Confronting patriarchal norms in northern Nigeria: Maryam's story
Maryam Aje is the Executive Director of African Youths for Peace Development and Empowerment Foundation (AFRYDEV). Based in Damaturu, in northeast Nigeria, she has been working tirelessly towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
As one of the founding members and first secretary of the Women Led Network in Nigeria and the Head of Strategic Communication of the Women Led Network of the Lake Chad Basin, I actively participated in the development of the Women Peace and Security Yobe State Action Plan for 2017 –2019. In addition, I am a member of Gender Technical Working (GTTWF Nigeria) and a member of CSOs Working Group on Youth, Women, Peace, and Security in Africa (African Union), among other national and international coalitions.
My work towards equity for the women, peace, and security agenda is motivated by my mother’s passion for girls’ education, empowerment, and development. My mother was brought up in an extended family where only male children were allowed to go to school, while women and girls were engaged in domestic and farm-related activities. Despite her father’s opposition, she managed to sneak out to school and eventually taught herself how to read and write. She then went on to empower herself and other women in her community, inspiring me to follow in her footsteps.
However, patriarchal norms remain a significant obstacle to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Nigeria. Women who are educationally and economically empowered are often negatively perceived and labelled with unpleasant names. As a northern woman, I have faced numerous challenges in my work due to patriarchal norms and gender inequalities.
Education as a key to gender equality
To address these obstacles, education is the key. We need to continue to educate people through formal and informal learning as well as supporting platforms that amplify women’s voices and advocate to government and international partners by bringing their issues and concerns into the development agenda.
Challenging the policies that promote structural inequalities
Women should have equal opportunities to attain high-ranking positions where critical decisions are made, especially with regards to peace and security.Maryam Aje
If I could change one thing today to improve equity and equality for women, it would be to change the policies that promote structural inequalities against women and girls, including their decision-making power, especially in leadership and governance. Women should have equal opportunities to attain high-ranking positions where critical decisions are made, especially with regards to peace and security.
My mother is my primary inspiration, but Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, is also a woman who has inspired me throughout my career. Her passion and commitment to women’s inclusion have motivated me to do more in my work towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.