Idrisu Ali grimaces as he recalls the day he sent his 12-year-old daughter, Fatima, away to live with a 65-year-old man.
Although the practice is common in Nigeria’s remote northern state of Bauchi, Ali did not feel entirely comfortable with the idea of giving away his little girl’s hand in marriage – to a man old enough to be her grandfather.
“I was sad because he was too old. I wanted her to marry someone younger, say 55 or 50 because he could take care of her for a longer time before he dies. But he was a successful farmer in the village and he paid a good dowry,” says Ali in his rundown shack in Bauchi, the state capital.
The dowry consisted of some kola nuts (native to the African tropics), a cow, a bag of salt and a sewing machine. To protect his daughter from the negative glares of society, Ali accepted the generous offer and sent Fatima on her way to her new life as a wife.
“This is what happens when a girl reaches puberty. It is our culture and that is the right thing for a woman to do. She will grow up quickly and learn how to take care of a man and the home and bring honor to her family,” says Ali.
For Fatima and many other young girls in Northern Nigeria, their demise into forced marriages is puzzling.
Fatima’s marriage is prohibited under Nigeria’s Child Rights Act (CRA), which bans marriage before the age of 18. But federal laws are at loggerheads with age-old customs, as well as the implementation of Sharia law or Islamic law in some Muslim states.
“As a father you have to do what is best for your family. If your daughter is ready for marriage, you do what you must to make sure she finds a good man,” says Ali.
Nigeria is home to the largest number of child brides in Africa, with 23 million girls and women who are married in childhood according to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). GirlsnotBrides.org asserts that globally, the number of teen brides is expected to reach 1.2 billion by 2050 if there is no reduction with one in three girls in the developing world married before age 18.
The practice has continued to gain prominence in northern Nigeria due to prevailing attitudes in an area with gender disparity. The grim situation is particularly pronounced in this region due mainly to strong resistance to CRA with opponents stating that some aspects of the Act are against religion and therefore cannot be followed.
“According to current figures, more than 50,000 girls worldwide are married while still children, often before they may be physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers and this endangers the life trajectories of these girls in numerous ways,” says Oby Ezekwesili, Senior Economic Advisor and Co-Founder of #Bringbackourgirls campaign.
Such was the case for Mamuna Ibrahim. At the age of 14, she is already a divorcee.
“When I was 13, one of my father’s friends came to the house and asked for a bride. My father chose me because I was the oldest out of my three siblings. I did not want to go with him. I wanted to go to school and be an air hostess but I could not disobey my father so I accepted,” says Ibrahim.
Her husband, a 38-year-old trader, took her away to the remote dust-blown state of Borno in north eastern Nigeria. Immediately after the marriage, Ibrahim’s problems began.
“I wanted to continue my education but he said no. One day he came home and I was reading a storybook and he got really angry and beat me. He said a wife’s place is in the house not at school. He was abusive and demanded sex every evening. It was painful,” says Ibrahim.
To escape the traumatic ordeal, she ran home to her mother and begged not to be returned. Her angry husband divorced her immediately under Sharia Law, which requires a man to say out loud “I divorce you” three times for a marriage to be over.
“My father was very angry and embarrassed. He threatened to kill me but my mother and other elders of the family pleaded with him. He stopped talking to me because I brought shame to the family. He disowned me,” says Ibrahim.
She stays with her mother’s sister on the outskirts of Kaduna. Her situation is worsened due to her early pregnancy. At three months in and with no education or prospects of finding a job, Ibrahim roams the streets of Kaduna selling bean cake and mobile phone vouchers to make ends meet.
According to the International Center For Research on Women (ICRW), the impact of the practice of child marriage is felt both at the individual and societal levels and it is therefore imperative in alleviating poverty and subsequently, promoting economic development.
“Child marriages have an adverse impact on the economy by limiting opportunities for career and vocational advancement for young girls. It therefore disempowers women and stifles the prosperity of a country because when a significant number of the workforce is rendered economically inactive, the nation will suffer,” says Bismarck Rewane, CEO, Financial Derivatives Company in Lagos.
