It is a struggle for single women to rent apartments in Lagos because of societal standards.
Nigeria, a fair amount of Generation Xers are wary of their single, 20-something daughters living alone, as they think it exposes them to ‘unnecessary freedom’ and negative judgment from the larger public — that single women usually attract.
Sadly, whatever reasons given for this subtle gender discrimination are propelled by conservative and backward beliefs and ideas that continue to hold Africa back as a people.
This negative perception, default judgment and aversion toward seeing single women live alone is near general with our parents. Since most of them are landlords, it isn’t beyond belief that similar ideas cut across the board.
Who are liberal women?
Modern day women who live against the norms of pre-feminism Nigeria through several facets of their life in expression, free will, sex, relationships and character — people society would call promiscuous or ill-mannered because society likes to an idea it feels women should adhere to.
Women owning their own apartment
An August 15, 2018, BBC article by Abigail Ony Nwaohuocha says “Many landlords in Nigeria single women of being prostitutes, making it difficult for them to rent apartments.”
As noted earlier, society holds women to higher moral standards and forces them to adhere through excessive judgments. Thus, through wanting to conform and not get shamed, a few women still live within conservative rules.
One of the women Nwaohuocha interviewed for the article had spent Olufunmilola Ogungbile, a 30-year old project administrator with the Ogun State Government who spent more than 6 months squatting with a friend despite being financially independent.
She says, “The first question the landlord would ask me is if I’m married? I’d say ‘No’, and they’d follow with, ‘Why not’? What does my marital status have to do with me getting a place to live in?”
“Ninety-nine percent of the landlords I met did not want to rent to me because I am a single woman. Most landlords and agents would tell me, ‘Can you bring your boyfriend or your husband?’ In these kinds of apartments, we don’t like boys coming in. We just want decent people” Ogungbile continued.
In Nigeria, we believe marriage connotes responsibility. It is why Uche, a 30-year old programmer says, “My mother keeps pressuring me to get married and now she’s co-opted my dad who thinks I should get married to make me responsible.” Olufunmilola Ogungbile agrees, “In this part of the world if you are not married then you are a prostitute.”
These moral standards have automatically influenced landlords that only promiscuous women who have the means live alone, thus they are to avoid the trouble that comes with promiscuous women who are likely to bring trouble with them. In some scenarios too, landlords don’t want their children to get influenced.
The pressures of marriage that women avoid with their parents have also become a stable in their independence, asides the social media ‘Shiloh’ slander that aims to abuse single, accomplished women with standards on theme they want.
The ‘man’ angle
Women have to walk eggshells around things they enjoy doing or crave to enjoy endorsement from the populace. In part, the expectation that only men should have the advantages and gifts of financial freedom is why women get judged for living alone. The belief has been set that only men should afford certain expenses.
To underline the ridiculousness, Nwaohuocha also interviewed a landlord named, Coleman Nwafor who bodly highlighted his aversion to renting homes to women and claims that men have more money, “Most single ladies are under the responsibility of their parents or a lover.”
“You can never tell what will happen after the first year. And every landlord wants a tenant who will pay without stress and renew their contract once it expires. Most single ladies are not working. There are more jobs for men than women in Nigeria. That is just the way it is.” He continued to The BBC.
Sadly, these factors also affected gender pay-gaps that women are still struggling to eradicate. If society feels men should automatically earn more than women because they are superior, or because they are the only ones allowed to live alone, then women who live outside that purview will forever be judged.
Societal standards for women
Society judges women that drive their own cars; go out to clubs; drink; smoke; have a deep sense of style; keep male friends; are sexually liberal and like to live by their own rules. The standards of promiscuity have been so limited that seeing a woman with one guy automatically causes raised eyebrows.
The feeling that grown women shouldn’t handle real-life situations on their own is forever a possibility sadly creeps its head and landlords are master purveyors of this standard. Yinka Oladiran, a 25- year old who moved from New York to Lagos for her career told The BBC that, “My opinion didn’t matter. The landlords try to policewomen.”
She had started that, “There were landlords who said they did not want to rent to me until they had spoken to my father to make sure that he was OK with it, even though I was paying with my own money.” She only got an apartment after six months of active search.
Even worse, a woman driving a car could have only earned it through promiscuous acts. Do they ever consider that women also go to schools and get jobs, and get paid like men or does that only happen on Mars?
Small girl, big god
On July 25, 2018, Pulse wrote about small girl, big god and its connotation in pop culture. Sadly, it has also crept into this foundation in another dimension. As it seems, the idea of ‘small girl, big god’ has long existed as a faceless monster ruling with an iron fist. It’s nice to finally put a name to the face. Maybe the term does have greater positives than being a means of power grabs by feminists.
The BBC also interviewed a Sylvia Oyinda, a 31-year old retail store manager says, “There is a saying ‘small girl, big god’ that describes young single women who rent alone or squat with other females. The saying refers to single women who have sponsors, typically older men, who pay their rent.”
Landlords in Lagos have become master purveyors of a standard.