An Open Letter To The Nigerian Woman
“[Gender equality] starts with getting girls in school, keeping them there, and making sure they learn.”
– Kristalina Georgieva, CEO, World Bank
When the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its first Global Gender Gap Report in 2006, there was hope that, a decade later, gender gap would have reduced considerably and that more women would feel empowered and enabled to be whom they aspired to be.
The 2017 report indicated that, overall, 68% of the global gender gap had been closed. That figure represented a slight retrogression from that of 2016 and 2015, when the gap was 68.3% and 68.1%, respectively.
Behind that decline is a widening of the gender gap across all four of the report’s pillars: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment.
The WEF noted in the report that it would take up to 100 years for the global gender gap to close. The report showed that Nigeria (ranked 122 out of 144 countries) had made notable progress towards closing its gender gaps in women’s estimated earned income, enrolment in secondary education, healthy life expectancy and wage equality for similar work.
However, these achievements are outweighed by a decline in women empowerment and reversals on the educational attainment subindex. In both instances, Nigeria is ranked 135 out of 144 countries.
“The statistics will continue to be dire if violence against women continues unchecked,” says Ibiyemi Bakare, a women’s rights activist. Bakare’s fear is not unfounded. Violence against women in Nigeria, regardless of their ages, is aided by a weak legal framework and women’s participation in politics has been largely limited to the occupying of the position of women leaders of political parties.
While the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have refocussed the attention of the world on the abuse women suffer in the hands of powerful men, movie moguls and politicians shamed for the perversion and violence against women, the lot of the Nigerian woman has not improved significantly.
According to Amnesty International, a third of women in Nigeria are believed to have been subjected to physical, sexual and psychological violence carried out primarily by husbands, partners and fathers.
In the past year, no fewer than 4,035 domestic violence cases have been reported in Lagos State, according to an official of the state’s Ministry of Information.
While Lagos is tackling the reprehensible acts with the establishment of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) and the Special or Sexual Offences Court, the subtle cultural reinforcement of abusive acts against women has made the fight to end violence against women almost unwinnable, thereby expanding the gender gap further.
“Violence against women in our country is deeply embedded in our culture because of the patriarchal nature of our society which stipulates that the husband “owns” the woman and he has the right to do whatsoever he deems fit with her,” says Mercy Makinde, a campaigner against violence against women and children.
As the world celebrates another International Women’s Day, both Bakare and Makinde believe that, through constant advocacy and strong institutional support, real progress can be made. Only then can Nigeria begin to truly close the gender gap.