On 8th March International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world. It is in recognition of women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality. In many countries, March is considered to be “Women’s month.” Nigeria is no different and throughout the month several activities and events celebrate and showcase the strides that our women have made.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #Eachforequal,” because parity benefits us all and each one of us has a role to play. Equality is not a female issue; it is an economic and social imperative says Forbes.
Even as we make strides for parity and income equality, there is a dark subject that is not spoken about enough even though it is very prevalent in our society, and often hidden behind the veil of what might seem to be a “normal” relationship.
Because of the embarrassment caused by this form of abuse, women in this situation seldom talk about it. Who would want to admit to having to account for every single kobo spent, or having to ask for money even to purchase the most personal of necessities? Financial abuse has discernible signs. Here are some of them:
Account for every kobo spent, or else…
A woman in such a relationship must account for every expense. She must write a detailed list and provide receipts or evidence of all that she has purchased for the family; there is seldom anything left for herself. If she fails to account for everything, there could be unpleasant consequences. This may involve being given even less money, or she will have to beg for money, or worse, it often graduates to domestic violence.
For many women, it becomes far easier (and safer) to manage the meager house keeping allowance, and forfeit any niceties, than to face what could be dire consequences.
No personal bank accounts permitted
The woman must rely on her spouse or partner for her very existence. She is not allowed to have a bank account, a debit card or any access to money. She can receive calls on her mobile phone but seldom has credit to be able to make any calls to reach the outside world. She has no savings whatsoever, no current account; no money at all. She is totally dependent and must rely upon her spouse to make all financial decisions that affect both her and her children both now and in the future.
Control of career choices
Women in financially abusive relationships are often forced to follow a career path that their spouse or partner has chosen for them as opposed to what they desire for themselves. This is a form of control that keeps them from achieving financial stability and independence. Many women in these situations tend to be stay-at-home moms or if they are permitted to work, it is only with the express permission of their spouses. Often, as a woman begins to make some progress in her career, she is given an ultimatum and forced to quit her job. Her spouse is much more comfortable for her to be in a job that is not a true reflection of her educational background, her intellect or her experience.
Not allowed to work
She is not allowed to work or to run a small business. Working or accomplished friends or those with businesses are discouraged from visiting her home as they are considered to be a bad influence. Her movements outside the house are carefully monitored by staff including the driver; this ensures that she does not visit people that are not pre-approved.
She works but must submit all her income to him
If she has a job, her entire salary must go to her husband or partner who credits the funds into a separate account that she is not a signatory to. She must submit a list of everything that she needs which he will carefully scrutinize and determine what he will part with. The sum that she is given seldom covers all that she needs to take care of herself and her children.
She is the sole breadwinner
Interestingly even women that are the sole breadwinners in a household can be financially abused. The men in these relationships control all aspects of the family finances. Even though they do not earn, they are in charge of all the money coming into the home. As she is responsible for all the family finances including rent, school fees, etc., she works non-stop to keep the money coming in and to give her family the best possible chance.
Threat of abandonment
Threatening to leave or denying financial support, knowing fully well that the woman has no money of her own, is another form of abuse. Control is established, as the women will comply due to fear that her daily needs will not be met. So, she just continues to “behave” under the shadow of her deep-seated fears of being made destitute, if she dares to step out of line.
A child a year
In this situation, the woman is permanently pregnant which makes it impossible for her to return to work particularly when her posse of children increases and it becomes difficult to afford adequate childcare. Her life’s work is thus laid out for her: she must take care of her family and may never know what financial independence means.
Are you or someone close to you in a similar situation? Even though the above sounds dire and far fetched, here are a few ideas to consider.
Education empowers. There are many excellent on line courses that will keep your mind active and improve your skills from the confines of your home. Friends or relations may be willing and able to assist with the enrollment fee since you have no money.
If you receive some housekeeping allowance perhaps you can try to save some of it. It will seem that there is nothing left but with careful budgeting, you can prioritize and try to save something. Every little bit adds up as you start to build savings.
Even if you aren’t allowed to earn an income, volunteering will help to give you a sense of fulfillment and give more meaning and purpose to your life.
This is a time to identify your skills, talents…those skills that have been buried over the years; this is the time to revive them. Identify them, nurture them, invest in them and eventually you will be able to leverage on them to begin to earn some income.
Assuming communication and counseling have been explored, and particularly if the financial abuse is accompanied by physical abuse, you must seriously consider leaving, but with a plan. Close family, friends, and your local church or mosque may be able to provide some short-term support until you are back on your feet.
Africa’s greatest untapped resource”
Women must come together with men to tackle these pressing issues. By joining forces, we can collectively help women to realize the limitless potential that they offer economies the world over. When you empower a woman, you empower not just the individual, but you empower her children, her family, her community and her country.