There is very little research that reliably documents gender dynamics in Nigerian society from men’s perspective, something that is vital to understand if we are to address inequitable gender views and behaviours in society. In order to fill this knowledge gap, Voices 4 Change undertook this study entitled The Nigeria Men and Gender Equality Survey (NiMAGES), with the hope that the insights gained can stimulate debate and provide a platform on which to advocate effectively for gender equality. The results of the survey should be of great use to policy-makers, activists, researchers, and others as they adapt and expand their work with Nigerian men and boys, women and girls, and Nigerian communities to advance a thriving, equitable, and gender-just future.
The quantitative questionnaire-based survey involved 1532 men and 504 women between the ages of 16 and 65, sourced from all six geopolitical regions of Nigeria. In all sites, qualitative research was also conducted in the form of focus-group discussions and in-depth interviews. Overall, men in the study reported higher levels of education, and three-quarters of all respondents were under the age of 35. The aim of the study was to investigate gender-related perceptions and behaviours, focusing on the views and behaviours of men, with the themes prioritised by Voices 4 Change being domestic violence, women as leaders, and women’s decision-making roles.
The summary of the findings of the study are split into four categories:
- Gender attitudes: 94% of males and 91% of women agreed with the restrictive norm about gender roles that ‘a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family’. Violence against women was widely tolerated, while toughness, sexual performance, and income were seen as central to masculinity. The concept of ‘bride price’ enjoyed almost universal agreement, of which 42% of men and 38% of women thought the practice allowed men the right to do as he pleases with his wife. However, both men and women overwhelmingly rejected harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and widowhood practices. Higher education was linked to more gender equitable views amongst women, but the idea of women in leadership positions is still viewed as discriminatory.
- Household and childhood gender dynamics: three-quarters of both men and women said that as children, their fathers had the final word in decision-making involving large investments, while their mothers had most influence regarding food and clothing. Most stated that their fathers had a limited domestic role. In current households, most men and women reported that household duties were still split according to stereotyped gender roles, although younger men, those with higher education levels, and men who hold more gender-equitable views reported taking part in more domestic work. A majority of men reported not being present at the birth of their last child, while 80% took no leave from work following the birth. Across all study sites, a majority of men and women reported feeling satisfied with the current, highly unequal, division or household work and childcare.
- Participants reported very high levels of violent experiences as children, with three-quarters of men and two-thirds of women reporting having been spanked or slapped by parents or adults in their homes. Around 75% of men and women reported having seen their mother beaten, while 80% of men and 71% of women described having been beaten or physically punished in school. Around one-in-five, including women and men, reported being sexually abused. Economic, emotional, and physical intimate partner violence in study sites is very common, and women themselves are frequently accused of inciting the violence committed against them, with victim blaming notions emerging as the ‘cause’ of violence most commonly cited by qualitative data collection.
- Health: rates at which men were willing to seek out prostate screenings and HIV testing never exceeded 35% in any study site. 60% of men reported regularly feeling stressed, and one-third said they regularly feel depressed. Seeking help for mental health issues was easier for men than seeking health care treatment and testing, even if only from an informal source. 32% of men and just 4% of women abused alcohol, and many men acknowledged the negative impacts of drinking on their lives, and their families
The report draws a number of conclusions from the results of the survey, including that certain elements of the traditional gender order in Nigeria may be slowly changing, e.g. attitudes to harmful cultural practices. However, the overall conclusion is that there is a preponderance of rigid, patriarchal gender norms and practices still holding sway all across Nigeria. At the same time, the study notes the correlation between holding gender-equitable views and exhibiting gender-equitable behaviours, and the number of benefits that such a shift can bring is significant. Additionally, it is evident that gender-equitable behaviours and attitudes are inheritable within family structures, suggesting a generational dynamic that offers hope for future improvement.