Asked Diana, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
A woman’s role they used to say, is in the kitchen, however, this common traditional and cultural notion is now obsolete as many women today are stepping into the shoes of providers.
In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner, nevertheless, times have changed and many women today are now stepping into the bread winner role for various reasons and this does not come easy for them especially amidst the several barriers working class women face.
The countless barriers affecting these set of women amidst meeting their family needs includes: irregular payment of salaries and wages, unreasonable deductions, lack of or delayed promotion and its benefits, victimisation, marginalisation amongst others.
The delay in payment of salaries and wages have a ripple effect on women generally in the management of household responsibilities and is regarded as an integral part of their lives in home planning.
In recent years, cases of irregular payment of salaries and wages to workers in government institutions and parastatals have become a house hold issue.
Hardly would a month pass without media report about the difficulties being faced by workers as a result of ilegal deductions, delayed payment of their salaries, wages gratuity or pensions.
Sometimes these delays may be at the federal ministry, at other times it may be in the state ministries and the local government.
For some working class women in Gwagwalada, Kwali, Kuje and AMAC area councils, delayed salaries, promotions, benefits and other entitlement have been agreed to be a major factor limiting female career progression, as well as a limitation to effective financial planning and home management.
However due to fear of discrimination and victimisation and the Non-disclosure Agreement of employment, they have spoken off records and refused to allow their identifies to be in this report for security reasons.
In AMAC for instance, most of its workers are employed by the federal government and have little experience with delayed salaries and other challenges due to the financial strength of the government when compared to the local governments.
However some workers employed across the six area councils including AMAC have decried denied benefits amongst others as factors affecting workers particularly women.
A female worker of the AMAC who pleaded anonymity said that although both men and women of the council enjoyed and suffered salary delays and sometimes denial of some other benefits,.
Nevertheless, she said that women were faced more with the effect because of their multitasking roles in the home as wives, mothers, and most importantly managers.
According to her, the delay and denial of certain benefits affects proper home planning and management and most times leads to endless cycle of taking up loans and serial indebtedness.
“If we get our promotion and salaries as at when due, one would get to properly plan financially and do things at the right time without having to take up loans.
“Like before the removal of fuel subsidy, when it was still a rumor, we expected salaries to have been paid early that month so we could stock up our homes with adequate foodstuffs but it wasn’t paid.
“Apart from salary delays, when promotions come, sometimes instead of paying the promotion arrears from January, they will just commence the payment from the month the promotion came which is not supposed to be.
“Although this affects everyone in general not just women alone, but as a woman I feel demoralized, like right now I am due for promotion but my name is not on the list and I have submitted the necessary documents and I have not had any disciplinary issues.
“But I am hopeful that everything would be sorted out and my name would be included in the list of those to sit for the exams, because when the promotion comes and the benefits is paid in bulk, it would help me to make meaningful plans that will benefit my family,’’ she said.
Similarly, Mrs Mary Shekwolo in AMAC (Real name withheld) said that denial of approval to attend trainings, especially externally organized trainings by private organizations was also discouraging and demoralizing.
According to her, we were supposed to attend an external training in Akwa-Ibom State at the beginning of the year but we were not given approval, and such trainings would benefit both the staff and boost productivity in the office but we were denied.
“Yet the internally organized trainings are not forthcoming and when they come everyone will be struggling to be a part of it but only a few will be selected to participate in such trainings.
“And this selection is usually not based on competence, merit or based on those who have been identified to need such training but based on office politics and other sentiments which is not supposed to be,’’ she said.
On her part, Hajiya Aisha Yusuf, the Head of Social Welfare in AMAC, said that the council tries its best with remunerations in spite of challenging economy.
Yusuf said “As the head of social welfare, I can tell you that the welfare of AMAC staff is not gender restrictive, salaries are not owed and benefits are not withheld here.
“Since I started working here in AMAC I’ve not seen salary delays or promotion denials and if there were such, it is no longer happening, when promotions comes everybody enjoys it, same with salaries and other benefits we all enjoy them irrespective of gender,
“Unless if one does not merit promotion or they did not submit the necessary documents, but as long as the one submitted necessary documents and they are always at work and have disciplinary matter, then your promotion and salary cannot be denied,’’ she said.
