Written by Mercy Edejeghwro
I have seen and heard stories of people being marginalized but I never imagined that it could occur to the extent that it appears too bad to be true. This is the case for pastoralist women in Nigeria. The pastoralist women are marginalized socially, culturally, and economically.
Socially, pastoralist women are marginalized in that they lack access to basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, good roads, shelter, and water. Sometimes, they must trek long distances in search of water at the risk of being bitten by reptiles or being raped. Pastoralist women have no access to technology that could make their work easier, so they resort to time-consuming and energy-sapping methods of performing their milking and processing tasks. Their lack of access to modern technologies is enhanced by cultural beliefs that necessitate champions of such modern technology to consult with elders (male) who in turn pass the information to the women if it pleases. The women can hardly be consulted directly.
Culturally, pastoralist women are marginalized by beliefs and traditions. For example, within the pastoral community, it is believed that only lazy women allow other women to assist them during delivery. As a result, unaided birth is common, and this belief often leads to a high rate of maternal mortality. Additionally, Pastoralist women are not skilled as they are mostly constrained by cultural and religious beliefs. This is especially true as they can only access health services such as vaccination or immunization when their husbands approve of it. This situation becomes more perturbing during times of emergency as they may not be able to get their husband’s approval when he is away grazing with the livestock. Furthermore, pastoralist women do not have access to primary health care as their settlements are usually far from communities with hospitals or Primary Health care centers. More so, the culture of pastoralist women does not allow them to interact with men who are not related to them. So, in the absence of their husbands, sons, and close relatives, they find it difficult to ask for assistance if their livestock falls sick. When the livestock eventually dies, poor nutrition is experienced by the family.
Economically, pastoralist women are also marginalized as they live in extreme poverty. They lack storage facilities for their products which are mostly of short shelf-life. When they are unable to sell these products within the shelf life, it results in wastage of time, effort, and a reduction in income. Besides that, the women must provide for the children when their husbands migrate to other places in search of pasture. Moreover, Pastoralist women are completely left out in programs designed to stimulate economies by the Government such as skill acquisition, microcredits, seeds distribution, and other agricultural inputs.
From my perspective, I think there is a need for a comprehensive policy that captures all categories of persons including pastoralist women that recognizes their unique environment, culture, and status in relation to other people. Education is also very important. This will go a long way in reducing the marginalization they currently experience.