Nkemodi Elizabeth

last updated Thu, Aug 24, 2023 1:51 PM

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3 mins read

Breaking herd ceilings: A girl's journey to cowgirl

By Nkemodi Elizabeth
| Updated 13:51 24/08/2023
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Photo for illustration: Fulani woman milks cow in Kano. Photo Credit: AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE/REUTERS

In northern Nigeria, cattle rearing is seen as a strenuous job mainly reserved for men.

In this region, cattle rearing stands as a cornerstone of livelihood. Yet, the sight of women tending to cattle, including cows and bulls, remains an anomaly. They often face sidelining and ridicule when they dare to dream the audacious dream of raising cattle.

The prevailing societal norms confine women to their homes, assigning them the role of caregivers for children and the responsibilities of domestic tasks. These deeply entrenched gender stereotypes have served as barriers, deterring numerous women from pursuing their aspirations in cattle rearing.

For many young girls who hold a deep fondness for raising cattle, their desires often remain suppressed due to the fear of humiliation and mockery. Yet, a resilient few have managed to rise above the taunts, resolutely embracing what brings them happiness.

Among these determined individuals is Aminat, who hails from Kaduna. A shining example in her community, she has defied the established gender norms with unwavering resolve. 

At 18 years old, Aminat draws immense joy from the art of cattle rearing, a passion she wholeheartedly embraced at the tender age of nine.

"When I was a child, I would always cry my eyes out just so that I could go with my brothers to the field where the cattle are kept for grazing," she explained. 

Being the only girl child in her family, it was difficult for her to get her parents' approval to go out with her brothers. 

Because the cows cannot be confined to a single location, they must constantly move from one field to another based on the grass's availability. While this task was physically demanding for a child her age, the sheer delight she experienced while observing the cattle graze was truly boundless.

"I have always dreamt of rearing my own cattle," said Aminat. She always gets laughed at whenever she says this to people. They will always mock her and tell her that cattle rearing is not a thing for women. 

At 17, Aminat's father rewarded her diligence and hard work with five cattle. It was like a dream come true, and it was an opportunity for her to practise, own her own, all that she had learned from rearing her father's cattle.  

Aminat said that soon she was to find out that being fully responsible for her own cattle was a different ball game, but she had the guidance and help of her brothers.

"My brothers also supported my dream as they did everything possible to ensure I succeed." She stated. 

Now, Aminat hopes to expand her herd and forge a path to financial independence. However, her journey is not without its hurdles. A recurring challenge she faces involves the quest for suitable grazing fields for her animals. At times, she embarks on lengthy treks across considerable distances in pursuit of these grazing lands.

"I see this as a challenge, and I hope to get my own ranch in the future. Ranches, if possible," She said as her face lit up. 

She also clashes with other male nomads who often try to intimidate her due to her gender. But she's not afraid and stands up to them. She also gets teased by both men and women who say she's wasting her time because she's a young girl. Despite this, she stays strong and keeps going.

For Aminat, she hopes that her decision to break out means other girls who have similar dreams are bold enough to take the 'cattles by the horns' and pursue what they love.

cattle rearer

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