WHY WOMEN AND CHILDREN? – “EARLY MOMENTS MATTER, HOW SINGLE PARENTING AFFECTS CHILDREN”

Growing up as a child, I spent the earliest moments with my Mother. I was born on July 11, 1989, in Ijebu-Igbo Town, Ijebu-North Local Government, Ogun State. From the stories I was told, I spent 4 years from 1989 to 1993 with my mum in town before she lost her dad (my grandfather) and moving to Nigeria’s Industrial Capital – Lagos with my dad was the next best option. This city, however, was where I discovered life. I realized; those early moments were the very best moments I had as a child. In 2014, I relocated to Nigeria’s largest city, Ibadan.

In October 2015, I lost one of my lecturers – a Female lecturer at the Department of Computer Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan. She was survived by her husband and three (3) daughters. On a condolence visit to the family, the children wept all through our stay; they’ve never lived a day without ‘their mother’ until that unfortunate incident that took her life – she was involved in a tragic motor accident with her being the only involved individual. That was another moment that rang “early moments matter” in my head. Their mother – the ‘woman’ of the house, was the closest person to them in the family. One of the children asked the ‘lifeless body’ how they were going to take care of their dad, with her now gone. This incident birthed the founding of One Voice Initiative for Women and Children Emancipation. I could feel the pain, anguish, despair and the feeling of rejection from the children as if they had just been intentionally left by their mother. I felt a direct connection, feeling of deliberate passion and love between the children and the deceased mum. She was always the one around. For a girl child, the mother’s presence could be the best gift she could have wished for. The early moments spent with her before her demise ‘matter’.

In November 2015, during an award ceremony where I was awarded as one of the fifteen outstanding students for my dedication to civic engagement, selfless service to worthy causes in the community, I requested a moment of silence in behalf of my deceased lecturer and I made a commitment to keep working towards a safe, more secure, better life and enabling environment for the most vulnerable – women and children.

My late lecturer – a woman energetic and accommodating, had gone to serve a lecture at one of the private universities in south-west Nigeria and lost her life to the cold hands of death via a road traffic accident probably due to bad road (1) and her eagerness to arrive home as early as she could, in order to make dinner for her children and the husband. This is similar to what every woman goes through daily to take care of their children and the family (2).

In Nigeria, the number of children in single-parent families rises daily and has risen significantly over the past four decades according to a publication in 2016 credited to Ekpenyong Nkereuwem Stephen and Lawrence Udisi from Niger Delta University, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State. causing substantial concern among policymakers and the public. Researchers have identified the rise in single-parent families (especially mother-child families) as a major factor driving the long-term increase in child poverty in Nigeria. The effects of growing up in single-parent households have been shown to go beyond economics, increasing the risk of children dropping out of school, disconnecting from the labour force, and becoming teen parents. Although many children growing up in single-parent families succeed, others will face significant challenges in making the transition to adulthood. Children in lower-income, single-parent families face the most significant barriers to success in school and the workforce.

According to a report by Nigerian Tribune in 2017, single parenthood was formerly an anathema. Where it existed at all, it was treated as an abnormal case. However, nowadays, single parenthood is fast becoming the norm. Although there are no statistics on single parent in Nigeria, practical experience and newspaper reports show that there is an increase in the number of single parents in Nigeria. Historically, the death of a partner was a major cause of single parenthood in Nigeria. Sadly, children with a single parent are three times more likely to drop out of school than children living with both parents.

The demographics of single parenting show a general increase worldwide in children living in single-parent homes. Single parenting has become an accepted norm in the United States and is an accepted trend found in many other countries. Debates concerning issues bothering on single-parent households, and more have risen. Recently, the numbers of single-parent families have increased drastically and it is gaining a global dimension.

According to an article on the Journal of Nursing and Care, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the US with more than 12 million single parents in custody of over 20 million children in 2000. This increased to 21.8 million children raised by single parents in 2009 (about 26% of children 21 years and below). In South Africa, about 28% of women are single parents. 

According to the Socio-demographic characteristics of study participants, out of 270 respondents, females constituted the majority (190, 70.4%) as against males (80, 29.6%). There were more married ones (187, 69.3%) than single respondents (83, 30.7%) with Hausa forming the majority (143, 53.0%), Yoruba (63, 23.3%) and Igbo and other Nigerian tribes forming the remaining 23.7% (64). Respondents were also predominantly Muslims (204, 75.6%), with Christians forming the remaining 24.4% (66). Their occupational affiliations include Business (43, 15.9%), Civil servant (56, 20.7%), Artisan (21, 7.7%), self-employed (24, 8.8%), and others (120, 44.4%). The gender, religion, ethnic groups and the marital status of the respondents were compared with their opinions on the acceptance of single parenthood.

How single-parenting especially single-fathering affect the growth and wellbeing of children cannot be overemphasized.

Written by: Olayinka Joseph ADEBAJO

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