Women clamour for equal participation in national development agendas
The founder of founder Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), Irene Ochem has called for equal access, opportunities and participation of women in every sphere of national life.
Ochem made the call at women forum with theme, ‘Gender balance for a better tomorrow’ in Lagos recently.She explained that impression should not be distorted to imply promotion or inclusion of women is merely to fill quotas, regardless of their expertise, skills set, leadership abilities and integrity.
She said if Nigeria was to lean towards this quota bias, it could result inadvertently damage national goals.She defined gender equality as, “a state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviours, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.
“We cannot approach this challenge by seeking to oust men from positions of talent and competence merely on the basis of gender quotas. We all know the truism that women have to work twice as hard in order to be accepted by men and should they fail or slip up in any way, all the old stereotypes about women and their place in business, politics and society in general come into play. So we lose ground and credibility.”
Head of mission, Embassy of Sweden, Ida Hockerfelt pointed out that the forum gives participants a platform to share ideas and experiences, current challenges and proffer solutions.
She insisted that gender equality is not only for girl and women but includes men and boys. She wished more of the men were at the forum to internalize the policies and programmes that would benefit the women and society.She lauded other speakers and panellists for sharing their stories and experiences.
According to her, she is fortunate to work with Sweden government where they have equal gender representation of 50%-50% in their parliament and almost every sphere of life.
“The gender equality starts from school in Sweden. There is no discrimination between boy and girl child,” she said. Hockerfelt commended AWIEF for providing a platform for discussing the role of women in Africa’s economic growth, the challenges faced by female business owners, analyse those challenges and proffer innovative and sustainable solutions that will effectively foster the empowerment of African women and unleash their full potential for successful business entrepreneurship.
A participant Alexandrina Owoeye, CEO Laderin Nigeria Limited lauded Margaret Hirsch, (co- founder and CEO Hirsch homestore South Africa) for telling her story and experiences by touching a lot of people’s lives as she grows her mega businesses regardless of her background, tribe and gender.