Repositioning women for leadership roles, development
THE critical role of education in the emancipation of Nigerian women to leadership positions has once again taken the centre stage of public discuss.
Sizeable number of women especially in developing countries lack access to education and basic instrument of human rights.
Speaking at a forum in Lagos recently, participants explained in details the role of women in nation building and how fellow women can fast track the process in the interest of the larger society.
For example, the chairperson, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Women’s Commission, Oyinkan Olasanoye, who spoke at the forum in Lagos said: “The women feel it and they know it. No one can save or help us except we ourselves. We are the builders of the society”.
Olasanoye explained that there are scores of women who still lack the most basic of their rights, pointing out that it is worse in developing countries.
She said: “Sources reveal that 2/3 of the over 700 million illiterate adults in the world are women. It is worse in developing countries. This development probably underscores why the 2012 Gender Equality Index on Nigeria ranked us 118 out of 134 countries. Equal education will definitely address the present worrisome gender disparity in education and others”.
Olasanoye said violence against women at home and office is another area of concern. ”Violence against women is senseless to rational minds. At this time and age, women in some communities are sometimes forced into early marriage, abused by partners, trafficked for sexual exploitation, and sometimes raped”.
President of TUC, Bobboi Kaigama, who spoke at the event explained that, research has shown that more than 125 countries have proscribed violence against women.
Kaigama said the constitutions of more than 139 countries have also guaranteed women’s rights, pointing out that the appreciable progress notwithstanding, “it must be noted that the world is still under-performing on gender equality”.
The TUC boss added: “Thus, while joining you in acknowledging that the large gap that exists between laws and implementation should be bridged, I also counsel you to know that creative ideas, zest, and even force are required to make happen the expectations of women.
“Over time, I have come across some extraordinary women who are leading global campaigns against various forms of abuses against women. In their respective campaigns they kicked against female genital mutilation, rape and various other kinds of abuses against the womenfolk. To say the least, I am deeply moved by their strong positive convictions and clear messages.
“All over the world, discrimination against women and girls is rampant. In some cases they are even getting worse in dimension, just like the case of the Ejigbo Women in Lagos. My greatest joy and happiness concerning this day, however, is that your cause is selfless. You all are fighting for everyone (both men and women), for equality for women is progress for all.
“Indeed, records testify to the truth that countries and companies with higher levels of gender equality have higher socio-economic growth and development. It is for this reason that I look forward to the day when we shall see a more balanced ratio of women and men contesting for and occupying top official positions at all levels including the office of President of our dear nation, Nigeria”.
Olasanoye told the gathering that women have their own responsibility both as wives and as workers, emphasising that Nigeria’s society has not really helped women “as it always associates money with power”.
According to Olasanye, the men make the final decision on household matters “because they have the money”, adding that the development sometime lead to women being treated as though they were the property of the men, “with no voice on matters that concern them”.
Speaking at the forum put together to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day tagged, “Equality for Women, Make it happen, Peace Obiajulu, said women are now about the future.
She charged women to start from their home. “Our daughters must never marry after primary and secondary education. First degree is not even good enough. Parents should train their children. If we must make things happen, we must first get good education”.
Emphasising need for education, Obiajulu said aspiring to be Deputy Governor makes women ‘slaves and servants’ to the governor, “Women must aspire to be governors too. There are many women that are more qualified than the men. It is painful that First Ladies are more recognized than deputies in some states”.
Obiajulu, who spoke on sundry issues said: “There was a time NITEL promoted over 60 men to the post of managers without a single woman among them. I protested it and today a lot of things have changed. . We need more women in the Senate and House of Representative among others”
Olasanoye informed the gathering that traditionally, women have been suppressed and treated unfairly worldwide.
In Africa for instance, she said women are not given equal opportunities for work, “Neither are they given voting powers as they could not participate in political activities. They were relegated to the hearth and household, only to raise children and cook”.
She explained that Women’s emancipation assumed a new dimension when women traveled to space, and fought alongside men at battlefields.
However, she said despite these achievements, there are still places in the world, where women are suppressed and demeaned, “Gender bias exists at every social stratum, even in the most developed societies.
