How Nigerian Women are Redefining Gender Roles

About three months ago Nigerians were startled to see pictures of a 26-year-old Nigerian female long-haul truck driver, Iyeyemi Adediran, who started driving articulated trucks for oil companies at the tender age of 22, flooding the internet. It was indeed surprising to see a woman peddling her feet in an occupation assumed to be traditionally meant for men in a country where gender equality was reported at 0.33333 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank.

But choosing to be a truck driver came along with stigma and snide remarks by some of her male counterparts. They would look down on her, berate her driving skills, and do anything to make her feel inferior. But despite the discouragements pelted at her, she is not giving up on her dreams.

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian atmosphere is densely patriarchal, but the good news is that ordinary Nigerian women are trying to counter this narrative. Ideally, women are being taught, whether subtlety or deliberately, that their major tasks in life involve cooking and managing the kitchen, aspiring to get married, and becoming full-time housewives. 

They are expected to remain quiet in class or offices and never try to change the status quo; even in politics women are not given the full support needed to aspire for political positions. In fact, According to the United Nations, only five out of the 73 candidates that ran for the office of president in Nigeria in 2019 were women.

But recently we are seeing ordinary women in Nigeria countering patriarchal beliefs and even as far as becoming experts in jobs assumed to be traditionally meant for men. For example in Benin City, Edo State, midwest Nigeria, a young woman has made a name for herself by being one of the finest furniture makers in the vicinity. 

In Sokoto state, where one in 20 girls finish secondary school, a female–run non-governmental organization has established an all-female garage where young girls can learn how to be mechanics. In Kwara State, there is Felicia Odedeji, a student at the University of Ilorin, Northwest Nigeria, who chose to be a barber—a male-dominated profession in Nigeria.

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These small pockets of change around the country, against a backdrop of a society sunk deep in the waters of patriarchy and gender inequality, is a testimony to the fact that it is very possible, though difficult, for women to find and amplify their voice, achieve greatness and aspire for more than just becoming housewives. 

The numbers may be small, but they are a reflection of a big change underway.

Nigerian women should believe in themselves and keep fighting the traditional beliefs passed down the ages and created to limit them and fit their potential in a box. 

Stereotypes will not change without confrontation. Society will fight back when women try to become directors of companies, owners of businesses, and the best scholars. 

But this confrontation is a signal that a generation of women not comfortable with how society has placed them is birthing a change, and a part of this change is this: Nigerian women can and are redefining gender roles in a heavily patriarchal society.

Promise Eze is a Journalist and student at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He can be reached via

Photo by AMISOM via Iwaria.