‘Why women, children deserve better deal’
Women constitute about half of the population of Nigeria. Their contribution also cuts across social and economic development of the society, yet their participation in formal and informal structures and processes still remains a struggle, as they remain insignificant, where decisions regarding the use of societal resources generated by both men and women are made.
Nigeria as a patriarchal society has, more or less, made the advancement of Women’s human right a herculean task, where it attributes preference to the males over and above the females in all strata of life, such as, politics, education, access to economic assets, land and properties, employment and power sharing, amongst others. This is manifested with the various gender rights violations (physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual and other forms of discrimination at home, workplace and the society at large), despite the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and other laws.
Years after independence, more than half of the country are living in poverty. Women and children are suffering from unfriendly government policies, insecurity and the run down state, as a result of corruption and other vices from successive government that are not accountable to the people, governments that value their own families, but left the huge population to beg for food. Inequality in Nigeria has also reached unenviable proportions. Hunger and diseases continue to ravage a greater part of the country, with a huge number of children dying before the age of five, and mothers dying while giving birth due to preventable causes.
Children can no longer go to school because of the rot in public schools, and the attendant cost. Most children have become mothers and are being married off, yet some people justify this in the name of tradition and religion. The vice seems to be strong and so, we need an accountable government, which priotises the rights of women and children that can address the crises.
The government should look at the benefit of engendering processes of governance and socio economic structures. The future seems bright, if we harness the potentials of the great women in this country, as well as, invest in young girls and boys. We know as a nation that our current economic situation is not as a result of lack of resources, but that of their misuse, mismanagement or outright stealing.
We must, therefore, take a very holistic approach to addressing the problems of children and women.
The recent consensus by world leaders to ensure that gender equality and women empowerment is prioritised, shows the relevance for all countries to take positive steps that can support and promote women’s political and socio-economic development.
In the last 15 years, there have been new laws, particularly at state levels, to support the protection and promotion of women and children’s rights. For example, there are the Anambra State Women’s Reproductive Rights Law, Malpractices Against Widows and Widowers (Prohibition) Law, Street Trading Restriction Law. Bauchi made law on Prohibition of Withdrawal of Girls from School for Marriage Law, while in Bayelsa, there is the Female Genital Mutilation (Prohibition) Law. In Cross River State, the Female Persons Inheritance of Property law has been passed, and in Lagos and other places, laws addressing domestic violence and other vices have been passed, including the Ekiti State’s Gender Based Violence law.
At the national level, though the country reluctantly passed the Child rights law, but as we speak today, only about 23 states have domesticated the law.
Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi is the Chairman Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).