Its health implications are just as dire.
“There are several health risks that these young girls are exposed to. Most of them get pregnant at an age where normal vaginal births are difficult because their hips are not wide enough for the baby to be pushed through the vaginal canal and this can lead to the death of the mother and the baby. Also, the babies are exposed to diseases due to the lack of micronutrients in the girl’s body and most often babies do not survive,” says Dr. Mariam Doku, a pediatrician at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana.
Her claims are further buttressed by the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) that asserts that teen brides are more likely to contract HIV and are also exposed to sexually transmitted infections due to their inability to negotiate safer sexual practices. As President of the IWHC, Françoise Girard, has played a key role in advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights with UN agencies.
It is her belief that ending the practice of teen brides is a smart thing to do as it falls in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which has made ending child marriage by 2030 a key target.
Organizations like the World Bank, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF continue to support efforts in many countries but according to Rewane, much more must be done.
“The notion that sending girls off to marry much older men is a better option is also partly attributable to poverty. For instance, a very poor family is likely to reason that marrying their daughter off early will provide her basic needs and in addition, the gains gotten from her marriage may be part of the survival strategy of the family. So we need to tackle the root of the issue, which is poverty and that means efforts to abolish this practice needs to be a state-level intervention,” asserts Rewane.
For those in remote areas who are dependent on subsistence farming, the practice can be influenced by seasonal conditions. For example, in the years when rains or crops fail, the practice of “drought brides”, thus girls who bring in a dowry, while being one fewer mouth to feed, contribute to pushing up the numbers of teen brides dramatically. Four of the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in West Africa’s Sahel and Sahara belt, according to UNICEF.
In many of these communities, a family’s wealth is measured in terms of the herd of cattle they own and young girls are the medium of payment. As policy makers continue to lobby traditional heads to implement the CRA in local communities, the dilemma continues for girls like Ibrahim whose cries for freedom continue to fall on deaf ears.
This caterer’s recipe for success
After her husband’s death, Popi Zolas abandoned her corporate career and took on a restaurant franchise, before immersing herself in the catering and confectionery business.
As a cost consultant working in the corporate space, Popi Zolas never thought she would one day be in the catering and baking business. But when life deals you rude surprises, you make plans to make the dough to live it down.
Her husband’s death in a car accident in 1997 resulted in her inheriting shares in the then popular Something Fishy restaurant in Johannesburg that her husband franchised.
After his death, she was thrown in the deep end and had to co-manage his business.
“I worked there for seven years together with a partner and we did phenomenally well but our visions were different and we had to buy each other out; he offered me more than [the amount] I was happy offer him. I exited the group in 2003,” she says.
Zolas rested for a while and went into franchise consulting, and then went on to research global eating trends in 2004. The same year, 180 Degrees Catering & Confectionery was born. She named the business after the standard temperature used for baking.
“This baby (180 degrees) is a very difficult baby, but it’s a very rewarding baby in the sense that people who start off as cleaners, end up in either the confectionery or catering department,” says Zolas.
It began as a restaurant in Bryanston, north of Johannesburg, employing 15 people, but has seen some changes over the years.
The initial idea was to create home-style, nutritionally balanced meals for families and corporate employees. Part of the concept was also to make high-end meals that would be convenient.
“I can’t say I was happy being in retail. In 2008, during the global recession, my intention was to franchise 180 Degrees but that never happened because banks stopped financing startups. My lease increased, after almost five years, to R150 ($11) per square meter. I didn’t want to sign a new lease because the cost was horrendous. They were upgrading the building, and we thought we have a substantial following of corporate clients, why not retain those clients and go to a small factory where it’s R29 ($2) per square meter.”
Unfortunately, the following year, Zolas had to retrench seven staff members but was able to retain the rest.
“We had retrenched because we had a limited number of corporate customers and we were going to service that group of customers with the intention of growth,” she says.
That proved to be a successful strategy as she now employs 79 people at a factory in Wynberg, 12kms from their former Bryanston address.
