Muhammad’s hidden treasures
While food plays a very important role for all ethnic groups in Nigeria, the division of labour concerning the preparation of a meal is deeply divided along gender lines. For Muhhamed Shamsuddeen Alkassim, the idea of making a livelihood from it therefore was never an option. “I always thought cooking was for girls alone, even though I loved to cook and felt I should be doing it in my life,” he says.
Research by V4C which examines how notions of ‘manhood’ or ‘masculinity’ influence and limit men’s perceptions, practices and attitudes and contribute to gendered inequality, suggests that Nigerian men fear societal disapproval of their willingness to share decisions with women. This perception poses major challenges in families and marriages in the North. For example, in Kano, when a man carries out a role that is more ‘suitable’ for women, he is called Mijin Hajiya which means ‘Madam’s husband’.
Fearing he would be perceived as feminine and weak, Muhhamed dismissed the idea of a career in catering and continued with his studies. But with unsettling thoughts about what it really meant to be a man, Muhammed joined Purple because he was curious about deepening his understanding. He learnt about the negative impact of stereotypes and societal perceptions on his dream of establishing his catering business. He made up his mind to go for what he wanted regardless of negative stereotypes. “After one of the Safe Space sessions, I was encouraged to start writing my business plan for my catering business.”
According to Muhammed, he had a bad reputation of being authoritative and lacking in respect for women including his girlfriend, but after attending Purple, he started thinking differently. “I realized I was emotionally hurting her and this was not fair. I always believed that ladies should do whatever guys ask them to do but now I know better that women should make their own decisions” he explains.