Breaking gender norms in Obodugwa – women's participation births long-desired market

Story by Rita Abiodun, Oxfam in Nigeria's Media and Communications Officer

"Before now, women wouldn’t dare go to town meetings in my village or sit down beside the men where decisions that concern our welfare are being made. The story is different today. Not only are women represented on our community development committees, but our voices are also being heard. Our long-desired market has been constructed for us," said 52-year-old Patricia Olumor, women's leader for Obodugwa community, Ndokwa West LGA of Delta state.

Obodugwa is a producing conventional oil field located onshore in Nigeria. Over the years, women in the community have been sidelined from participating in community development committees organized by host extractive companies due to cultural norms that forbid women from taking part in decision-making forums.

Working with partners, Oxfam advocated for and convened discussions on the inclusion of women in the community development committees to strengthen equal participation for a more transparent, accountable, and equitable redistribution of resources and wealth derived from sustainable economic development, especially in the extractive value chain.

"After Oxfam spoke with our husbands and community leaders to allow us to be part of the committee, they permitted us to attend meetings as observers. Women's representatives from each household would quietly sit at the back and listen. As time went on, we were allowed to speak and voice our opinions about needs we considered priorities that would help shape our community. We brought up the issue of having a marketplace," said Patricia.

"We are mostly farmers, and we don’t have any market to sell our farm produce. We walk kilometres and transport ourselves and goods with the little money we make to neighbouring markets just to sell our produce. It was like a dream when they began to develop the site for the market. It still feels surreal to me and all the women in my community that we now have a market we can call our own in Obodugwa," said Patricia.

"The market is fully constructed but yet to be commissioned. We are hopeful that it will be done within the coming weeks. We still have a lot more needs, like health centres, schools, electricity, etc. That we can sit at the table where decisions that concern us are being made with the men is a success. We did know we could achieve this in the immediate future," Patricia added.

Extreme inequality is hurting us all, but it is the poorest people who suffer the most — especially women and girls. That is why at Oxfam, we support women in their fight to have equal opportunities to secure jobs and fair pay as men and have an equal chance to work their way out of poverty.