Nigeria Country Report 2016

Publication Date
March 1, 2016

“Nigeria is currently experiencing insurgency, urban violence, tensions over environmental degradation and conflict over land and water - and gender inequality drives and is exacerbated by all these conflicts.”

Commissioned by Voices for Change (V4C) and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP), this study examines the connections between masculinities, conflict, and violence in four states in Nigeria. As explained in the report, efforts have been made to understand and address the different ways in which violence impacts on women and men, however, little attention has been paid to the part that gender itself plays in fuelling conflict and violence, and the role of masculinities in particular. This report seeks to fill that gap and promote policy and practice that considers gender roles and norms and the impact of masculinities on personal conflict and conflict within the home and the wider community,

Specifically the study seeks to:

  • Explore the ways in which notions of masculinity and femininity create personal struggles - and how those struggles influence, and are influenced by, conflict dynamics.
  • Understand the extent to which notions of ‘manhood’ promote involvement of boys, men, girls and women in violence or conflict and the impact of this on relationships between men and women.
  • Examine the impact of living in conflict situations (including those marked by inequality, political power struggles and globalisation) on male identity and ways in which this promotes involvement of men and boys in gender-based violence and restricts women’s mobility and rights.
  • Identify and understand alternative ways in which men and boys deal with conflict (e.g. use of negotiations, peaceful resolution), the factors that encourage them to ‘take a different path’ and the way they are perceived by the wider community and different generations.
  • Find out how formal and informal institutions - religious and traditional institutions, women’s groups, educational institutions, peace groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), local government areas (LGAs) and law and justice institutions - reinforce and perpetuate positive and negative notions of masculinity.
  • Explore generational changes and trends around ideas of what it means to be a man or woman in relation to conflict dynamics.

The study was conducted in four states using focus group discussions with young single men and women (18 to 25) and older married men and women.  Key informant interviews were conducted with stakeholders such as government representatives, traditional and religious leaders, youth and women’s group representatives, people with disability, and security agencies. The following are a selection of some of the key findings (as outlined in the executive summary):

  • Men and boys are raised to see themselves as breadwinners, heads of the household and providers of security and care. They experience intense pressure to fulfil these roles and this pressure intensifies if they are unable to live up to expectations.
  • In general, women are expected to be submissive or supportive, dress modestly, devote themselves to looking after the family and care for their communities. There is greater variation in norms around women’s roles than around those of men.
  • Notions of masculinity and femininity set standards which are difficult to achieve. This difficulty is exacerbated by contexts of violence, insecurity, economic decline, high unemployment, inequality and changed gender realities. These factors challenge and blur traditional norms, for example, by leaving many men unable or unwilling to provide for their families despite their traditional roles as breadwinners.
  • Norms and roles have changed and continue to shift compared with previous generations. For example, women have increased freedom of movement and more access to education and opportunities to earn income.
  • Men’s inability to meet societal ideals causes conflict at household and community levels as well as creating personal struggles. These struggles are heightened by inequality, poverty, lack of connections that are needed to succeed, dependence on parents, feelings of helplessness when faced with violence and struggles for income.
  • Inability to live up to the ‘breadwinning’ role is a key cause of conflict in the home. Men worry they will lose authority, control and respect if they are unable to provide for their families resulting in their wives needing to assume the more male traditional role of provider. These dynamics can manifest in physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
  • Men have the power to make choices and many are able to resist violence and work for peace - despite the pressures and societal sanctions they face – and the fact that they have previously been involved in violence. Norms around men being calm, in control and responsible for maintaining peace were strong.
  • Male-dominated institutions drive cultures of violence and conflict by propagating masculinities.

In terms of the way forward, the brief concludes that “[C]omprehensive efforts to tackle issues of violence and gender equality must address men’s gender identities. They must consider the way these identities drive conflict and violence and the differential impacts of conflict and violence on men and women. They must be context-specific and target different levels of society to build personal resilience, change attitudes, behaviours and practices within families and communities and transform institutional policies and practices.”  To achieve this, the brief offers a list of recommendations for government, civil society, donors, community leaders, researchers and others. The following are just a selection:

Analysis and Research

  • Expand gender analysis to include men and boys as well as women and girls, disaggregating research to understand what norms mean for different groups and ensure that this, together with conflict analysis, informs policies and programmes.


  • Do not reinforce norms of masculinities that lead to conflict and violence and check this through monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Initiate widespread awareness, education and mobilisation campaigns to challenge stereotypes and attitudes, highlighting the roles of men who champion gender equality and peace.
  • Institute programmes to change attitudes around gender equality, shift norms of masculinity and help young people control anger and learn peaceful methods of resolving conflict.
  • Address youth exclusion by building genuine intergenerational dialogue.


  • Build a process of critical consciousness to deconstruct inequitable norms around masculinity and create a moral and ethical consensus that certain behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Tackle cultures of masculinity that exist where concepts of power and control are linked to ideas of 'being a man' through increasing women’s meaningful participation at all levels and shifting notions around what it means to be a man engaged in this work.

Voices for Change website on June 20 2017.