The females in the SSIT had the idea to make a uniform for themselves. This is usually only done for special occassions such as weddings. The men were very upset not to be included! Girl Power!
Jigawa State is predominantly Muslim and the vast majority of women in Jigawa State practice Purdah.
My basic understanding of Purdah here is that the women are to stay in the house to be secluded from the men and the community. The women are not even allowed to go to the market to buy food or to the well to collect water. These tasks are carried out by the men and children. Muslim women can only leave the house in an emergency, for example, if they need to visit the hospital. In these cases the women must wear a burka which covers their whole face and body, leaving only a small slit for the eyes.
Because of this practice, men are not allowed to visit other men in their houses, as they are not allowed to see the wives. If a man enters another man’s house, the wife must move to another room. So mostly the men meet outside the houses and gather together on benches or mats under trees.
As you can then guess, my contact with women in Nigeria has been minimal.
Statistics of Muslim women I have met:
When I first arrived in Nigeria the SSIT (State School Improvement Team) consisted of 30 men. Upon orders from the Head Quarters thankfully 4 women were enrolled. These women (in the photo above) have of course, become my friends. They say that they do not need to wear the burka to our meetings, or to the schools they support, as these people in the workplace know them well now. When it comes to the lunch break during workshops, these female SSIT take themselves to another room to eat their food, relax and take of their hijabs or veils, to cool off a bit! They leave their shoes clearly visable by the door so the men know not to enter.
Amongst the other group of 36 teachers that I work with for the Tsangaya project there are no female teachers. This is not surprising as these Tsangaya teachers are highly religious
We have just begun to train some Fulani (nomadic) teachers and out of the 49 teachers there are 3 females! Horay!
There are no Muslim women in our office, but thankfully there are 2 Christian women.
When I go to support the work in Kano I am privileged to work alongside a very influential Muslim woman.
Whenever I am fortunate to meet a Muslim woman in the workplace they are very friendly and greet me warmly with a handshake or sometimes a hug if I have seen them more than once.
Muslim women that I see on the streets or in the villages have given me a mixed response with some being very friendly and others so cautious that they walk as far away from me as possible when our paths cross!