Gender Discrimination and Female Children’s Education in Northern Nigeria: A case study of the Gbagyi of Abuja

Author: Victoria Ibeji, MA in Social Innovation, Saint Paul University


Are you curious to know how gender inequality affects the education of female children in Northern Nigeria? This study of the Abuja Gbagyi has revealed some startling information that everyone should know. I implore you to spend some time reading my content and investigating the most important conclusions and advice from this investigation. You will learn more about the difficulties young girls in this area face and what can be done to advance gender equity and educational access. We can work together to create a world where female children have equal opportunities to learn, develop, and prosper. So please do not put it off any longer; check out my study immediately, and join us in this crucial discussion!


This article is a synthesis of the conference done to discuss the findings of my research study on Gender Discrimination and Female Children’s Education in northern Nigeria, with the Gbagyi of Bwari land being the case study. Women and girls worldwide face gender prejudice. Gbagyi people in Abuja, Northern Nigeria, are no different. This region’s women and girls face discrimination in education and cultural practices that reinforce gender stereotypes. This study examined gender discrimination’s effects on Gbagyi girls’ schooling. Gender inequality in the region is accountable for poor female school enrollment. Girls are expected to marry and start families early, so many households think educating them is a waste. In addition, cultural and societal conventions favour boys over girls in education, creating gender gaps. The study found that early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, and family obligations hinder female children’s education. These obstacles limit their education, perpetuating poverty and injustice.

Readers can learn about the issue of gender discrimination in education for female children among the Gbagyi community in Abuja, Nigeria. The article will discuss the research study’s findings that shed light on the prevalence and impact of this issue on the community’s social and economic development. Readers can also learn about the potential solutions the community can adopt to address this issue, such as increasing girls’ education access, changing cultural beliefs and practices that perpetuate gender discrimination, and empowering women and girls through education and leadership opportunities. Overall, readers can gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by the Gbagyi community in promoting gender equality and how they can work towards achieving a more inclusive and equitable society.

Photo credits: Juju Films

In addition to learning about the issue of gender discrimination in education for female children among the Gbagyi community in Abuja, Nigeria, and the potential solutions to address this issue, readers can also learn more about the broader social and cultural context of the community. They may gain insight into the historical and cultural factors contributing to the prevalence of gender discrimination in education and other community life aspects. They may also learn about the impact of gender discrimination on the social and economic development of the community and how it affects the well-being of individuals, families, and the wider society.

Furthermore, readers may learn about the role of education in promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls, not only in the Gbagyi community but other parts of Nigeria. They may gain a deeper understanding of the challenges girls and women face in accessing education, particularly in patriarchal societies, and how education can catalyze social change and development. Overall, readers can gain a broader perspective on the issue of gender discrimination in education and its impact on Nigerian society, as well as the potential solutions that can be implemented to address this issue and promote gender equality.

Nigeria – Gender Discrimination

Nigeria is my home country, and gender discrimination remains pervasive. I have lived in the northern part of Nigeria for most of my adult life and have first-hand knowledge of the oppression and discrimination faced against indigenous women and girls. A variety of cultural and religious traditions influence gender inequality in Nigeria. In most Nigerian communities, women are perceived as subordinate to men, a culture that is firmly adhered to in Northern Nigeria. Makama (2013) argues that Nigeria operates a patriarchal society and actively enables men to discriminate against women and dominate them. As a result, women are seen as second-class citizens, especially in rural areas.

According to the “Gender Equality in Nigeria” Report of 2012, Nigeria ranked 118th out of 134 countries (British Council, 2012). There is a general belief that women are only sound in the kitchen, tilling the farm, keeping a home, and caring for the menfolk. As a result, they are seen as property, mistreated, and abused in the house and community (Makama, 2013). In an average household, female children bear the heavy burden of most household chores, especially cooking, cleaning, and farm work. At the same time, boys have privileged opportunities to obtain a formal education or learn a trade.

Most women continue to face discrimination and marginalization, even though the Nigerian Constitution is meant to guarantee gender equality and condemn discrimination. This often results from discriminatory laws, religious and cultural norms, gender stereotypes, low education levels, and poverty’s disproportionate impact on women (Okafor & Akokuwebe, 2015). A variety of cultural and religious traditions influence gender inequality in Nigeria. In most parts of Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, women are considered second-class citizens, if not outright property, to men.

