Men advocate gender parity at WIMBIZ conference
Over the years men have wielded significant power in virtually all aspect of human endeavours, especially in politics, business, offices and even homes.
No doubt, in order to bring about balanced change irrespective of gender bias, men are needed to be a part of the solution in creating platforms where the women-folk could ultimately reach their potentials and occupy enviable positions in the society.
This was the consensus of views at the just concluded 16th annual conference of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) with the theme: “The Future is Here,’’ held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island.
The event featured men who are top managers in their professions and interestingly they acknowledged that diversities make a smart social and economic sense that will benefit all.
The gathering had in attendance the Co- Founder and Chairman, Africa Initiative for Governance, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; Managing Partner, Udo Udoma and Belo-Osagie, Dan Agbor; Executive Director and Co-Founder, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole and Executive Director, Client Services, AXA Mansard, Tosin Runsewe at the first plenary session titled: “Women Gaining Ground: The Male Perspective.”
They passionately acknowledged gender parity in politics, business, leadership and life as a whole.Setting the tone for the discuss, Runsewe posited that men need to be a lot more supportive for women to achieve their potentials while adding that this would have a ripple effect in developing the country.
He said: “That way we improve the productivity of the country significantly as whole and we experienced sustained economic growth. “This has to happen from both perspectives from fathers who must speak to their daughters when they are growing up that they are not just going to school in order to end up becoming house wives but that they must develop themselves and they must try to achieve their full potential.
“It must also come from the husbands who must support their wives and at the end it is important that the woman feel self fulfilled. It is also important for both them through their careers there are two incomes coming in to the home and not just one because when it is just one there is a danger of the family falling into penury.”
He added that it is time for organisations to understand that they have a better chance to succeed when women in their organisations are given access and encouragement to get to the top and participate. “Studies across the world have shown that when you have women in senior management position, those organization also tend to do better.”
In the African Gender Equality Index Today, studies have shown that Nigeria ranks 118 out of 132 countries on the Gender Equality Index and holds 23rd place out of 52 countries on the African Gender Equality Index. An estimated 70 per cent of women live below the poverty line.
The United Nation (UN) Women Representative to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Comfort Lamptey, at the event described the above statistics as an unacceptable reality in the largest economy in Africa.
According to her, the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (2014) indicates that about 30 percent of women between the ages of 15-49 experience physical and sexual abuses in Nigeria and an estimated 17 per cent of girls get married before the age of 15.
“Today only 6.7 per cent of women are represented in elected political office at the Federal level, whilst at the State level, women comprise only 3.9 percent of elected officials.
“ In the North East of Nigeria, where the Boko Haram crisis has resulted in mass displacements and severe violations of the rights of women and girls, over 60 percent of out-of-school children are girls, whilst an estimated 6 out of 10 women have experienced one or more forms of gender-based violence.”
She noted that this picture must be reversed, as Nigeria’s status as the giant of Africa must be evident in the status of empowerment of women of this country.
“In 2015, Governments the world over agreed on a new global development compact by way of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provides renewed opportunities for advancing women’s rights and gender equality. “Nigeria, as a member of the community of nations, committed to achieving an ambitious agenda of development and progress through the 17 SDGs, all which reflect gender priorities, which include a stand-alone Goal 5 dedicated to promoting gender equality.
“UN Women’s work in this country is centrally-driven by the objective of supporting Nigeria to advance implementation of the SDGs. Our three main programmatic focus areas are addressed to: enhancing women’s political participation and leadership; supporting women’s economic empowerment through agribusiness and affirmative procurement; and enhancing women’s empowerment and leadership in humanitarian contexts and their participation in peace building.”
Lamptey disclosed that as part of efforts to advance gender equality and women’s right, the UN Women have laid down approaches, which includes, investing in women’s leadership, emphasis on the role and contribution of men and boy, through the HeforShe campaign and emphasis on movement-building among women in different sectors.
“In Nigeria, movement building will be key to facilitate the adoption of a Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill and also to get more women elected and appointed to political office in 2019.
“The sheer strength and force of women across this country harnessing their numbers, their experience, youth, economic potential and voice, cannot be easily ignored. This is a charge that this audience must embrace with urgency. You can count on UN Women’s partnership support in this endeavor.” She said.
On her part, the Deputy Country Head of the Deutsche Bank, Adeola Azeez, who expressed optimism that the WIMBIZ platform would produce the first female president stated that flexible working hours is key to help women gain ground.
“Women gaining ground is basically saying that women are not visible, the numbers are not there at the leadership and corporate organisation. At the time we were trying to address these issues we were only talking to ourselves as women, but we believe it is time to also engage the men as they are on boards, influential and powerful and the earlier we recognize that the better for us.
“The conference will definitely feed back into the corporate organization. If every one is truly involved, we will have a critical mass and if we have a critical mass there is no way it will not affect the economy, the economy will grow and progress as there will be more women in leadership position and if this happens, it will be better for the country.”
Chairperson, WIMBIZ Executive Council, Aishah Ahmad challenged women to be inspired in order to be empowered. “We are convinced that for women to get ahead, the men have to be actively involved.”
Also speaking, Founder, Believe and Live Again foundation, Zina Arinze who flew from the United Kingdom to attend the conference, affirmed that men are needed in advocating feminism. “In the patriarchal world we live in, men hold the power and voice to exact change. It is important that they acknowledge and use their male privilege to dismantle the system that does not favour feminism. Men are essential to the feminist movement. We need them to be part of the conversation, to step up and take action that promotes women fairly.”
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