Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

International Women’s Day: Capitalism has continued to worsen the situation of Women

International Women’s Day: Capitalism has continued to worsen the situation of Women

Join the struggle for a socialist alternative

By Seun Ogunniyi


Young Women in struggle – photo DSM

International Women’s Day is an annual event that is celebrated on the 8th of March around the world. It provides opportunity to highlight the plight of women and re-affirm the way-out as well as to celebrate the heroic contribution of women to the struggle of the working people against various evils of capitalism. Though, it was originated from the struggles of women in 19th century in the United States for decent working conditions and equal pay, it actually became an international women’s day on the basis of the resolution of socialist women involved in the Second International at a conference in 1910. The United Nations (UN) since 1975 has started celebrating the day every year as the United Nations’ Day for Women Right and International Peace ostensibly to draw attention to issues of women.

This year theme according to the UN is “Empowering Rural Women: Ending Hunger and Poverty”. This is no doubt “tongue in cheek” from a pro-capitalist body like the United Nations. It is utterly utopian to expect ending hunger and poverty on the basis of profit-first capitalist system promoted and supported by the United Nations. Such hypocritical declaration and pretense are not in short supply from this agency of world capitalism. For instance, there is Universal Declaration of Human Rights that advocates some social and economic rights like fundamental right of every child to education irrespective of gender. But on the basis of neo-liberal capitalist policy education commercialization and privatization which price education out of reach of the poor such right is unattainable. The problem of hunger and poverty is not borne of lack of resources to tackle them. Indeed, the advancement of science and technology has made it possible to make poverty and hunger history. But this is impossible as a result of capitalism which gratifies the profit of the few at the expense of the needs of humanity.

This also explains why in Nigeria, inspite of huge human and natural resources, poverty is a daily experience for the vast majority of the population. Even, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido put the percentage of population living below poverty line at 70%. However, the evils of capitalism disproportionately affect women as compared with men. Women suffer a double burden due to cultural and economic limitations. This is not peculiar to Nigeria but a global phenomenon as a result of capitalism and patriarchal nature of the society. The woman suffers like everybody from the profit-first nature of capitalism, but her burden is doubled as a result of patriarchy which attributes superior roles to men in the society and subordinates her to rule and caprice of men. This cuts through all the facets of social life.


The United Nations statistics and other reports consistently show that the literacy rate is lower among girls than boys. Over 65 million girls around the world are said not to be in school, a large percentage of them is from West Africa. In Northern Nigeria, the number of children out of school is high and the ratio of girls to boys in school ranges from one girl to two boys. Of course, this stems from cultural practices and beliefs that see the female gender as inferior to the male. Besides, if faced with the option to choose between girl-child and boy-child on who should go to school, as a result of limited access or financial constraint, it is more likely that it is the girl-child that would be sacrificed by the parents. This might not have been the case in the first instance if there is adequate and well-funded public education which guarantees free and quality education to every child irrespective of gender.

Girl-child trafficking for Labour and Prostitution

The girl-child is in high demand in different parts of the country as house maids mostly because of the mentality, borne of societal ascribed roles, that they perform better than the boy in house chores. Besides, as a result of poverty in the country, some parents see a way out of “the burden of child training” by giving out their children to live with relatives and even non-relatives. The girl-child is willingly given up in such situations. In most cases, the money gotten from the trafficking is used to raise the other children in school (who are likely to be boys). Sometimes, such children end up being used as prostitutes.


These conditions do not improve as girls grow into adulthood. Women in Nigeria suffer from poor health care. This is worse in rural communities where health facilities are inadequate and poorly staffed. For example, women in Nigeria still suffer from a wide range of complications in pregnancy and child delivery. According to Women Health and Action Research, the maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is 608 deaths per 100,000, second in the world, only India is worse


Women at Jan 2012 struggle - photo DSM

Women at Jan 2012 struggle – photo DSM

In Nigeria women have not just resigned themselves to fate that they cannot improve on their situation. Over the years from the Aba Women Riot of 1929 to the recent general strike and mass protest, the biggest in the history of the country, women have continually risen up to the challenge of fighting for a better society.

The increase in petrol price from N65 to N141 per litre under the guise of oil subsidy removal on January 1, 2012 by Jonathan government sparked off six-day general strike and mass protests that saw millions of Nigerians hitting the streets. The economy was effectively grounded. Shops, schools, offices banks and manufacturing firms were closed leading the Nigerian government to lose about N1.94 trillion ($3.1 billion) according to Afrinvest West Africa Ltd.

The striking thing in the movement was the role of women in the protests that erupted in virtually every part of the country. The women debunked the myth that African women are passive observers of their history. For example, in the Kano Protest, hijab-clad women occupied “Freedom Square” alongside the men. In other parts of the country, female activists joined their male counterparts in organizing protests and they were also seen at the forefront with their banners and placards, bearing various inscriptions to denounce the neo-liberal attacks on living conditions.

In factories in Lagos and Ogun states, we have seen young women playing active role whenever there are struggles for better pay and decent working conditions. In the Niger Delta, women are playing active roles in the struggle against environmental degradation caused by oil exploitation and exploration in the region.

Socialist Alternative

Just as in the case of the entire working people, the struggles of women could only win concessions and some temporary gains. Therefore, what is needed is permanent solution which can never be guaranteed under the exploitative, profit-first capitalist system. This does not suggest that we have to stop the struggle for improvement. Indeed, we have to continue the agitation for equal opportunities, free and quality health care and education, provision of decent jobs and housing, etc. However, the temporary gains that could be achieved under capitalism, as a result of mass struggles of the oppressed masses, can only be made permanent through the socialist reconstruction of society which would make the needs of society, as against the greed and profit of the few, the basis of production and end all forms of exploitation and oppression.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) dedicate ourselves to building a formidable working people political alternative rested on socialist program, which strives to emancipate the poor working class women along with all other exploited sections of the society and commit the resources of the society for the benefit of all. We call on women, youths and workers to join DSM today.