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Experts push for advancement of gender policies

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
21 May 2022   |   4:11 am
To enhance the rights of women and girls in Nigeria, gender advocates have called for collaborative efforts from the private and public sectors to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goal 5.

Senior Programme Advisor, Pathfinder International, Nigeria Dr. Sakina Bello (left), Founder and president, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki; Country Director, Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Dorayi and Founder, She Forum Africa, Inimfon Etuk at the event.

…As Tallen, Saraki, Others Call For Sustained Women And Girls’ Rights
To enhance the rights of women and girls in Nigeria, gender advocates have called for collaborative efforts from the private and public sectors to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goal 5. They have also noted that more women should be made to sit on decision-making tables, take up more appointive and elective political positions to enhance their voice and amplify their needs.

The experts who also commit to mainstreaming gender, emphasised on creating networks, coaching, and sponsorships, nurturing a progressive power circle, advocacy and holistic approach to funding to drive this development.

This was the thrust at the #icommit meeting organised by She Forum Africa and Pathfinder International, with the theme, Partnership for goals – Advancing the Gender Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Speaking at the meeting, Minister for Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen said that without mainstreaming gender, there would be no meaningful development. “When I came into office, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) act was only in nine states and the child rights act in 12 states, I worked round the states and today 33 states have domesticated them, but the problem still remains.”

Tallen also noted that as we approach the elections, it is a crucial time especially for women. “With eight women in the senate it is unlikely that the number will increase in the coming elections and we need to ensure that more women embrace political opportunities. When we are struggling to get more women, our governors are pushing them out, because they have turned the senate to their retirement ground. It is time for action and I call on all women to unite and support those who have picked up forms.”

She therefore urged men to stand up and support women, as policy implementation is crucial to gender mainstreaming, which should largely start from the home.

Founder, Wellbeing Foundation Africa and wife of former senate president, Toyin Saraki stressed that we are at a crisis point for children out of school, for nutrition and hunger, for high inflation and low earnings, and so on this basis we all should come together to drive policies to ensure that every political aspirant have this conversation.

“We hope to see that they commit to women’s course, by having laws in place, and be more creative with its implementation to help more women speak up and get justice.”

The convener and founder, She Forum Africa, Inimfon Etuk noted that women and girls issues are no longer limited to the gender but on every aspect of leadership and government, globally, nationally and sub nationally have to take the interest and concerns of women and girls and make it a part of the work they do. “Women are custodians of the grassroots economy, so anything affecting women and girls affects the GDP of a country, especially the local economy. So if these needs are not prioritized, we do not think that the government of the day is ready for true development.”

For Country director, Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Dorayi, we want to have stakeholders interested in the gender agenda and who are at the fore front of ending violence against women and girls including the private sector, to promote and intensify, strengthen and amplify solution oriented advocacy around women and girls agency using the right perspective. While President and CEO Pathfinder International, Lois Quam said she is poised to working in Nigeria to ensure that women and girls achieve their full potential in life.

In her keynote address on the state of women and girls agency in Nigeria: Progress, Challenges, Opportunities, a senior programme officer at MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Amina Salihu noted that women are faced with not just an economic or poverty of voice, but a poverty time, because household chorus are always left for the women and the girls. And the workplace does not recognise this role and so a woman who has to come late to the office, who doesn’t have a flexible work plan, or has to go on maternity leave is punished one way or the other. As if her reproductive work is not necessary for productive work to happen.

“Until we begin to lessen the burden in the home, raise our sons equally and have advertisements that show that men also should bathe their children that challenge will continue.”

While Director, Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria, Dr. Salma Anas, who represented the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire stressed that for health indices in any country, the first to be observed is of mothers. “Women are still dying as a result of pregnancy, childbirth and post pregnancy complications and so it depicts a weak health system. It tells us that women are not developed, empowered or have access to quality healthcare services. As a northern, I grew up to see girls suffer Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Vesicovaginal fistula, I am happy that we are slowly making progress. There is no way Nigeria can make meaningful progress without affordable healthcare for women.”

Speaking on the evolution of women and growth, Executive Director, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) Hansatu Adegbite said that in the past, it was rare to have women sit at boards; today we have six women sit as heads of major banks, this is as a result of advocacy. For the past 15 years, we have been strong on networking, equipping, empowering and placing women’s rights.

On critical steps to advance the gender agenda from the private sector, she said, “Women need to know that the private sector looks at things from a returns point of view; they won’t hire you for being a woman. Private sector is very big on networking; you must be intentional in your communication and visibility. You must have a very effective strategy on being relevant.

“We also must recognize the place of mentorship, coaching and advocacy to help women’s advancement. We have had women who finish their tenure and insist that a woman takes over; this is a form of advocacy that sustains the place and rise of women. We must have succession planning, and push for an effective deliberate plan to advance our course.”

For Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, one thing that can work for us as women is solidarity. We cannot achieve anything without it; there is no revolution across the world that didn’t come in the form of solidarity. Partnership is also important and so we work with the government to achieve our aim, we work with empowered citizens and demand accountability from the government.

“On gender mainstreaming there is need for a holistic strategy; there is no way this can be achievable if there is no financial backing. We can’t advance gender mainstreaming with lack of funding.”

While Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic Sexual Violence Agency, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, said that Lagos state have laws and institutions set up for the sole purpose of fighting Gender Based Violence (GBV), “What sets Lagos apart is the political will; hence there is a sexual and intervention fund for this drive.” Adding that sustained advocacy, mainstreaming sexual advocacy in schools, acknowledging the role of religious and traditional rulers in the awareness and fight, while adopting a multi disciplinary approach will amount to zero tolerance to GBV.