When they moved into the factory, the business focused solely on corporate catering where food was being delivered to corporates; and business was steadily growing through word-of-mouth.
“If your product is not good, not wholesome, not tasty or without good presentation, you will never succeed, despite the marketing. And word-of-mouth is the most important thing in this industry.”
READ MORE | The Foodies With A Drive For Business
Zolas elaborates on her recipe for success.
“I believe the product should speak for itself, customer service should be exceptionally important because our product is a very high-end product. We don’t use preservatives, we don’t use stabilizers and we don’t use enhancers in our products. We use real cream cheese, real butter, our product is a real wholesome creation, and we don’t substitute, I’m very fanatical about detail. We stand out because of that.
“Now we are growing a very huge private customer base; either they collect or we have it delivered, and that started almost immediately because they see us delivering to corporates and would call and enquire for private functions and that is the spinoff from the corporate work that we do,” Zolas says.
The business reaches the far corners of Gauteng in South Africa. Zolas supplies to coffee shops, hotels, restaurants and caterers who are either short-staffed to produce a particular product or if their orders are too high.
“I keep mentioning growth because I never expected to be where we are now when we moved into this factory. I thought when I reached R1 million ($71,645) the business would be wow, and then you reach it and you think ‘what now’, and then it’s R1.5 million ($107,478) and you watch those figures every day and you’re excited and you’re thinking, ‘will I get to R2 million ($143,304)’ and then its ‘nah, not R2 million’. Now, the turnover is R3.5 million ($250,782). When I started in Bryanston, I was making around R300,000 ($21,495).”
Innocentia Malandisa, who has been working with the company for 15 years, is the only person Zolas trusts with quality control in the catering department.
“My child was six months when I started, this year she is turning 15. I have worked with Popi ever since and I don’t have complaints. We’ve had hiccups, up and downs, on and offs but we keep on going. I am the chef here and I’ve been chopping onions ever since [I started], even today and I’m enjoying it,” Malandisa says.
Because of the demands of her business, Zolas, 56, does not enjoy much of a social life, but her customers and staff such as Malandisa have more than filled in to become good friends.
There seems to be enough good food and goodwill going around.
The dos and don’ts of franchising
Ulrich Joubert, an independent economist in South Africa, says franchising has its benefits but there are complexities that businesses must consider.
“If you talk about franchisers, it gives people support and provides structure to people who are starting in business. We’ve seen in the past where people lose their jobs and have to do something to stay alive and survive. And so, many people go into franchise and if they have good support, then it helps become successful.”
He avers though that it’s hard work, and you have to be careful about how you do things to provide quality products customers will come back for time and again.
“Quality is of utmost importance and, therefore, skills development, and often if you want to break into the corporate environment, it takes a lot of time and effort to get into those environments.”
Baby Archie’s Great-Granny Is Royally Loaded: Inside Queen Elizabeth’s $500 Million Fortune
What kind of silver spoon was little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsorborn with in his mouth? Probably a gold one. After all, his great-grandmother lives like a queen.
Only Elizabeth II can call several palaces home, don Cartier tiaras, own rare paintings, collect Thoroughbreds, and match endless colorful hats with a rainbow of outfits without being a billionaire. Her Majesty, who has worn the crown since 1953, lives the life of the ultrarich but is nowhere close to being one of the wealthiest in the world—or even her United Kingdom. The Queen’s nine-figure net worth—estimated at $500 million—lands her way below the 2,153 billionaires on Forbes’list this year. And yet she enjoys a lifestyle any of them would surely envy.
The 93-year-old directly owns some assets like Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, but many of her most valuable assets like Buckingham Palace are owned by a body called the Crown Estate.
If she were to possess the Crown Estate—which includes a myriad of properties in the U.K. and is owned by neither the government nor the royal family—as well as the Duchy of Lancaster (a private trust governed by the same ownership rules), Forbes estimates that the Queen would be the richest person in the U.K. (and the third-wealthiest woman in the world) with a net worth of more than $25 billion. And even that number doesn’t take into account the value of the Royal Collection Trust, which, with its Fabergé eggsand Rembrandt paintings, could be worth in excess of a billion dollars.
