Nigerian women say gender equality in the country will give them the necessary economic empowerment, protection and mobilization they need for a fair competition with the men folk
| By Chinwe Okafor | Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
NIGERIAN women have stressed the need for gender equality in the country. They have also called for economic empowerment, protection and mobilisation of women in all aspects. This was the position they took on March 8, when they joined women in other parts of the world to commemorate the annual celebration of the International Women’s Day with the theme ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All.’ To help bring about gender equality in Nigeria, women were also enjoined to become agents of change to themselves and their families.
Speakers at the event pointed out that despite the clamour for 35 percent affirmative action for women and the passage of laws needed to promote the rights of this group of persons in the society, a lot still needs to be done. Zainab Maina, minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, urged the women to ensure that they support the push for gender equality with the whole of their mind, as it would ensure a better future for women in Nigeria.
She, however, stressed the need for those in government to play their role in giving the women their full place in governance. She said the main expectation of Nigerian women from government was to ensure gender equality. According to her, the IWD in Nigeria was marked on a low key because of the gruesome murder of women and children in Borno and Yobe states and that Nigerian women had condemned in totality such killings of innocent women and children by insurgents.
She said that IWD coincided with the Nigerian centenary celebration and that the outcome of the celebration had led to the initiation of series of actions aimed at improving the situation of Nigerian women and these, according to her, included a seven-man committee that would develop a country report on the footprint of Nigerian women in the past 100 years. She added that President Jonathan had directed banks to devote at least thirty percent of their lending in agriculture to women farmers and women owned agribusinesses in view of evidence that women rarely default on loans and that purposeful focus on women must become Nigeria’s priority for the post 2015 MDGs.
Victoria Achugu, a legal practitioner and activist, said that Nigerian women had nothing to celebrate, because they were still being suppressed by culture, religion and financially. “Most of them still lack the capacity to seek legal redress for violations of their rights because of social pressure or stigma, poor resources, lack of access to courts and counsel offering pro-bono services. Most of them don’t even know that Article 43 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to acquire and own property anywhere in the country, but research has shown that over 90 percent of landed property is owned by men.
“We all know that women can effectively participate in policy making and governance, if given the chance,” she said. Achugu added that women who are in strategic positions hold their status high and have done well, if not better, than men.” Hadiza Kalto, a grassroots politician, expressed the belief that Nigerian women have come of age. Now, according to her, women are manning key ministries and positions that were once exclusively reserved for men.
She said that women have produced deputy governors, senators, members and even local government chairmen and that it was not a one-day thing. “I know we still have a long way to go, but at least we have started somewhere and we are going somewhere. Our major hindrance is money. We need to be empowered; if the Nigerian women have resources, they can contest any elective position and will definitely win. The men know that, that is why they won’t empower us.”
However, the International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, every year. It is a day set aside to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing attention on areas requiring further action.