The world celebrates women every 8th day of the month of March, as it marks the International Women’s Day, and taking bold action now to increase the economic participation and advancement of women is critical to ensuring a strong foundation for rising prosperity in the long run for an emerging economy like Nigeria’s. This report posits that increasing the participation of women will lay a strong foundation for socio-economic prosperity and political stability particularly for the country and globe alike.
The importance of the annual International Women’s Day cannot be over-emphasised as the day readily comes with globally acknowledged justifications. For instance, this year the International Women’s Day is coming on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice.
It is no longer news that women assumed important place in every society and failure of national governments and organizations to create enabling environment for women in leadership positions is now considered as violating provisions of conventions, protocols and other instruments on gender equality.
Despite this globally recognized practice, there has not been formal legislations or domesticated laws that specifically provides for gender equality in Nigeria. As it were, the political system is therefore not well-structured in the way it should be such that there will be gender balance in policy and decision making.
No wonder there has been continuous agitation for more women inclusion in politics, economy and other places of importance where men always assumed vital responsibilities that borders on communal, rural and urban development.
The special day dedicated to women therefore provides the Nigerian government a good opportunity to look at the matters that affect them (women) and the health of the society at large.
However, the 2018 International Women’s Day celebration has taken the form of global marches and campaigns, including #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America and their counterparts in other countries, on issues ranging from sexual harassment and femicide to equal pay and women’s political representation.
Echoing the priority theme of the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the event also drew attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development.
With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings indicating that gender parity is over 200 years away, there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and press for progress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.
While appreciating that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that, across the world, women are making positive gains largely orchestrated by a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.
This implies that, as a people, we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action on the part of all stakeholders, particularly the Federal and State Governments, to press forward and progress gender parity; a strong call to press for progress and a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
International Women’s Day is not only about a country, group or organisation in specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, all should be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, we all need to press for progress.
According to the United Nations submission on gender and feminism, a single moment can spark a revolution, collective actions can transform laws, creative expression can change attitudes and an invention can alter the course of history.
It’s these threads that weave together to propel the women’s movement — even in the face of obstacles. Discover how some of these strands, big and small, have shaped your lives, and the rights and lives of women and girls worldwide.
IWD and the Nigerian factors
Since the suffragette movement in Britain, Australia and the United States in the early 20th Century on the right of women to vote, not much progress has been made worldwide concerning other rights of women. Women now mostly vote, but their right to be voted for is still seriously curtailed, especially in Nigeria.
Whereas, it has been proved scientifically that men do not have a higher Intelligence Quotient than women, men still like to dominate the female folk and discriminate against them, holding on to age-long traditions, religions and cultures, and whatever other justification they can find.
Women have used the few, but now increasing opportunities they have found to prove their mettle, and they have earned, decisively, their equality with men. That is apart from their God-given talent to multi-task. This is why nations on the ascendancy are finding more and more opportunities for women to hold their own on the national and global stages. Such nations have embraced Affirmative Action and its equivalents, to consciously push female gender issues to the front burner.
But, we must not be fooled. Women issues are numerous and germane. Issues of maternal and child health, girl-child education, violence against women, female genital mutilation, and access to women participation in national affairs are still very much with us.
In Nigeria, the intractable challenge of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East has only accentuated the eternally bad situation of female gender issues. The female gender, to put it mildly, is at the receiving end of the ravaging insurgency. The carting away of over 250 female students from a school in Chibok, Borno State, into apparent slavery and exploitation by the insurgents, is an agonising reminder of how vulnerable female folks are in this part of the world.
The latest spate of violence against girl-child education in Nigeria is the abduction of 110 schoolgirls of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, by suspected Boko Haram terrorists on Monday, February 19, 2018.
The ugly incident left parents, school authority and patriotic Nigerians wondering about the consequence of the school girls’ abduction. For instance, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in a statement by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, expressed disappointment at the abduction and attack.
With the economic downturn in the country, there is no debating the fact that women are making the most sacrifices. They are the ones dropping out of school, the ones who have more health challenges, the ones who stay with the children more and must provide for them, the ones who are most vulnerable to physical attacks and incessant raids of their communities, and the ones who are most displaced. The overwhelming majority of women and children in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps amply buttress this point.
It is time Nigeria took deliberate steps to reverse the equation. Women are key to the survival of the family unit and are, therefore, critical to the wellbeing of any society. It is in the immediate and long-term interest of any society that wants wholesome and rapid advancement to prioritise women’s issues and work assiduously to address them.
The Nigerian woman
Nigerians should use the opportunity of the 2018 IWD to identify and celebrate ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in our communities. This brings to mind the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group and the role of co-conveners Aisha Yesufu and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. The blacksmith that does not know how to forge a metal gong should look at the tail of a kite. Aisia Buhari, Aisha Yesuf, Chimamanda Adichie, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili etc. are the kites Nigerian women should be looking at.
The Nigerian political class should take the lead from these fearless women to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development so that they are ready for primary education. Every Nigerian child has the constitutional right to free and compulsory primary education, and free junior secondary education as recently ruled by a Federal High Court.
Nigerians should use this year’s IWD to change the way we treat girls, especially house helps. We should treat our housemaids humanely. We should stand up for them when mistreated by our uncles, brothers and friends. We should ensure that those poor girls in our villages are not “forced” to work as housemaids or marry just to make ends meet. All it will take is small personal sacrifice. Just a weekend of resisting hanging out with our friends will be enough to save some money and give a poor girl an opportunity to at least finish secondary school.
To effectively eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, especially in private spheres (including trafficking and sexual exploitation), Nigerian women should not allow long-aged dominance to weaken their consciousness. Just like Aisha Buhari, they should speak out. They should come to the realization that their destiny is in their hands. Don’t let anybody tell you that there are set paths for you to follow. Follow your heart and pursue your dreams.
The 2018 IWD is also an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by women in Nigeria. Already, Nigerian women are gradually taking over proceedings in education and civil service. The female population in all the higher institution in Nigeria is on the increase; male teachers are disappearing in our elementary and secondary schools; the civil service is being taken over by female employees as more men shy away from the low-paying jobs.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Thursday congratulated Nigerian women for their achievements on the commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day. The felicitation was posted on its Twitter handle @NNPCgroup.
“’Today, @NNPCgroup joins the world to commemorate the #IWD2018. ”We celebrate all women and their achievements,” it read. March 8 is set aside yearly to celebrate women, recognise their efforts in various endeavours and press for equality with men. The day is usually marked with talks, awareness campaigns, performances, online activism, rallies, networking events and marches. The 2018 celebration has the theme “Press for Progress’’.
Here is a warning to Nigerian men; the time for acting as “lord” in homes, communities and political spheres even in the face of glaring incompetence is coming to an end. Nigerian women are coming. Some have even arrived, but not in the kitchen. The dire consequences of derogation of women can be seen in many broken homes where the woman in an attempt to protect her rights gets kicked out or opts out on her own.