It’s possible that when you think about breadwinners in the home, your mind automatically goes to the man. Regardless of what society expects, this isn’t always the case in every family.

We spoke to six Nigerian women about being major financial providers in their families, and here’s what they had to say:

“We don’t talk about it”

— Joke*, 36

I’ve been married for four years, and my husband has only officially worked for one year since we got together. He lost his job due to some kind of office politics, and now, he just does some online freelancing to make money.

I cover all the bills — including rent and our children’s school fees — from my ₦100k salary. It’s challenging, and I must have taken loans from every co-operative at my job. At this point, we don’t even talk about me having to take care of everything anymore; it’s just expected. I can’t say anything so as not to seem disrespectful.

“My mum expects me to send money home”

— Gina*, 20

I’m a student at one of the federal polytechnics, and I also make hair for my fellow students to get some money. My mum is a single mother of two, and she sells sweets to fend for us.

I understand how tough things are at home, and I send what I can, especially to support my little sister who’s still in secondary school, but it gets frustrating that my mum expects so much from me. I once asked her where she thought I got money from and she didn’t say anything. 

I hustle daily to support my family and pay for school, but I hope I don’t get pushed into doing what I’m not supposed to do.

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“No one knows our situation”

— Giftie*, 28

I earn 70% more than my husband does. So naturally, I take on more responsibilities at home. That isn’t an issue in itself, but the pressure from our extended family is out of this world.

My husband is generous, and our extended family takes advantage of this. It has gotten so bad that they now feel entitled, and if he doesn’t send money, they say his wife doesn’t want him to help them. Now I find myself spending most of my salary just to satisfy family demands — while they think it’s coming from my husband. People think we’re rich, in reality, we have to stretch out my husband’s small salary to afford rent and other utilities. 

“It’s tiring”

— Lizzy*, 33

My husband is out of the country, and I’ve been the only one catering to the children — well, except for the yearly rent that he sends.

He’s been away for three years now, and I still wonder if it’s that difficult to send something to assist in feeding and school fees at least once in a while. His family also doesn’t care to know how we live. But if I dare ask him for money, his mother will know and send one of his siblings to harass me.

I like to console myself by assuming I’m a single mother so I don’t feel too disappointed. 

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“I try my best to ease my parents’ suffering”

— Jocelyn*, 27

I know how hard my parents worked to ensure my siblings and I didn’t lack anything while we were growing up.

Now that I have a job and they’re both retired, I’m only too happy to take on our financial needs, especially with three of my siblings still in school. It’s tough because I don’t earn so much, and I don’t have a glucose guardian, but I try my best.

It means I can’t just spend on enjoyment sturvs for myself or randomly go out with friends, but it’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make. My parents did more for us.

“We’re a unit”

— Hadiza*, 31

My husband resigned from work in 2021 to further his studies in another state. I’ve had to shoulder all the home expenses and even assist with his school expenses.

I don’t have a problem with it because this is something that we already talked about and agreed on together. But it’s difficult because we have three children. Anyway, the fact that this should be temporary helps make it easier.

*All names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

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