And she does earn a living. The Queen derives an annual income from the properties held by the $18 billion Crown Estate and the Duchy of Lancaster, a real estate trust dating back to 1265, that paid her $27 million (pretax) in fiscal year 2018 for personal expenses. The Sovereign Grant, which equals 25% of the income from the Crown Estate, goes toward the Queen’s official expenses, which include payroll, travel, housekeeping, maintenance costs and even IT expenses. (She is on Instagram, after all.) And none of that includes any winnings she earns betting on her beloved racehorses.
Naturally, Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, is not as wealthy as his mother—yet. The 70-year-old Prince of Wales derives his annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall, which manages a real estate trust that largely consists of 131,000 acres and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the U.K. The proceeds from Cornwall cover not only the annual expenses of Prince Charles but also of his two sons and their families: Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children; and Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan Markle, and baby Archie. Though considerably more modern and down-to-earth than their grandmother, the young Windsors live like, well, royalty. In 2018, the families of William and Harry had $6.1 million in personal expenses, although the royals’ official financial statements do not detail what those expenses were.
Despite the endless fascination with the royals around the world, there is a faction in the U.K. who believe the family is a burden on taxpayers. That’s not necessarily the case, however, according to Richard Haigh, the managing director of Brand Finance, a U.K.-based valuation company. “Last year, we valued the boost to the U.K. economy from Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in Windsor at almost $1.5 billion,” Haigh told Forbes. And in its latest report on the monarchy from 2017, Brand Finance estimated that the family is responsible for more than $700 million in annual tourism.
In other words—everyone is royally flush.
With additional reporting by Hayley C. Cuccinello, Ariel Shapiro and Kristin Tablang.
The Royal Family by the Numbers
$18.7 billion: The real estate owned in Great Britain by the Crown Estate and its Scottish counterpart. The Queen technically owns this portfolio of commercial and industrial properties, but she cannot sell any of it.
$4.7 billion: According to Lenka Duskova of the Czech real estate agency Luxent, the value of Buckingham Palace, the 775-room residence of the United Kingdom’s sovereigns since 1837, would be worth a little bit more than Richard Branson. (Not that the royal family is looking to move.)
$1.3 billion: The net assets of the Duchy of Cornwall, which spans 131,000 acres. Its portfolio include the Isles of Scilly, residential and commercial properties in London and Llwynywermod, the Welsh home of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall.
$740 million: The net assets of the Duchy of Lancaster, which includes some 46,000 acres of land in England and Wales acquired by the Duchy over seven centuries, London’s Savoy Chapel (built in 1512), as well as limestone and sandstone quarries and a gypsum mine.
$600 million: The value of Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the residence of young royals for more than three centuries, according to Luxent. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children live in Kensington Palace 1A, a 20-room, four-story “apartment.”
$428.2 million: The profit turned by the Crown Estate in 2018, which was deposited into Britain’s Treasury rather than the Queen’s many purses.
$145.6 million: The combined assets held by Prince Charles’ charities, which support economic, environmental and social causes in Britain and around the globe.
$46.7 million: The amount spent on charitable activities in 2018 by Prince Charles’ philanthropic organizations.
$31.5 million: The value of Princess Diana’s estate at the time of her death, according to her will. The bulk of that sum went to her sons, Princes William and Harry, each of whom inherited a share on his 25th birthday. The remainder was split between her 17 godchildren and her former butler Paul Burrell, who received£50,000 (about $81,000).
1,762: The number of offshore wind turbines that are part of the Crown Estate.
200 billion: The number of times the image of the Queen on U.K. postage stamps has been reproduced. The design has not changed since 1967 and is believed to be the most reproduced work of art in history.
$17,627,021: Amount that the jewelry and Fabergé items from the collection of Princess Margaret brought in at Christie’s in 2006. The exquisite pieces included the Poltimore Tiara—made in 1870 by Garrard for Lady Poltimore, the wife of the second Baron Poltimore and Queen Victoria’s treasurer—which sold for $1.7 million.
