In Summary
  • According to the World Bank, 51 percent of Nigeria's population of more than 180 million lives in the countryside, where traditional, conservative ideals are more prominent.
  • With the remainder in growing urban centres, the ad campaign has highlighted a wider debate between modernists and traditionalists.
  • The advert comes after concern that just 31 women in the two main political parties were running for 469 seats in parliament.

Adverts in Nigeria depicting career women gleefully juggling their job with kitchen duties have sparked a heated debate about gender roles in the fast-changing society of West Africa's largest economy.

The campaign is for the seasoning brand Maggi, which sells over 90 million stock cubes in Nigeria each day, according to company figures.

In a video ad, a middle-aged mother and self-described "boss lady" proudly introduces herself as a "chief quality inspector" in her corporate life and a "kitchen grandmaster" at home.

She switches between presentations in the boardroom to cooking in an ultra-modern kitchen.

With an apron over her office clothes, she blows out the flame from a gas lighter -- rather like James Bond dissipating the smoke from his gun -- as she whips up a dish for her loving family.

"I love what I do," she enthuses.

A billboard ad, meanwhile, features a beaming woman with her two children, with the caption: "Mummy. Teacher. Taste Master."

DIVIDED OPINION

The ad campaign, released last month, has divided opinion in a country where women are often expected to conform to established gender roles at a time of radical changes in lifestyle.

Many social media commentators were excited by what they saw as a "modern" portrayal of women in a position of power, balancing multiple roles with ease.

One Twitter user said of the video: "I like the fact that she is a mom, boss lady and still a slayer."

Another said: "I love that a woman is being portrayed as the multi-tasker that she is."

But others described the advert as "misogyny" and "well-packaged suffering" and questioned why the person in the kitchen was not a man.

Nestle, which owns the Maggi brand, was surprised by the controversy, stating that the advert was intended to celebrate women in a country where most cook more regularly than their partners despite working too.

Victoria Uwadoka, the company's corporate communications manager, said it welcomed the debate the campaign had generated.

"Today, the reality is that most women are juggling professional life and family responsibilities," she said, adding that Nigerian society was evolving.

"We believe cooking should be open to everyone."

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