Working class women and the challenge of delayed benefits

“When the removal of fuel subsidy was still a rumour it was expected that salary would be paid early so we could stock up our foodstuffs but that wasn’t the case."


By Diana Omueza

A woman’s role, they used to say, is in the kitchen, however, this notion is now obsolete as more and more women become breadwinners.

Naturally, the husband is expected to be the breadwinner but times have changed and many women are stepping into that role.

This does not come easy for them especially amidst several barriers working class women face.

Some of the barriers these women face as they strive to meet their family needs include: irregular payment of salaries and wages, unreasonable deductions, lack of or delayed promotion and its benefits, victimisation, marginalisation among others.

Gender activists say the delay in payment of salaries and wages has a ripple effect on such women in the management of household responsibilities and is regarded as an integral part of their lives in home planning.

In recent years irregular payment of salaries and wages to workers in some government institutions, particularly at the state and local government levels has become a household issue.

Hardly would a month pass without media report about the difficulties faced by workers as a result of illegal deductions, delayed payment of their salaries, wages gratuity or pensions.

Some workers, particularly women, employed across the six area councils including Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC) have decried denied benefits, saying it is affects their productivity and impacts on their ability to meet domestic needs.

A female member of staff of the AMAC who pleaded anonymity said both male and female staffers in the council enjoyed or suffered salary delays as well as denial of some other benefits sometimes.

Nevertheless, she said that women suffered more from such situations because of their multiple roles in the home as wives, mothers, and sometimes breadwinners.

According to her, the delay and denial of certain benefits affects proper home planning and management and most times leads to endless cycle of loans and serial indebtedness.

“If we get our promotion and salaries as at when due, one would properly plan and do things at the right time without having to take loans.

“When the removal of fuel subsidy was still a rumour it was expected that salary would be paid early so we could stock up our foodstuffs but that wasn’t the case.

“Apart from delay in the payment of salaries, promotion arrears are also delayed or paid from the moth the promotion took place instead of backdating it to January.

Similarly, Mrs Mary Shekwolo in AMAC (Real name withheld) said that denial of approval to attend trainings, especially those organised by private organisations was also discouraging and demoralizing.

“We were supposed to attend an external training in Akwa-Ibom State at the beginning of the year but we were not given approval, and such trainings would benefit both the staff and boost productivity in the office but we were denied.

“Yet the internally organised trainings are not forthcoming and when they come everyone will be struggling to be a part of it but only a few will be selected to participate in such trainings.

“And this selection is usually not based on competence, merit or based on those who have been identified to need such training but based on office politics and other sentiments which is not supposed to be,’’ she said.

But Hajiya Aisha Yusuf, the Head, Social Welfare, AMAC, says the council was doing its best to meet up with the payment of remunerations in spite of challenging economy.

Yusuf said: “As the head of social welfare, I can tell you that the welfare of AMAC staff is not gender restrictive, salaries are not owed and benefits are not withheld here.

“Since I started working here in AMAC I’ve not seen salary delays or promotion denials.

“If there was such it is no longer happening, when promotions comes everybody enjoys it, same with salaries and other benefits we all enjoy them irrespective of gender.

“Unless if one does not merit promotion or did not submit the necessary documents.

“As long as they one submitted necessary documents and they are always at work and have no disciplinary matter, then your promotion and salary cannot be denied,’’ she said.

Yusuf also said that in the Council the interest of women well protected as far as promotion, salaries and benefits were concerned.

In June 2023, the salaries of some federal civil servants in Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), National Population Commission (NPC), among others were delayed.

Many workers, especially women decried the untold hardship they suffered while the delay lasted.

Some reports quoted Director of Press, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF, Bawa Mokwa, as attributing the delay to technical issues from the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS), one of the salary platforms.

Mrs Victoria Bassey of (NAN) she said that during the delay she opted for a loan from an online financial platform to meet pressing family needs.

Bassey described the period as challenging especially as she struggled to meet her family needs.

“The delay made me to take an unplanned loan from one of these online loan apps which came with five per cent interest rate in spite the really short time frame to pay back.

“The constant reminder I got from the app to repay the loan was very troubling but I was able to pay immediately salaries was paid though I was thought the interest rate made me unhappy’’, she said.

As part of the steps to address these challenges, some NGOs such as Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), have taken it upon themselves to x-ray what women go through, politically, economically with a view to helping to remedy them.

According to the Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), Executive Director, Mrs Adaora Onyechere Jack, GSAI works to promote women’s rights and equal opportunity for women.

She said it also seeks increased women’s participation in governance and leadership, increased gender-friendly policies, increased visibility for women, and advancement of women’s voices in the civic space.

She said to achieve the above, GSAI uses the media to expose gender-related issues adding that it trains journalist from time to time in order to be equipped to carryout investigations to bring solutions to problems.

Also, Assistant Director, Programmes, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ololade Adeniji-Adele said, there is a need for gender-responsive budgeting to address the huge gender inequalities and disparities in budgetary decisions.

Adeniji-Adele also said gender-responsive budgeting is an approach that would ensure government budgets consider the different needs and priorities of women.

“In simple terms, gender-responsive budgeting means looking at how money is allocated and spent by the government and making sure that it takes into account the specific needs and concerns of women and men,’’ she said.

Other experts also suggest an overhaul of the local government system through genuine local government autonomy which is expected to address immediate needs of women at the grassroots.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).