According to the latest figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, there are still an estimated 10.1 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, most girls. In addition, girls from rural areas and poor communities continue to face major educational obstacles, including lack of infrastructure, poverty, child marriage, and gender discrimination (UNESCO, 2022).

Moreover, recent reports indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with school closures and economic hardship disproportionately affecting girls’ education (UNESCO, 2020). The 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report warned that up to 20 million girls may not return to school after the pandemic, and Nigeria is among the countries at most significant risk (Global Partnership for Education, 2021)

The gender disparities in illiteracy rates reflect historical and ongoing differences in enrollment and completion of elementary education. Girls have a high risk of dropping out of elementary school. They are less likely than boys to transition to secondary school and complete lower secondary education. Poverty, gender norms, and traditional practices, such as early marriage, increase the likelihood of dropping out of school prematurely. Additionally, profoundly rooted inequality based on socioeconomic status, race, place of residence, and disability exacerbates gender disparities in education (Koissy-Kpein, 2020).

The Gbagyi People

Gbagyi or Agbari (plural: Agbagyi/Agbari) is that of the Gbagyi/Gbari people and their language. They are primarily located in Central Nigeria and have approximately 5 million people. The Gbagyi are dispersed throughout Niger, the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, the state of Kogi, and the state of Kaduna, amongst other locations. The Gbagyi are also present in the Nasarawa region of central Nigeria. In Nigeria’s central belt and the Federal Capital Territory, the Gbagyi/Gbari are the most numerous indigenous and ethnic communities (Orisaremi, 2020). Although Gbagyi/Gbari people are primarily farmers, some Gbagyi/Gbari are interested in clay sculpting and pottery, the production of traditional arts and crafts items such as ceramics and woodwork, such as mortar and pestle (Abiola, 2020).

The Gbagyi/Gbari have historically observed a patrilineal kinship structure, which is still used today. The lowest level of authority resides in the extended family compound, which the eldest male leads. The highest level of power in the Gbagyi/Gbari community is represented by the Esu/Osu (king), whose leadership is supported and aided by a group of elders. The Gbagyi/Gbari are adept at mixing clay to create decorative household items such as vases and other ornaments. While the Gbagyi living in towns and cities are relatively modernized, most Gbagyi residing in rural areas are typically rooted in tradition. While the Gbagyi is becoming more receptive to modern clothing, medical care, and attitudes toward current livelihoods, many rural Gbagyi considers education less valuable, as indicated by the low high school graduation rates (Ayuba, 2016).

According to Offiong (2021), patriarchy is a dominant social order in Nigeria. The Gbagyi people believe that males are superior to women, and their culture and traditional norms are tailored to this belief. Therefore, educational opportunities are of minimal importance to the Gbagyi people. Moreover, because they are primarily farmers, they consider education a waste of their valuable time and human resources (The Joshua Project, 2016).

I have selected the Gbagyi people of Abuja for various compelling reasons as my focal study point. Firstly, the cultural and socioeconomic characteristics of the Gbagyi people share noticeable resemblances with those of Northern Nigeria. Additionally, the communities within the Bwari region of Abuja boast adherents of all major religions widely practiced in Nigeria, which can aid in determining which practices are offshoots of religion and which are derived solely from customary practices.

Moreover, the subjugation of women in Gbagyi culture mirrors the cultural traditions of the Gbagyi people, rendering it a subject of significant interest to explore the impact of patriarchy on Gbagyi women. The Gbagyi have a deeply rooted culture and belief system that places women in a position of servitude to men on a higher level of significance than other tribes, allowing for the dominance of the patriarchal order (Ayuba, 2016).

Lastly, the cultural and belief system of the Gbagyi people is captivating and warrants scrutiny; for example, traditional beliefs are held on the custom of leaving the carriage of heavy loads to women only because of the belief that their gods forbid men from carrying weights. Consequently, only their women are mandated to carry all the heavyweights, which they do on their shoulders and backs (Abiola, 2020). Through a comprehensive examination of the cultural practices and social norms of the Gbagyi people, the research aims to shed illumination on the experiences of Gbagyi women and the potential for progress toward gender equality within the community.