She also said that in the council women were more protected in welfare, promotion, salaries and benefits, and all these came when due and the issue of delays was not evidential in the council.
Yussuf said that the timely payment of salaries and other benefits helped both the men and women in the council to live well planned lives, except in cases where extra interventions was needed which in most cases are handled discretely to protect the integrity of the individuals involved.
This she said was usually in rare personal issues that could not be disclosed publicly and such matters where carefully handled by heads of units in order to protect the image of the concerned worker.
“When it comes to financial intervention we know that men get assistance more than women and this is because we know that men shoulder more responsibilities compared to the women who augment.
“Except when you are a widow, such issues are taken more seriously but when you still have a husband, they will still come to your aid but not as they would for a man when they are in financial problems and i say this generally, ’she said.
In June 2023, the salaries of some federal civil servants in Radio Nigeria, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), National Population Commission (NPC), among others were delayed and many workers especially women lamented the untold hardship characterized by the delay and how it affected their homes.
In many reports, According to the Director of Press, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF, Bawa Mokwa, while fielding questions from newsmen, said that the delay was due to technical issues from the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS), one of the salary platforms.
For Mrs Victoria Bassey, a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria, she said that during the delay she opted to get a quick loan from an online financial platform to meet her pressing family needs pending when her salary would be paid.
Bassey described the period as challenging especially with the recent removal of fuel subsidy and the hiked prices of food and other household items.
According to her, the delay made me to take an unplanned loan from one of these online loan apps which came with five per cent interest rate in spite the really short time frame to pay back.
“The constant reminder I got from the app to repay the loan was very disturbing and troubling but I was able to pay immediately salaries was paid, even though I was unhappy because of the interest rate i paid for such a short period,’’.
Bassey’s son described the delay in the payment of his mother’s June salary as unfair and unacceptable, adding that it caused him and his siblings discomfort as their mother was made to struggle to manage limited available resources.
Her husband also said that the unusual delay in the payment of his wife’s June salary could have been a potential threat in an unhealthy marriage, especially one where there was an already existing trust issue.
“Imagine if you had trust issues with your wife and when it was her turn to clear up some bills and she comes home to say her salary was been delayed for days, just imagine how you would feel as a man.
“Especially if she have refused earlier to.clear up those bills, you will automatically think she doesn’twant to clear the bills that is why she is giving that excuse that are salary is being delayed, ” he said.
Other dependants of these federal workers shared similar opinions of the plights associated with salaries delay or illegal deductions and denial of workers entitlements such as study leaves, amongst others.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to address these challenges, some NGOs like Gender (GSAI) have taken it upon themselves to extray what women go through, politically, economically, amongst others and to seek redress.
According to the Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), Executive Director, Mrs Adaora Onyechere Jack, said GSAI works to promote women’s rights, equal opportunity for women, increased women’s participation in governance and leadership, increased gender-friendly policies, increased visibility for women, and advancement of women’s voices in the civic space.
She said to achieve the above, GSAI uses media outlets, journalists, and investigative reporters in uncovering and exposing gender-related issues adding that it trains journalist from time to time in order to be equipped to carryout investigations to bring solutions to problems.
Also, Assistant Director, Programmes, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ololade Adeniji-Adele said, there is a need for gender-responsive budgeting to address the huge gender inequalities and disparities that exist in budgetary decisions.
Adeniji-Adele added that gender-responsive budgeting is an approach that will ensure government budgets consider the different needs and priorities of women and men.
“In simple terms, gender-responsive budgeting means looking at how money is allocated and spent by the government and making sure that it takes into account the specific needs and concerns of women and men,’’ she said.
Other experts have also suggested total overhauling of the local government system through local government autonomy and the need to carryout series of identification and screening exercises to eliminate lope-hole and change the councils accounting system.
It is hoped that when these recommendations are applied, the problem of delayed payment of salaries and wages will become a thing of the past, hence, women performance in household management would improve.
“This investigation is for the Gender the Agenda project, for Gender Strategy Advancement International, GSAI, supported by the Wole Soyinka center for investigative journalism and the MacArthur Foundation’’.