Improving the Plight of Divorced Women in Northern Nigeria

Plight of Divorced women

Written by Maryam Idris Bappa

Maryam Idris Bappa is a Bsc and Msc graduate of Architecture from ABU Zaria who is currently based in Kaduna State. This bold writer believes in clarity of thought hence she loves to ask questions on why things are the way they are and writes to give justified answers to them.This is why her writings mostly stay focused on thought provoking pieces written simply. Maryam's pieces focuses mostly on writing new and existing ideas in ways that will bring in interest and a new perspective to her readers. When Maryam is not writing articles, poems or sketching, she loves to engage in hand crafts or simply relax in the serene pleasure of her own company.

August 28, 2020

‘Bazawara’ is a term in the Hausa language used to represent a divorced woman or a woman no longer with her husband as a result of death. Yet, it is a word carrying so much identity and stigma, it could almost be seen drawn on the faces of ‘Zaurawa’. Worse, In Northern Nigeria, the way divorce is ultimately pinned to be the fault of the women, while men are given a thousand excuses, is simply unfair.

Divorce In Nigeria

Statistically, In Nigeria, very few percentages of married men and women get divorced legally. But that is excluding traditional marriages which are more popular. These divorces get triggered by early marriages, sexual-related issues, change in lifestyles, the fantastical ideology of women about marriage, career, and also married couples living apart for more than 2 years.

From another source, 15 major causes of divorce supported these triggers adding to the list; Lack of preparation; Lack of communication, Abuse, Lack of intimacy, Lack of trust, Interference from the third party, Money matters, Age differences, Childlessness and infertility, Lack of proper courtship, Lack of exposure and Intellectual development.

Read: 9 Reasons Couples Get Divorce

Still, reasons and requests for divorce can sometimes be ridiculous. In one instance, a woman asked her husband for a divorce because he mistook her cooking pot for the toilet. In another instance, a man divorced his wife because he felt deceived over her initial assumed beauty. These and more have led to more than sufficient reasons to get divorced in Nigeria.

Divorce in Northern Nigeria

In Northern Nigeria, divorce trends mostly in places like Kano, Katsina, Zaria, and Bauchi, with reasons ranging from toxic masculinity, early marriages due to parents’ financial in capabilities, lack of counseling, to the lack of psychological preparations and the build-up of the false psychological state of negative expectations. Right from when a woman is to be married, the phrase ‘Ayi hakuri’ —meaning marriage is all about patience is chanted to the woman until the day she dies.

This makes her go into marriage with the worst possible painted scenarios in her head, also trapping her in a long unhappy marriage of physical, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. She feels it is her responsibility to keep the marriage going until when she is not able to. Then, the fault is pinned on her and the man is acquitted.

Addressing the Stigma Towards Divorced Women

Whatever be the reason for divorce, women are always at the negative stigmatic receiving end of it, with their children caught at traumatizing middles. Anger, depression, hopelessness, and poverty are some of the few impacts divorces have on women. As a result, more and more women end up in drugs, violence, feminism, kidnapping, and human trafficking. The men, on the other hand, go on with their lives marrying as many more wives as fit for their practice.

Read: Ultimate Ways To Avoid Divorce

However, it is time we stop pointing societally manicured fingers and accept that what has happened cannot be reversed. Therefore, instead of blaming each other for the past, let us allow women divorcees to breathe and live life without dooming tattoos. Below are ways we can make life less difficult for divorced women and help them get through their struggles.

1. Give Women the Freedom to Make Their Choice

When people divorce, it can be such a tragedy. At the same time, if people stay together, it can even be worse.


The first step to helping divorced women is by NOT making them stay in unhappy marriages. Parents especially fathers, giving out their daughters in marriage should know that by giving their daughters a chance to make a healthy exit out of a toxic marriage, they are saving them a lot of physical and emotional damages in the marriage and afterward.

Rather than a warning and threatening daughters that under no circumstances should they leave their husbands’ houses, with strict penalties outlined in place upon their return, they should advise them accordingly and trust them to make the right decisions. Many women have gone into and stayed through disastrous marriages for fear of their parents that when the marriage eventually ends, they are left already physically and emotionally drained beyond help.

2. Know That it Could Be You

This goes to people especially women that look down on other women that are divorced. Show some empathy! Yes. There is nothing special about you that puts you above divorced women. Nothing that guarantees that either you, your friend, or your family member will not meet the same fate. As bitter as it may sound, you need to open your eyes, read some books, then get off your high horse and show these women some understanding. Or at least, don’t try to judge them based on your pure ignorance.

3. Don’t Punish Them at Home

Don’t spend time beating on a wall hoping it will transform into a door


The idea that a divorced woman should become a glorified maid of the house after divorce needs to stop right this moment! Don’t punish and frustrate divorced women into regret or into returning to their husbands’ homes’. This ill tradition promoted by poverty and ignorance has successfully been transferred from generation to generation. Surely, it may have been seen to work and set women straight in some instances.

You can force a horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink.

A Popular Saying

You never know what these frustrated women might return and end up doing. Instead, show empathy and give these women the emotional support they need. That way, they can think straight and begin to focus on their next step of action. Also, it will enable both the husband other members of society to see them with respect and treat them as the humans that they are.

4. Accept Divorced Women Back in the Society

The northern society becomes like thorns on a chair for divorced women to sit on after a long day’s work. Everywhere they go, lips murmur and fingers point at them. At weddings and gatherings, especially of women, the divorcees can be seen grouping themselves in a subconscious mental club where they feel less rejected.

