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Gender and social inequality

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Sir: The supreme law of Nigeria which is the 1999 Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. However, certain customary and religious practices have continued to limit the rights of women within the society. Therefore, any customary practice that denies women equal opportunity with men can be challenged in a federal court.

Despite the fact that globalisation has gone a long way to bury the perception of women as second fiddle, certain practices within the Nigerian society are yet to accept the new order. Women are the victims of gender imbalance in virtually every sector of the society. Educationally, the girl child is sometimes compelled to sacrifice her educational ambition on the altar of the education of the male child. The intellectual capacity of the male and female individuals are usually not taken into consideration when making this decision. Evidence has shown that certain female children are actually more intelligent than their male counterparts.

Health wise, Nigeria has one of the worst statistics on maternal mortality in the world. A study by World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the figure of maternal deaths during child birth at 58,000 for the year 2015. In Nigeria, one woman dies every 10 minutes during child birth. A lot of pregnant women are subjected to inability to access quality healthcare services, poor access to safe child birth services and lack of affordable emergency obstetric services.

Economically, womenís access to bank loans is usually limited by their weak financial base. In some cases, the lending house will demand the consent of her husband before giving her loans. Many Nigerian women still do not have access to the numerous micro-credit schemes and low-interest loans that were actually targeted at them.

Politically, the number of women in the House of Representatives, Senate and the 36 state houses of assembly is very low. This is despite the fact that women have equal rights with their male colleagues to vote and be voted for. In fact, women are actually the ones that patiently spend hours on the queue during elections waiting to vote.

Generally, women are very poorly represented in elective political positions.

In terms of ownership of property rights, women are highly disadvantaged. In some parts of the country, women are not allowed to own landed properties. In fact, women are sometimes not allowed to take part in sharing of the wealth that parents leave behind for children to inherit. In as much as customary laws on land ownership vary from one part of the country to the other, in no part of the country does customary laws give women equal opportunity with men to own land. The gender gap in terms of land ownership is very huge. Generally, most parents prefer male children to female children.

Nigerian parents are advised to raise their male and female children on the basis of equity and equality. Equal opportunity should be provided for all citizens irrespective of gender. Educational institutions should mainstream gender studies into their curriculum with a view to promoting an egalitarian society where men and women are equal. The mass media should play their roles by projecting programmes and views that support gender equality.

Martins Eke,
Abuja, FCT







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