In many developing nations, such as Nigeria, gender discrimination and female children’s lack of access to school continue to be serious issues. Many female children in rural areas continue to encounter substantial obstacles that prevent them from receiving a proper education, despite attempts to promote gender equality and education for everyone. This study examines the amount of gender discrimination against female children in Gbagyi land, in FCT, Nigeria and how it affects their ability to obtain an education. In addition to examining the role of government programs and policies in advancing gender equality and education, the study will examine the cultural and social aspects of gender discrimination in the community. This research aims to give insights and recommendations that can guide policies and initiatives to enhance access to education for all female children by highlighting the problems experienced by female children in the Gbagyi community.

Causes and Evidence of Gender Discrimination

In the Gbagyi community, just as it is obtainable in every other part of Nigeria, gender discrimination is a widespread problem that impacts women and girls in various spheres of life. Cultural and socioeconomic factors play a significant role in the complex and numerous core causes of gender discrimination in this area. However, there is also evidence of several reasons for gender discrimination, as identified in this study. These causes include poverty and illiteracy, patriarchy, culture & tradition, religion and politics.

Gender discrimination, in most cases, is commercialized so that women can be objectified and used as sex workers to earn money instead of receiving a proper education. Most parents quote their financial constraints as why their daughters are excluded from school but instead hurriedly give away into early marriage. Because it is believed that educating a woman is educating her for another man, or to put it simply, that women are an acquisition for men, girls are sometimes even excluded from scholarship programs. Most parents from impoverished backgrounds overlook education for their daughters, with the assumption that they will eventually marry and enter another man’s house, leaving a considerable illiteracy gap in women and making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, as they may lack the knowledge to defend their rights or comprehend their legal protections. With women lacking education and exposure, this helps to expand the narrative that women are less competent or intelligent than women and should prioritize domestic responsibilities over pursuing an education.

It is also notable from this study that the Gbagyi tribe has a traditional patriarchal power structure, with men holding authority and making decisions for the community, with girls from the early stages of their lives viewed as inferior to boys. Girls are also prevented from proper education with the claim that such exposure will expose them to unwanted pregnancy, which practically holds no logical reasoning but only a plot to limit the potential of women. This is evident from the interview responses as highlighted thus;

“…:  I don’t know, but they say that they prefer the women to stay at the house, while men should go to school…Most of them buy this — they’re hawking peanuts on the road, while the boys, they allow the boys to go to school and all that….”

“I don’t think so, well, because most of the girls I have taught do not go further to secondary school.”

“Yes, many of them do.” “Many people in the community do not see the benefit of further education for girls after the basic primary level…” “…For example, a girl child is seen to have no real future outside what marriage and child-bearing offers, and so you see brilliant female children being cast aside and unacknowledged because of their gender.”

They also believe that, unlike men, women cannot continue their education once they are married, so they are expected to focus solely on household chores which they think will be helpful to them in their husband’s house. Marriage and childbirth are considered more important for girls than receiving an education. Women are traditionally restricted from holding positions of authority or representing the community.

From the regional and political perspective, some wrong interpretations of Islam and Christianity, the two most dominant religions in this area, justify gender discrimination. Certain conservative Christian sects consider women inferior to men, with men having the final say in all family matters. Women are only expected to fulfill domestic responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, and childcare. At the same time, men are responsible for providing for their families. Some of the religious extremists have engaged in all forms of killing and kidnapping school girls, thereby further hindering girls’ education. Region and community leaders have failed to take adequate steps to improve girls’ education, thereby reducing access to education for girls. From a political perspective, women are underrepresented in political positions at the local and national levels; legal barriers restrict women’s access to land, property, or inheritance, as highlighted in the response from the interview;

“… Many times, widows suffer a lot at the hands of their husband’s people. From keeping the family houses and lands, where necessary, to claiming the husband’s rights from his workplace, they go through a lot.”

Through its gender-sensitive policies, the government has also failed to address gender inequality, thereby leaving women to n that area and in most of Nigeria exposed to all forms of exploitation.

Conference Discussion Questions

The study’s objectives were to examine gender inequality and the education of female children in the Gbagyi community of Abuja, Nigeria. The following discussion questions were constructed to provide direction and answer the research questions.