$2,423,050: The amount an unused Mauritius “Post Office” twopence from 1847 (No. 13)—which mirrors the piece widely regarded as the most valuable stamp in the Royal Philatelic Collection (No. 14)—sold for in 1993. The prized collection—which has never been appraised—also boasts one of two 1854 Bermuda “Perot” stamps still in existence, the other having last sold for $340,000 in 1996.
$2.2 million: Meghan Markle’s net worth based on her salary from Suits. The Duchess of Sussex starred as Rachel Zane on the legal drama for seven seasons and earned an estimated average of $57,500 per episode.
$1,039,758: The auction price of the 1955 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV belonging to Queen Elizabeth sold at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival Sale in September 2018. The previous year, a bespoke 2001 Daimler Super V-8 commissioned by the Queen fetched $55,575—and in November 2016, Princess Diana’s beloved 1994 Audi Cabriolet sold for $59,500 at Silverstone Auctions’ NEC Classic Motor Show sale.
$583,000: The total earnings of Queen Elizabeth’s champion horses in the past year, according to the British Horseracing Authority. The Queen’s most valuable horse of all time, Estimate—an Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred that won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012 and the Ascot Gold Cup the following year—collected more than $487,000 in prize money before retiring to the Royal Stud at Sandringham in 2014.
$222,500: The amount a midnight-blue velvet Victor Edelstein evening gown Princess Diana wore to a 1985 state dinner at the White House hosted by President Reagan—where she famously danced with John Travolta—sold for at auction in 1997.
$25,277: The cost of Prince George’s tuition at Thomas’ Battersea for the 2019—2020 school year, inclusive of books and registration fees.
23,578: The number of gemstones showcased in the Crown Jewels, which are housed in the Tower of London. The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross has been used at every coronation since Charles II’s in 1661 and boasts the Cullinan I diamond, the largest top-quality cut white diamond in the world, weighing 530.2 carats.
$7,500: How much a slice of cake from the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton sold for at Julien’s Auctions in December 2014—four months after a slice of the five-tier fruitcake from Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding sold for $1,375. The year before, a piece of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s 9-foot-tall, 500-pound cake sold for a relatively low $896.
$3,900: The final price of a felt-and-velvet doll from 1935 once belonging to Princess Elizabeth, which sold in December 2018. The year prior, a pair of Deans Rag Book Co. Mickey and Minnie Mouse toys—given to Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret by their nanny Clara Allah Knight—fetched $1,164.
1,306: The number of corgis registered in the U.K. in 1944, when Princess Elizabeth received one for her 18th birthday. Corgi registration jumped 56% that year and would continue to increase until 1960. The Queen’s influence over the corgi market is so great that when her last pup died in 2018, the Kennel Club temporarily placed the short-legged breed on its “At Risk” list.
800: The number of royal warrant holders, which range from luxury brands such as Burberry to family-run saddle maker Abbey England. The royal warrants recognize those who supply goods or services to the royal family. Brand Finance estimates a royal warrant can contribute as much as 5% of a company’s revenue.
7: The place in line Prince Harry’s newborn son, Archie, holds in the royal succession.
–Deniz Cam; Forbes Staff
Why Age Gives West African Women More Autonomy And Power
Several studies, covering about 58 countries across the world, found that as women get older they are more able to make decisions independently of men. But scholars have struggled to pin down explanations for this age dividend – why are women given more independence the older they get? We wanted to know what the reasons may be.
In a recent study, we looked at women’s autonomy across age in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Benin. These four West African countries are home to ethnic groups that practice “voodoo”, a religion that spread with the expansion of the Dahomey kingdom in the 17th century.
In these countries women are not equal to men. They sometimes won’t be able to make decisions about their own health – like negotiating safe sex – or on how household incomes could be used.
In our sample of 21,000 women aged 15 to 49, we found that autonomy in household decision-making increases with age. This was especially true for women who belonged to the four “voodoo-ethnicities”: Fon, Ewe, Adja and Yoruba. We also found that women had even more power if they are menopaused.
