Why do single women in Nigeria have to fight to rent houses?
Many homeowners in Nigeria suspect single women to be prostitutes, which prevents them from renting apartments.
Aged 30, Olufunmilola Ogungbile, a successful career woman, never thought of sleeping on a friend’s couch after five months searching for an apartment in the southwestern city of Abeokuta in Nigeria.
She left Lagos after winning a Project Administrator position with the Ogun State Government.
Despite her financial independence, she struggled to find an apartment in mid and high-end areas because she was single.
“The first question the owner asked me is, am I married?” Of course Olufunmilola Ogungbile did not hide his marital status.
“I said no” and he continued “Why?”
She was puzzled by all these questions, just for an apartment that she can afford to rent without worries.
“What does my marital status have to do with my housing?”
“We want decent people”
Olufunmilola Ogungbile indicates that this form of discrimination was widespread.
Many homeowners say women do not earn enough to pay rent “Ninety-nine percent of the owners I met did not want to rent their apartments because I’m single,” she told the BBC.
“Most homeowners and agents would often tell me” can you bring your boyfriend or husband? “In these types of apartments, we do not like men who are always on the run, we just want decent people.”
Ogungbile thinks that the obstacles she has had to face are related to cultural constraints – marriage is a reference for measuring the decency or otherwise of a woman.
“In this part of the world, if you are not married, you are a prostitute,” she added.
Sylvia Oyinda – a retail product manager in Lagos, the metropolis of Nigeria acknowledges that stigma makes it difficult for single women to rent an apartment in Nigeria.
Aged 31, Ms. Oyinda was engaged when she started looking for an apartment. The owners refused to meet her without her fiancé.
“There is a saying ‘little girl, big god’ that describes single young women who rent alone or mourn with other women.”
“The saying goes to single women who have ‘sponsors’, usually older men, who pay their rent,” she said.
“Men have more money”
Ms. Oyinda thinks the owners assume that “most single young women are like that”.
“The three owners I met all refused to show me their apartment and they said,” Do not get tired.”
In frustration, she stopped looking alone. On the fourth attempt, she went with her fiancé, who is now her husband.
Only then was she taken seriously. The couple finally settled in a four-bedroom apartment in Lekki, an upscale neighborhood.
Coleman Nwafor, owner of land and real estate owner, said he did not discriminate, but most of his tenants and buyers are men because they have more money.
“Most single women are under the responsibility of their parents or a lover, you can never say what will happen after the first year, and every homeowner wants a tenant who will pay without stress and renew his contract once it will expire.
“Most single women do not work, there are more jobs for men than for women in Nigeria, that’s how it is.”
“The owners try to control the women”
Yinka Oladiran, a 25-year-old Nigerian girl who moved from New York to Lagos in May 2016 to pursue a television presenter’s career, said she was living independently in the United States and wanted to remain free in Nigeria.
She also wanted to reduce the three-hour commute to work from her father’s house, but she could not rent an apartment without her father giving consent to the owners.
“There were landlords who said they did not want to praise me until I spoke to my father to make sure he agreed, even though I was paying with my own money,” Ms. Oladiran told BBC.
“My opinion does not matter, the owners are trying to control the women,” she added.
After an independent search of more than six months, she finally got an apartment in April 2017.
However, she said she felt constantly being watched by security personnel, especially when she was coming home late from work, as they often asked her whom she was visiting.
“It became repetitive again and again and I found it very insulting,” Oladiran said.
As for Mrs. Ogungbile, her search for an apartment ended last week after five months when she finally moved into a studio.
She said, she obtained it from a rental agency that focused on her income rather than her sex or marital status.
The 30-year-old, who is now enthusiastic about painting her new home with her favorite colors ‘violet and lilac’ believes she has fought against a form of discrimination in her own way.
“Part of the fight against stigma was that I refused to bring a spouse or partner because it was part of the criteria before they gave me the keys,” she said.