  • What are the best Practices and Innovative Approaches to Addressing Gender Discrimination Against Female Children in Gbagyi/Bwari?
  • How can we provide Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments for Female Children in Gbagyi/Bwari?
  • What collaborative efforts can we harness to promote Gender Equality and Female Children’s Education in Gbagyi/Bwari?

Conference Discussants

Our distinguished panel of experts, scholars, and practitioners shared their research, experiences, and insights on gender discrimination and female children’s education. We also had diverse participants who engaged in interactive sessions to identify strategies to promote gender equality and empower female children in Gbagyi land.

Mrs. Felicia C Jessa

Mrs. Felicia C. Jessa, A Gbagyi indigene, is a professional educator with 25 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree in education focusing on Guidance and Counseling. She is the Deputy Director of the Secondary Education Board’s Monitoring and Evaluation department. In this role, she oversees the monitoring and evaluation of secondary education programs, ensuring that they meet established standards and effectively serve students.

In addition to her professional experience, Her dedication extends beyond her work as she is actively involved in community service as the Chairperson of the Women Wings Christian Association of Nigeria, FCT Chapter (WOWICAN). In this position, she empowers women and promotes gender equality in her community. Overall, her extensive experience in education and commitment to community development make Mrs. Felicia Jessa a valuable asset to any organization or initiative focused on improving education and promoting equality.

Dr. Oladimeji Audu

Oladimeji Audu is an Industrial Chemist with a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and is certified in Biotechnology. He is a research professor who has had the opportunity to teach at various levels of education, including high school, college, and university in Nigeria and Canada, which has contributed to improving the quality and standard of living for many. In addition, he has gained valuable experience working in the chemical industry and conducting research on natural products to enhance living standards. At the ECCC biotechnology team, his focus was on implementing CEPA and ensuring that new substances were safe for Canadians and biodiversity.

Currently, he works at VAC (Veterans Affairs Canada). He is responsible for adjudicating a range of veterans’ disabilities to determine eligibility for benefits and treatment programs. He has also spent time in many Gbagyi communities and has established relationships with Gbagyi friends.

Barrister Oluwafemi Maduka

Maduka Oluwafemi is a litigator and the head of the Technology Law Department at Transadvisory Legal, a dynamic and fully serviced law firm in the heart of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). First, he bagged an LL.B degree from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Then, he proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, where he passed the bar examination and was subsequently called to the Nigerian bar as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

He is currently in his LL.M postgraduate program at the University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria, majoring in Jurisprudence and International Law. His first contact with the Gbagyi people of the Bwari community was during his training at the Nigerian Law School in Bwari. It was here that he observed the culture of the Gbagyi people and the peculiarities of their gender dynamics keenly, especially concerning discrimination and school enrollment. Years later, he was part of a study on the issue of gender discrimination in education among the Gbagyis of the Bwari community. He gained considerable insight from this study. Mr. Maduka is also a nature and conservation enthusiast.

Suggestions and Picture of Success for the Gbagyi Community

From the contributions made by Barrister Maduka, Professor Audu, and Mrs. Jessa, who served as the conference’s main discussant, a pictorial summary of their suggestions and strong opinions indicate that mothers with education have a high tendency to guarantee that all their children attend school. This implies that women with access to education tend to understand the importance of schooling and its benefits. This knowledge enables them to make informed decisions for their children’s future, including ensuring access to quality education and reducing the possibility of early and unintended pregnancies. Also, the postulations of these discussants suggested that educated women can combat domestic violence through awareness of human rights and are more likely to recognize and challenge abusive behaviour, whether it’s directed towards themselves or others. They also have the tools to identify and access resources such as counselling, legal support, and emergency shelters.

Other benefits of educating women, as pointed out by the discussants, affirmed that educated women exhibit higher confidence levels in engaging in debates and discussions and can build careers in a male-dominated field, such as engineering. They can also assist in securing employment opportunities for their siblings through their knowledge of the options and processes of engagement with the providers. It is notable also that women when educated, will be better equipped to earn a decent living and be able to contribute to the financial support of their parents, be able to sustain themselves and their children and families without the need for marriage and when married be able to support their husband and children financially. Generally, educated women will be able to build their lives and homes and own them.

