Patriarchy, stereotypes hinder women’s advancement ’
Women have been urged to shun patriarchy and all forms of stereotypes which is largely as a result of cultural and religious believes, in order to ensure that the voices of women are heard. They have also called for the practice of true feminism that protects the rights of women and translates to a healthy society.
This was the thrust of discussion at a women leaders summit organized by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) with the theme: “Women in the Changing World; Being Bold for Change.”
In a lecture delivered by the wife of Minister for Solid Minerals Development, Mrs. Bisi Erelu Fayemi, she described herself as a feminist. She said: “Feminists are not in the business of replacing patriarchy with matriarchy. They build healthy communities, which translate to a healthy nation. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourselves, you can’t build one with the people around you. Women should be able to live their lives free of fear, discrimination, fulfill their God’s given potential and not have men do everything for them; we are equal to them with equal rights.
“We need to remind ourselves as women that we are in the business of changing the nation and ourselves and we will stop sustaining the institution of patriarchy. Nigeria still features poorly among women indicators. In the 2014 world summit forum global gender gap report, Nigeria was scored 118 out of 127 countries and the World Bank equality gender report for 2015, rated Nigeria 158 out of 177 countries. Nigeria also featured as one of the 20 worst countries in the world for women to be in including Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Fayemi noted that these statistics are as a result of neglect of gender equality and women’s rights. She said that religion, tradition and culture are still being used as an excuse to render women voiceless, while the inadequate number of women in decision making bodies is also a factor with less than seven per cent of women in the national assembly and eight state Houses of Representatives with no women.
“We need to focus on legislative and policy frameworks, ensure they are domesticated especially for states without laws on domestic violence. We should advocate as loudly as possible the gender and equality bill because it will give Nigerian women dignity,” she added.
According to the founding Director WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, more women are making their mark as leaders in various fields today. “However, for many, it is still a long way to the top as women continue to face various factors that limit their full career advancement. Although some improvements have been recorded in women leadership in some sectors, largely leadership positions are still held by men as a result of social cultural stereotypes and the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society.
“WARDC is of the firm opinion that creating a support base and pool of women willing to take up leadership positions, strengthening women’s alliance and collective pressure strategies is key to allowing deeper changes as concerns women participation in leadership, politics and governance.”
Founder Nigerian Networks of NGOs, Yemisi Ransome Kuti, while speaking on women and politics, noted that it is almost impossible to practice politics with the stomach infrastructure for women, as it is also applicable for men. “We should partner with local women groups – market women, church women groups, strategize with them, know the outcome before replicating in other communities. We should join the men and move; it is very important to identify the party you want to belong to and which is accepted in your community.”
For Mrs. Folake Onabolu of the Society of Women Accountants in Nigeria on the role of professionals in ensuring qualitative women’s leadership in private and public sector, she said, “we must realise that we are in a male dominated work environment. We must understand that women have natural occurrences, which may not be due to their making; they get pregnant, go on maternity leave but that shouldn’t hinder their getting to the top. Women have great potentials; they have the tendency to get to the top if given the right support. We must also ensure equality in wages and think of succession plan for women.