“In some regions, patriarchal societies diminish the role of women in important matters. This lopsidedness some has brought about a serious economic and social downfall. Whether you are a woman or not, you must know that International Women’s Day celebrates your emancipation because, had it not been for women’s emancipation, free thinking would not have been possible today.
“Opinions hold that African women are the continents “greatest untapped resource” and their contributions key to the continent achieving its full potential. When you empower a woman with information and education, you empower families and generations. Despite all the role of the women gender, gap has continued to widen with women falling further behind in many key areas.
“For those against our desire for more representation, I have an answer for them. We are asking for more recognition because we wear the shoes and we know where it pinches.
“The women feel it when their breadwinners are no more and the burden of training the children rests on them. They are the ones being raped by strangers. It is the women that are chased out of the home by in-laws when their husbands die. The women are the ones accused of killing their husbands, and sometimes given water used in bathing their husband’s corpse to drink. Yes, the women feel it and they know it. No one can save or help us except we ourselves. We are the builders of society”.
According to her, women must achieve their goal and aspirations, “we have to do something different henceforth. Whether you have chosen to be a stay-at-home mum, in full time employment, or running your own business, it is essential that you are committed to developing yourself and seeking additional training and knowledge. We must develop and nurture the talents and skills that we are passionate about and can excel at because it will count someday”.
She said many women have faced challenges following a divorce or the death of spouse, “Most often they have no idea where family funds have been invested. They sometimes face significant debt with the potential loss of the family home. I ask you again, do you know where your family’s important documents and financial records are? This is important because, married women particularly in a patriarchal society like ours where the extended family can play a significant role should be involved in matters that concern them”.
The guest speaker and proprietor, Pamper group of school/ Rainbow colleges, Mrs. Dolapo Odunlami, who was represented by Mrs. C.I Ebiai, encouraged Government, Civil Society groups to do more to ensure an egalitarian society is created everywhere in the world.
She said the Aba Women protest of 1929, efforts of Funmilayo Kuti, Margaret Ekpo cannot be wished away, “We must continue from where these amazons stopped”.
Odunlami said women illiteracy level is still high, adding that about 75 per cent of illiterates are women. “ Only two Countries have achieved gender equality which is a far cry. Women must not relent in the fight for the release of the over 250 Chibok girls taken captive by the insurgents”.
Speaking in a similar vein, Head of Service, Lagos State, Mrs. Folashade Jaji said women can make It happen, “if we support one another. Women hardly support themselves, which is very wrong. We are more in population; we can achieve whatever we set out to do”.
Former Chairperson, TUC Women Commission, Lady Rose Orji said: “ Though we have said we are going to make it happen, but Words are cheap. Most times when it gets to action people back out. We can if we are serious. We must think of what we can do to make it happen.
“ Our strength is in our gender. We are yet to realize what God has endowed us with. No occasion without a woman functions perfectly. Hard work is what we need now not the issue of sex or gender”.
Kaigama said one major milestone that was achieved in the 20th century took place exactly 20 years ago when women all over the world gathered at the Beijing Women’s Conference, China, to celebrate their gender and proffer solutions to some challenges inhibiting their quest for fulfilment of their destiny.
He said the import of this day and the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women, Make it happen” cannot be over emphasised, adding that It is a day when, more than a century ago, some courageous women took to the streets demanding better working conditions, peace and bread, “Today, that unprecedented step and similar efforts after it are the reasons why we now have more girls going to school, more women in the labour market, more women in positions of leadership, among others.
According to available statistics, women are making significant contributions to the growth and development of societies despite challenges.
A new study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Bureau for Employers’ Activities entitled ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining’, explained that global momentum means more women move into management positions.
In a statement issued to mark the 2015 International women’s day, ILO said despite the achievements made so far, women are still facing challenges.
Such challenges according to ILO include socio-cultural barriers, inadequate funding, insecurity and conflicts. ILO explained that Nigeria still needs to do a lot more to further improve the condition of women as many women still continue to experience widespread discrimination and inequality in the workplace, gender violence, among others.
Lamenting the security challenges in the North East, ILO called on all Nigerians to join hands with the government, development and non-government organizations to work vigorously to address challenges that inhibit women from attaining their full potentials.
