Women inheritance rights

One may not be directly affected but the extent that women in our society are unfairly treated is baffling.

In Nigeria, easy to shy away from discussing difficult subjects especially when one is not the one at the receiving end, all of this because of ‘our tradition’

Gender inequalities in our society runs deep than what we see on the surface especially when it comes to inheritance rights.

Yoruba culture is rich no question about that. Ours is a tradition we assume our elders know all so we leave all matters for them to resolve.

Tayo and I grew up together, she is a few years older. Her mother died during child-birth so was raised by her father. She was an only child.

Tayo was a lot hands on in the farm that I ever was. Her involvement wasn’t gender specific – she did all farm work from clearing to harvesting.

Farming in the southwest is mostly subsistence, work usually done by hand.

About 15 years ago, unfortunately Tayo’s father passed away after brief illness, he was in his early 60s.

Tayo’s uncle who moved to town long ago and seldom visit his own farm relocated to the shortly after his brother’s death. His own plot was a jungle – farmland is only worth something when it’s cultivated on.

About five years ago, after several unsuccessful attempts to secure a white-collar job with her university degree, Tayo decided to go back to the village with her son, after all she has worked the farm with her father since very little – she knew what to do and could earn living that way.

Tayo’s uncle met her at the entrance of the village mud house built by Tayo’s father that she was not welcome, that the farm belonged to his father and brother – women have no claim to inheritance.

Tayo cried and to avoid a scene left the village.

I have witnessed a few cases whereby there was no issues sharing land inheritance amongst siblings.

Rule of thumb was if there is a male child in the midst, the females without being told won’t even think about wanting any of the land share.

Tayo is a perfect Yoruba girl, she walked away from her uncle thinking her life could have been better if she were to be a boy.

Land inheritance is nothing I ever had any interest in thinking about for many reasons, however, I am aware that this is the only ‘fall back’ for millions of Yoruba today be it male or female.

For many farmers, the only inheritance they leave behind for their children usually is the farmland.

Tayo’s father worked all his life, didn’t even own a house apart from the mud house in the village and all in all his only daughter was bullied away by the uncle that should have protected her.

So I asked my father “Say if tomorrow your brothers didn’t want to see your children in the farm?”

My father without thinking replied “Would you let them?”

Just seems a bit odd leaving important issue such as female inheritance to the discretion of the elders in the family or village chief. Sometimes they do work collaboratively well to make sure everyone is happy with the outcome, however in a situation when you have a bully, how do one go about it without being seen as disrespectful to the elders?

How do we overcome the traditions that alienate half of the citizen especially with land inheritance?

Categories: Africa, Nigeria

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16 replies

  1. Great food for thought. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for expanding my knowledge base on some of the traditions in your country. And, I found it very interested to read some of the comments given by others who have a greater understanding than I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you will have to tackle this on many fronts.
    1) It all starts within the family, such important matters should not be left unspoken. It should be stated explicitly and clearly by whoever is the head of the household. After that it should be formalised in a will, whilst the landowner is in good health. Land ownership is a serious matter and should not be left merely to a spoken agreement as this can be easily be contested.
    2) The courts should be strengthened to enforce legal documents.
    3) Lastly, you can reason with elders, but don’t depend on it, as they will have their own biases and motives. This is the weakest link and may take a generation or two to bring them around.

    I find it hard to see that Tayo’s uncle, would bully her out of her due inheritance and be comfortable with himself. Just goes to show, just because someone is your ‘relative’ and smiles a lot when the going is good, that all goes out of the window when it suits them, very disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, I only recently learned land ownership conflicts cause lots of grief in all over Nigeria. Given more than half the population are in rural area, one would think this is area where agreement on fair sharing should have been reached long ago?

      I think we depended on the Weakest Link most, hence it becomes tricky especially when the ‘cheater’ makes the louder voice, apparently, (this is according to my father) The uncle’s children are grown, one in the uni and three in secondary school – his regular job as a shoe repairer is no longer enough.

      Really? What about the poor woman with her son? Yes, it is disturbing and not nice feeling especially within family.

      I am sure as time goes on, w’ll on learn…


  4. Hmmm, thought provoking questions you asked. I am a victim of this unfriendly culture. It is a big problem because the village chiefs and elders will tell you that they cannot go against their tradition. I think it is only the law that can come to the women’s assistance because that is what helped a bit in my case. But I doubt if you can achieve that without seeming to be disrespectful. My people say that when a child begins to seek her own, she becomes a bad child.

    Men should also prepare their wills, even if it is just a parcel of land and only a girl-child. It solves a lot of problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you! I suppose when it is a big portion of land especially with crops on in, then it makes economic sense to involve court.

      Most of the rural folks still do not see the need for a Will – lots is based on trust. I suppose with trust thinning out, maybe people will have to find affordable law enforcement to intervene.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fola, you might not be aware of it but when it comes to female inheritance and succession rights, Yoruba women are the luckiest, there is almost nothing of such among the Igbos or Hausas. Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos is a descendant from a female, ie his mother and not is father is the one from the ruling house. We have what we call Beérè in Yoruba, that is a female first born being the Olóríebí who by culture runs the family affairs at the demise of the father. I however recognize the fact that it is not yet uhuru, there is still a lot of room for improvement and our law also seems to agree with this especially with modern civilization and so takes care of situations where cases are Repugnant because they are against the rules of ‘ natural justice, equity and good conscience’. But just as your Father asked “Would you let them? ” people not only women should demand for their right and challenge all forms of oppression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Naijamum.

      The concept of Beérè sounds fair especially in a patriarchal society such as ours – I can see how this overtime will develop to promote mutual respect.

      Female first born do get a say in many issues, as my mother does however, she has no say when it comes to land inheritance and never even thought she has rights, it has never bothered her as her husband has farmland.

      I wish Tayo wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ for what is hers… it should be simple case really.


  6. Fola, womens rights are an ongoing battle. A will would have probably made it easier for Tayo. Even then, the uncle might have cosen to fight the will.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Advice the villagers to write a will! That or, recognize female inheritance rights.

    Liked by 1 person

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