Our findings suggest that both age and magico-religious beliefs have a huge role to play in a woman’s independence. Menopaused women from “voodoo-ethnicities” are much more independent to make decisions on how they spend their own earnings, care for their own health, visit family or relatives and what major household purchases need to be made.
These insights are important for female empowerment strategies. To be effective, policies must identify potential agents of change who can, for instance, influence decisions that improve children’s schooling and nutrition or abolish female genital cutting. Despite their apparent agency, elderly women in West Africa have largely been overlooked.
Voodoo and menopause
So, why do women gain more independence the older they get, and especially if they are of voodoo-ethnicities and menopaused?
We analysed data on 21,000 women and their ability to make various decisions. We found that women’s autonomy was related to menstrual bleeding, particularly for voodoo-ethnicities. This was further explored in Benin, the birth place of Voodoo, where we conducted interviews with voodoo priests and menopaused women.
As one woman said:
[Women in menopause] are equipped with supernatural powers. Only she can talk to the ancestors and request their help, assistance and protection. And they respond to her worship and requests, not everyone can do that.
In the interviews we gathered that voodoo adherents worship collective deities (related to the sea, the earth, or thunder) and family deities: ancestors that turn into spirits after death.
The interactions with the family deities are led by a menopaused woman, referred to as the “Tassinon”. Only she can transmit the family members’ prayers and requests to the ancestors and consult the oracle to see if the spirits have accepted the offering and sacrifices.
These alleged powers, in their turn, increase the bargaining power of elderly women in their communities and households.
In situations where the supernatural power of menopaused women has faded, the cultural norm derived from it – increased awe for elderly women – persists.
Our analysis shows that the “Tassinon effect” is sizeable. We created an autonomy index – which looked at a combination of different situations where decisions had to be made and who made them – to measure this and found that it increased their ability to make decisions by about 10%.
As one woman said:
My opinion matters now in all important decisions or issues in the family and in my community. It was not the case before my designation as tassinon. I could not even attend or talk in certain audiences.
Our research provides support for the argument put forward in the African feminist literature, that seniority trumps gender in an African context.
It also adds to the evidence that voodoo continues to play a role in West-Africa. Adherence to voodoo has been proven to affect the governance of natural resources. For instance fishermen who adhere to voodoo are more likely to respect rules related to prohibited fishing gear. It also affects the uptake of preventive health care; for instance because mothers who adhere to voodoo will rely on traditional healers, they may not immunise their children. Now we know that voodoo also affects the level of independence women have in some communities.
The way ahead
A better understanding of cultural attitudes towards elderly African women will become more important for policymakers in the future. As fertility declines and life expectancy increases, elderly women will increase in numbers, both in absolute and relative terms. They could play an important role as agents of change in supporting both child care and female empowerment projects.
For instance in Benin the respect for elderly women is already relied upon in interventions targeting children’s health and nutrition, and in the abolishment of female genital cutting. This could be reinforced and extended to other sectors and to other countries.
–Marijke Verpoorten; Associate Professor, University of Antwerp
-Sahawal Alidou; PhD candidate and teaching assistant, University of Antwerp
Google Is Making Android As Difficult To Hack As iPhone—And Cops Are Suffering
May Will Be Gone In June Ending Months Of Political Battering And Speculation
This caterer’s recipe for success
The 4IR Strategy To Move Forward
Why Now Is The Time To Invest In African E-commerce
Wealth3 weeks ago
What You Need To Know About Mogul Reginald Mengi Who Has Died At 75
Billionaires3 weeks ago
How mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu has become a billionaire again
Entrepreneurs4 weeks ago
A Germ Of An idea
Arts4 weeks ago
Hip-Hop Cash Princes And Princesses: The Class Of 2019
Entrepreneurs3 weeks ago
‘Worth Millions And Billions’
Brand Voice4 weeks ago
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Health4 weeks ago
Organic In The Concrete Jungle
Focus2 weeks ago
Entrepreneurship Funds In Africa: Distinguishing The Good From The Bad