Another vital point raised in the conference by the discussants is that it is imperative to ensure that gender discrimination and equality lessons are included in school curricula to raise awareness among women on their human rights and all forms of human rights abuse that are channelled towards women, this will also ensure that they are educated on how to combat sexual exploitation. Such awareness will start early to teach young girls how to be responsible for their lives and have control of their sexual and reproductive health. The beautiful end point to this will be a new beginning for women in the community as mutual respect will be encouraged between the husbands and wives.

From the opinions of the discussants, men must be encouraged to see the need to help their wives with domestic work to provide them with the necessary time for personal development. Parents must also be encouraged to acknowledge their responsibility in caring for and teaching their children. It is also vital that vocational training in tailoring, knitting, and carpentry is made available for school dropouts and every interested woman in the community to provide them with better problem-solving skills and creativity.

Other vital areas of interest are women’s involvement in politics and girls’ freedom to marry a person of their choice. In this 21 century, women worldwide are doing exploits in politics and actively participating in shaping the world political landscape. It is high time the women in the Gbagyi community are allowed to get involved and start participating in the politics of their area, as this will provide them with the foundation to evolve into the national political space and contribute their quota in nation-building. In terms of marriage, it is vital for the development of the girl child that girls are not forced into early marriage and are allowed to pursue their education and marry the person of their choice after completing their tertiary education or acquiring life-sustainable skills.

What’s next – Future Plans

From a detailed consideration of the opinions of the discussants and a detailed review of the literature, the research derived possible action strategies that will enhance the elimination of gender discrimination in the Gbagyi community and other parts of Nigeria that still hold such practices. However, more effort must be channelled towards advocacy and knowledge, one of the most essential steps to change the narrative supporting gender discrimination and opposing the importance of female education in Gbagyi land. Therefore, the researcher intends to use these findings to create awareness campaigns and advocacy programs to encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviours toward girls’ education.

Furthermore, it is essential to continue engaging with the palace and community to ensure they understand the importance of educating girls. Therefore, the researcher intends to collaborate with local organizations, community leaders, and government officials to develop programs that support girls’ education and address the challenges female children face in accessing education in Gbagyi land. Also, the same channels will be used to design empowerment programs to help girls acquire necessary life skills and develop their self-esteem with the expectation to seek the help of willing partner organizations to provide vocational training, mentorship, and leadership development opportunities for girls who dropped out of school.

Another actionable strategy that the findings of this study suggest is the use of advocacy, and every other means within the law to seek policy transformation at the local and national levels. Then, hopefully, government officials will be willing to implement policies that support girls’ education and address gender discrimination. In the same accord, further research needs to be carried out to build on the findings of this study and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by female children in Gbagyi land. This can help identify new strategies and interventions that can be implemented to support girls’ education and promote gender equality.

There is also an inherent need to develop capacity-building programs designed to train teachers, community leaders, and parents on the importance of girls’ education and how to support female children in accessing and staying in school. This can include workshops, training programs, and mentorship initiatives. Scholarship programs should also be established and enhanced to provide financial support to girls from low-income families to enable them to attend school. This can help to remove financial barriers that prevent girls from accessing education. Currently, no scholarship is targeted at girls in Gbagyi land. This could be achieved with collaborations and partnerships with organizations, institutions, and individuals working on similar issues. This can help to pool resources, share knowledge, and coordinate efforts for a more significant impact. Finally, for the efficiency of these strategies, it is essential to be culturally sensitive in implementation and approach. This includes understanding local customs and traditions and working with community members to find appropriate and acceptable solutions. (Adediran, 2012; Makama, 2013;  Harris, 2016; Makinde, 2017; Ejumudo, 2013; Kemi, 2016; Ejukonemu, 2018;, Oyewumi, 1997; Ekong, 2016)


The research fulfilled its primary goals: to explore gender inequality in Nigeria and analyze how society views gender and how this perception affects the country’s economic growth and social progress. Specifically, the research managed to find answers to whether there is the manifestation of gender discrimination in the Gbagyi community of Nigeria and whether education solves the issues of gender discrimination against women and contributes to society’s economic and social advancement. The study report suggests changing cultural attitudes, increasing education for all, and enacting gender equality regulations to combat gender discrimination. Furthermore, addressing poverty, gender-based violence, and healthcare access is crucial to encourage families to send their daughters to school. In conclusion, addressing gender discrimination’s root causes and supporting education for everyone can produce a more equitable and just society that honours everyone’s contributions.


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