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GENDER ISSUES IN TRAFFICKED AND THE DESCENDANTS BY AKALI ZAYNAB
Modern fiction in its attempt to address the woman question is re-focusing attention rather than on simply continuing to bemoan women’s subjection in society to actually, depicting them as striving actively, to overcome such subjection. The raging crusades are all aimed at women’s emancipation and have helped in bringing about the emergence of the new woman in control not only of her situation and destiny, but also of the opportunities hitherto denied her, for self-fulfillment. In this regards, this paper examines Zaynab Alkali’s portrayal of women as vibrant crusaders in bringing about tangible developments in their immediate environments. With insights into the development of female characters in two of her most recent works, The Descendants, this study hopes to highlight Alkali’s new generation woman who is ready to offer her services thereby, re-defining the old roles played by women in Nigerian Literature.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Human trafficking is a global social problem that has eaten deeply into the fabric of every society and can manifest in various forms. The phenomenon predates the transatlantic trade. According to United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC (2006), trafficking is seen as the illegal transport of human beings for the purpose of selling them or exploiting their labour. It is a term used to describe the illegal transport of goods across borders especially contraband goods such as drugs – for profit. Forte, V.L, Okpalakunne (2006), human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer labour receipt of a person through deception, force, coercion to a strange place within or across borders for the purpose of retraining such a person in a situation of enslavement, servitude or debt bondage. It is involves carrying human beings particularly women, children and male able-bodied youths from one place to another, at times across national and international borders by the traffickers for the purpose of subjecting the trafficked persons to prostitution, drug peddling or child labour. Human trafficking has been described variously as “the treatment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of human beings, by means of threat, or use of force or other forms of coercion, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another, for the purpose of exploitation” (United Nations, 2000). Some youths were also lured into various crimes such as armed robbery, fraud and membership of violent gangs etc. as they found themselves in foreign countries. Mahmoud and Trebesch (2009), maintain that human trafficking is often considered as commodity trading because as according to “people are a good commodity as they do not easily perish, but they can be transported over long distances and can be re-used and resold”. Human trafficking is a global issues that track almost the countries of the world especially among African nations. The phenomenon of human trafficking is an epidemic sweeping through all society globally.
It is also, seen as illicit transfer of persons from one milieu to another especially from developing and transition economies to the developed economies. It is bifaceted- the first refers to trafficking as defined above while the second is the aiding and abetting of illegal migration. Specifically, trafficking in young women involves the movement of young women from countries of origin to destination countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Trafficking in persons re-emerged as a burning issue during the mid 1980s amid the concern over changing migration flows, HIV/AIDS, child prostitution and child sex tourism and the revitalization of the feminist movements (Pharaoh, 2006). It assumed prominence in the 1990s with numerous advocacy efforts culminating in the signing of the Palermo Protocol in 2000. The Palermo Protocol was the first international broad based response on an issue that had tasked policy makers since the late 19th century (Pharaoh, 2006). The Palermo Protocol defined human trafficking as: …the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation (United Nations, 2000).
In other hand, since over the years, the publication of Zaynab Alkali’s award winning, first novel, The Stillborn (1984), she has bestride the landscape in Northern Nigeria, like a Colossus. She has without doubt, remained to-date, the dominant voice in the region, even though other, relatively younger, but no less ambitions female writers like Nana, Aishatu Ahmed, Asabe Kabir, Aishatu Gidado Idris, Razinatu Mohammed, Binta, Salma Mohammed to name a few – have emerged after her, blazing the trails she had charted. Coming from a region until lately, not adequately unrepresented in the English fictional world, a region holding firmly still to the ethos and values of a patriarchal order of life (Yakubu, 2005) these writers have been united in their common concerns with issues affecting the woman and the odds constraining their efforts to self and communal development. The debut therefore of the present works – The Descendants (2005) and The Initiates (2007) after almost a decade since her last publication of The Cobwebs (1997), will put to silence, those likely to speculate, about the possible death of the writer’s creative spirit. Thus like new features added to a blossoming tassel, the new titles have proved after all, that the spirit is still alive and lingers on. The period of silence therefore, can be seen as time taken for sober, introspective contemplation over vicissitudes – already existing or new – untouched in earlier fiction, but calling presently, for urgent attention. That the thought above is nursed about writers observing stretches of time in between creative profusions, is not entirely a new thing. The same has been thought of Achebe when, since the publication of A Man of the People in 1966, he remained relatively in the doldrums, until 1987, after more than two decades, when he came up with Anthills of the Savannah. Yet like all great writers the stretches of time which have elapsed as phase of creative discontinuities, have not passed in vain. For the works which issue forth from their pens after the recesses, have proved, as much in their concerns as topically, great contributions, in our search for insights into the understanding of the problems of contemporary society: of these two selections, one centers on gender relationship in a patriarchal, but changing society while the other, on the issue of political responsibility versus tyranny in state rule. The two works above are intended to be examined, in the light of the appraisals Alkali has offered on the woman question in her society, and the strategies women are adopting to change their condition. In her over two decades of literary participation, Alkali’s works have enjoyed the attention of critics and reviewers around the globe. Full textual studies have been conducted in areas that presuppose that she is a feminist writer. Of particular interest here is Chioma Opara’s “The foot as Metaphor in Female attempts by Alkali’s female characters to extricate themselves from patriarchal holds through a metaphoric analysis of the foot as a means by which the female characters walk out of bondage imposed upon them by society. In most of her works, except perhaps in The Virtuous Woman, where the leading character is incapacitated by a physical deformity, Alkali portrays the male in most circumstances as the lame gender and therefore, incapable of wielding homogeneity in family or community matters while the female protagonists like Li, Magira Milli and Sheytu often come in like the supper woman character and make amend for the overall good of family and community.
