn’t doing so much manual labour, physically demanding and unskilled work at her age. Besides being unable to understand why these old women had to do so much work to survive. I didn’t understand why their husbands, the supposed head of their homes, were unable to provide for them. The patriarchal society does it so women have to depend on men. This cripples women into thinking they don’t need to make a lot for themselves as long as their husbands can take care of them and their children. This tracks women’s ambition and desire to make their own money.

If northern Nigeria cared about the crippling economic crisis of the north. It would educate its women. It would ensure that even women living in rural areas would have a chance at breaking the poverty line.

Data: Nigerian women are one of the poorest demographic. The income gap exists between men and women which in turn contributes to feminization of poverty (Hajara, 2011). It was clearly indicated that the 70 percent of the population in Nigeria estimated to be living below the poverty line, over 65% are projected to be women indicating that the men have greater access to high-paying, secured employment etc. (World Bank 2010). 


  • Abdullahi D. Hassan
    Posted November 12, 2021 at 9:33 am

    Your piece is full of remorse. Poverty is ascending in Northern Nigeria. Especially, in rural areas, you see women living in the bondage of poverty with a lot of children to cater to.

  • Aessha
    Posted November 12, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    This is a sad reality we are living in, it’s much more annoying knowing that our political heads aren’t eben trying to help these women. Women die because of things that could be prevented by money, education or a good health care system

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