ILO said: “We use the commemoration of International Women’s Day to remember our Chibok girls and appeal for their immediate release”.
President of the foundation, Mrs. Jumai Ahmadu who made the call during a world press conference as part of activities marking this year International Women’s Day celebration affirmed that various women’s groups should galvanized the women to actively participate in this forthcoming elections as a way to further demonstrate their numerical strength.
She called on women not to see political appointments as a way of gender parity, even as she described such political appointments as “use and dump” strategy of men to perpetually marginalize the women in politics.
“To me, giving women political appointments as commissioners and ministers is not the solution to gender equality because those appointments are mere use and dump strategy by the male politicians. We should be given elective positions that has tenure definition,” she stressed.
Commenting on this year’s theme; “Make It Happen”, Mrs. Ahmadu called on Nigerian women to use the forthcoming elections to make a difference in the society by voting for the right candidate, noting that all around the world, International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women.
While calling for greater equality in the polity, she equally called for effective action for advancing and recognising women, saying “this is 107th series of women championing their economic, political and social achievements across the globe”.
She observed that to be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“Each year International Women’s Day (IWD), is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day,” she observed.
Ahmadu commended government of various countries that have outlawed rape against women, but however expressed worry over the high rate of violence or challenges when it came to gender equality, assuring that her foundation will join other groups to pressure all governments around the world to take action against violence.
According to her, “when governments fail to do this, they contribute to the perception that rape and violence against women is acceptable. It is a disgrace, and that’s why we are demanding an end to impunity
The global body said: “Two decades since the signing of a historic roadmap on women, commonly called the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, many countries and organizations have been working diligently to ensure its implementation. This has resulted in many marginal achievements and successes, but with serious gaps.
“Are working women better off today than they were 20 years ago?” asked ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “The answer is a qualified yes. Has this progress met our expectations? The answer is decidedly no. We need to be innovative, to reframe the debate and to intensify the focus on ensuring the rights of women at work, and promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.”
ILO is of the opinion that progress in realising the declaration and platform for action adopted at the fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995 has been mixed.
Meanwhile, ILO has published a new working paper on the “motherhood pay gap” that imposes a wage penalty often over and above the wage gap already experienced by women worldwide.
According to “The motherhood pay gap: A review of the issues, theory and international evidence”, mothers often earn less than women without children, depending on where they live and how many children they have.
According to National Beijing + 20 Review published by Federal Ministry of Women Affair and Social Development, “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” has continued to provide a comprehensive policy and programmatic guide for achieving the goals of gender equality and human development.
It identified some achievements as clearly apparent in the areas of institutional development and entrenchment of gender issues in public administration, increase in involvement and participation of women in socio-economic and political issues, partnership in promoting gender issues and empowerment of women, among others.
For example, it explained that more women are enjoying more access to employment opportunities arising from access to qualitative education.
Part of the statement read: “Access to employment opportunities for women has translated to better wages, better purchasing power of women, improved standards of living, employment mobility, and freedom of choice.
“The progress made so far can be attributed, in part, to ILO’s continuous dialogue with its social partners which has led to the signing of relevant conventions and commitment of the government to domesticate and enforce the implementation of relevant conventions.
“For example, in 1995, most ILO member States, including Nigeria, had ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).
“To better improve the condition of Nigerian women, we hereby request the Federal Government of Nigeria to ratify and domesticate Convention 183 – Maternity Protection Convention, 2000.
“In the area of jobs creation, women-led small businesses are also seen as a key driver of job creation and economic growth, even as more women are making giant strides in both formal and informal sectors of the economy.
“The current democratic process has also given women a voice in the affairs of the nation. Amongst the benefits are the facts that Nigerian women run for political offices, attain positions in the top echelon of social and professional groups, serve in the military, accomplish breakthroughs in science, achieve feats in medicine, and engineering, excel in arts, distinguish themselves in judiciary, and occupy strategic positions in government and business”.
ILO congratulated Nigerian women for seizing the opportunity offered by “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” to prove their worth, adding that “We also congratulate the government for its support to Nigerian women”.
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