In The writings of Zaynab Alkali (2005), Ojinma and Egya examine the chronology of the themes in all her writings and conclude that Alkali’s message in all her creative works is “that the female child should not be eternally dependent on marriage as an answer to all her needs” (P.1). Without necessarily suggesting that most female African writers like Alkali, take up the issue of marriage from the traditional point of view as an inhibition on the path of the new woman image, they contend that female characters in her works attain some goals only by dint of hard work and indeed, the rejection of established norms which have become common features in African Literature. Examples can be cited in Woman at Point Zero(1974) by Nawal El-Saadawi where Firdaus walks out of a crippling marriage in the same way that Esi, in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes is willing to change her marital status because the husband makes what she considers undue demands of her person.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Female children living in rural areas in Africa often lack access to quality education, good health and other basic needs which make their parents to entrust them in the hands of other family members who are financially upright to help them train their female children. However, this custom has been abused by those family members or relatives because of the exposure of these female children to hazardous work, prostitution and other forms of inhuman activities. This act posses a serious challenges to the growth of the Africa area, economically, socially and politically. Notwithstanding the legislative and policy framework put in place to curb the menace of women trafficking in Africa, the trend has only progressed over the years. Only recently, Africa has been downgraded from its previously improved position as it relates to child and women trafficking to a worse position. This is worrisome and indeed disturbing as the future of traffic girls in Africa threatened by this monster called trafficking. Thereby subjecting female children to all forms of exploitation and as a result forgo their God giving rights. Trafficking of female folks affect the development of community participation, especially of girl children. The trafficking of girls has created avenues for exploitation such as forced labour, for prostitution and organ harvesting.
However, there is no gain saying the fact that women have been degraded to the position of inferior creatures to men. A woman’s voice is not given as much consideration as it should be; the personality of a woman is almost always taken for granted. In most situations, a woman is evaluated by her child-bearing status and/or her skills; she is not considered by being worthy of being assigned any communal or national responsibilities. However, secularization trend and psychic mobility have promoted women (and even men) to redefine their image. Women have begun to adopt the attitudes that are changing their roles in their homes and the larger society. Communication technology has made it possible for women to imagine, see, hear or read about the activities of women in other nations. This has made women in Nigeria to sit up and re-awaken their sense of self-worth. Women in Nigeria have come to the realization that they are no longer subservient to the men folk; they are now aware that, as creations of Almighty Allah, they also hold a pride of place as an integrate part of society. In a general sense, women in Nigeria are now redefining their image in such a positive way that the men folk are taking notice.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
Effects of trafficking on Women
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is relevant both theoretically and practically. On the theoretical side, the study will provide the general public with information on the involvement of female folk on trafficking. This study intends to add to the body of existing knowledge on female human trafficking generally and specifically, women trafficking in Africa. In practical terms, the awareness that this study will create, may serve as a strategy for prevention of women trafficking, especially to the inhabitants of Africa. It will be useful to the body charged with combating human trafficking, especially to the inhabitants of Africa. It will be useful to the body charged with combating human trafficking (NAPTIP), because this study will further encourage awareness campaigns; when people are informed, the chances of their being at risk is significantly reduced. This study will also be beneficial to the victims of trafficking and those handling their treatment. The type of treatment given to someone who willingly chose to engage in prostitution abroad should not be same with that of the unsuspecting victim. This study intends to distinguish between the two types of victims. This work is expected to be useful for policy and programme formulations by both governmental and non governmental bodies that are interested in the fight against women trafficking in Africa. This study is also a mark of our humble contribution towards the fight against trafficking in females. Again, will help to bring new view points on writing a book from a different perspective, and also to promote women’s liberty; encourage equality; since literature depicts social life, people should be able to treat others in a humane manner. To change the tradition of human inequality. To promote justice for all. New authors should avoid the stereotypes about women in society.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Being an educational research, the scope of this study is confined to the project topic which is the gender issues in trafficked and the descendants by Akali Zaynab.
This research shall employed the secondary sources of data collection. The MLA parenthetical style is adopted to provide written acknowledgement for the sources of information.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Gender: One‟s sex as a man or woman as determined by anatomy of traits that are conceived to constitute what is masculine and what is feminine in temperament and behaviour (Abrams, 2009:149).
Womanism: A social change perspective based upon the everyday problems and experiences of black woman and other women of color, but more broadly seeks to eradicate inequalities not just for black women, but for all people (WIKIPEDIA for Macmillan Dictionary, 2013).
Stereotypes: These are characteristics ascribed to groups of people involving gender, race, national origin and other factors. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved. For an example, someone who meets a few individuals from a particular country and finds them to be quiet and reserved may spread the word that all citizens from that country in question are quiet and reserved (WIKIPEDIA for Macmillan Dictionary, 2013).
Feminism: A struggle for recognition of women‟s cultural roles and achievements, and women‟s social and political rights (Abram, 1971:88).
According to Boyce-Davies‟s definition, feminism is a politics of possible transformation that resists the objectification of women (1994, 28).
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