While women continue to openly gossip about whose marriage just ended and who is about to. In short, the public becomes an unfavorable atmosphere for divorced women and those who care about them. These displays of ignorance happen as a result of a lack of knowledge and empathy by society, forcing divorced women who cannot withstand the pressure to fall back into depression and self-hatred.

5. Offer Them Professional Counseling

Take a step back, reflect, and look at the bigger picture. As divorce experiences differ in different marriages, most times, when women come out of a marriage, they are in need of intense counseling in order to make peace with their past and move on. It may also help them rebuild themselves for their next marriages. So instead of jumping from one marriage to the other, know that as a divorced woman;

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Toni Morrison

Understanding why certain things happened in your marriage and why you and your partner felt the way you felt and reacted the way you reacted will enable you to understand yourselves and make a closure. It will also free yourself from self-blame and enable you to take the next step of action. Although such programs are not popular in Northern Nigeria, famed online ‘Divorce Diaries’ have gone a long way in giving structure and support groups to divorced women in Northern Nigeria.

6. Empower Divorced Women Financially

Divorced women should be equipped with skills such that they can earn enough to feed, clothe, and school their children. Many women prefer to stay in draining marriages solely because they have no way of taking care of the financial needs of themselves and their children if they choose to leave. Caught in a dilemma to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea, those who choose divorce are in some cases immediately abandoned by the husband, who is already busy with his other wives or looking for ways of replacing the woman with another.

As such, divorced women can be seen doing menial jobs like housekeeping, hawking, and others to cater for themselves and their children’s wellbeing. But that alone will not suffice as the wages they receive cannot go past feeding and clothing. Therefore, organizations should provide jobs or empowerment for divorced women.

7. Don’t Make Them Feel Inferior to Other Women

A woman should not be disqualified for her next marriage simply because she has been married before and gotten divorced. I am talking particularly to women who feel divorced women are at the bottom of the compatibility chain of marriages. The sad truth is that this is common among mothers. A northern Nigerian mother will hardly allow her unmarried son to marry a lady who was divorced before. On the other hand, people hardly care whether a man is a divorcee when he is in search of marriage.

Why all these stigmas and preferential treatment? If a divorced woman is considered a bad person and unmarketable to a bachelor, then it is only fair that the same should apply for a divorced man searching for a spinster’s hand in marriage. Rather than make divorced women feel inferior to spinsters because of their marital status, judge them for who they are fairly and give equal chances to both parties. Celebrate their remarriages with enthusiasm.

There is nothing wrong with gathering a merry crowd to celebrate a divorced woman’s remarriage like it was done the first time she got married. However, this is not so. The remarriages are done so low key that one will begin to wonder if it is a thief being smuggled out of the house, or even a funeral. For most women, they are quite content with that. The low bride price, the few ‘Kayan daki’, the small or no gathering, the absence of ‘Lefe’, and many others. The women are most of the time just grateful to be remarried and lack all manner of enthusiasm.

But there is nothing wrong with sharing in the celebration of a divorced woman’s remarriage to show them that they are loved. Attend such remarriages, give them gifts, grant them good wishes, and make them re-enter with a positive mind-set.

8. Support Their Children

No woman should be forced to live apart from her children if it can be helped. This goes mainly to the new husband. When you marry a divorced woman who already has children, try as much as you can to support her children. Mother and child separation has happened many times because the new husband refuses to take in her children as his. Hence, she has no choice but to leave her children with relatives or with the family of her old husband where they might end up getting maltreated.

In other times, divorced women often simply refuse to remarry for fear of child separation. In another context, husbands who divorce their wives should try their possible best to cater to her and her children and not abandon them. This will keep the mother of your children and also your children off the streets and away from suffering.

9. Don’t Rub it On Their Faces

Marry her, show her life can be different, and don’t rub it on her face! If as a new husband, you cannot cater to the emotional needs of your previously divorced new wife, then don’t marry her! Too many men have married divorced women only to rub salts on their wounds. They constantly use her previous marital status to rain insults and abuses on her and her children as they like. Desperate to not go into divorce number two, these women are forced to live with monsters as husbands.

Do yourself the honor of not disgracing your manhood and leave these women alone. They are doing very fine and do not need someone like you to marry them and practice your childishness on their misfortune. We have looked at ten ways in which we as a community of people with humanity can make life easier for divorced women.

Be the heroine of your life, not the victim

Nora Ephron

To the divorced women out there, divorce is a chance for self-reflection and growth. It is not for the public to decide where you are spiritually or morally but for yourself to decide where you are and what to do with your life, that way, you can turn a blind eye to the negativity of people.

To the remaining people out there, know that divorce is like a road accident waiting to happen to anybody at any time. Some are more severe than others. Some people will escape with barely a scratch while others will become temporarily or permanently disabled or even lose their lives. The fact that it skips you doesn’t make you a better driver or pedestrian than others. Some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When bringing out an accident victim, we do it cautiously not knowing which part of the victim is hurt internally. Likewise, we also need to tread cautiously with divorced people, for we don’t know which bone in their body is about to break!


Zaurawa: Meaning widowed or divorced men and women
Kayan daki: customary home furnishings did for s woman going into marriage by her parents in Northern Nigerian culture.
Lefe: Customary clothing gift issued by the groom to bride to be in Northern Nigerian culture.

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1 Comment

  1. Abdulrahman

    We can not proper as a society until we make and create a safe and secure environment for all classes and kinds of people to thrive and prosper. This is particularly important for the divorcee women. Our societies are only as good as we are to our women especially widows and divorcees. This article has brought to the fore valuable yet practical ways through which we can help improve the lives of divorcee women. We can do it and we shall do it. It is a collective duty that needs all hands on deck. It gives me confidence to know that we are making efforts to have this conversation no matter how difficult it may seem.


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