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*Gender Inequality: The Nigerian Case
Masterweb Reports – Saturday, November 3, 2012: Women are more than fifty percent of the world’s population. They perform two-third of the world’s work, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own one-hundredth of the world’s property. They represent a staggering seventy percent of the world’s one billion poorest people. This is a stack development reality for our world.
My country-Nigeria has the highest population of any African country. With a population of over 162 million, Nigeria is ranked the world’s seventh most populated country. Of this magnitude, forty-nine percent are female; some 80.2 million girls and women. Comparatively, thirty-eight percent of women in Nigeria lack formal education as against twenty-five for men and only four percent of women have higher education against the seven percent of their male counterpart. Nigeria ranks 118 of 134 countries in the Gender Equality Index.
Commenting on the fore, it is apparent that no appreciable development can be made either at the local, national or international platform without recognising girls and women as equal players in the game of life whilst empowering, up-skilling and investing in them for a better world. “When we empower women, we empower communities, nations and entire human family” un Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
We live in a world where majority of girls and women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation and injustice, which could run through from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to violence and brutalization to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination and atrocities a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common in our global society.
In her assessment of gender inequality, Nigerian Ambassador to the UN, Joy Ogwu, rightly noted, “It is about having half of humanity participate. The progress of women means…the progress of the world”. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Woman & man images against their standard gender symbols.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria and the World at large has in the last decade witnessed an unprecedented expansion of women’s rights, being one of the most profound social revolutions the world has ever seen. Couple of decades back, only two countries allowed women to vote. Today, that right is virtually universal. Millions of men and women around the world now support the call for gender equality although there is much to be done especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
Reviewing the UK Department for International Development (DFID), 2012 Gender Report in Nigeria, “Nigeria’s 80.2 million women and girls have significantly worse life chances than men and also their sisters in comparable societies”. This reveals the neglect of the Nigerian people and government in tackling the issue of gender inequality despite calls from various quarters. It also brings to bare our frail understanding of preparing the girl child for tomorrow’s motherhood, family and societal challenges.
The report which succinctly stated that “Women are Nigeria’s hidden resource”, exposed that over 1.5 million Nigeria children aged 6-14(8.1%) are currently not in school, a situation which has effortlessly earned Nigeria the world’s largest out of school children country-an unfortunate achievement of a robust nation. “In eight Northern States, over 80% of women are unable to read (compared with 54% for men). In Jigawa State, 94% of women (42% of men) are illiterate”. Apparently, we have failed to realize that just a few investments have as large a payoff as girls’ education.
Some traceable factors to this ill-starred development include lack of funds resulting from wide-spread poverty, traditional and religious inclination which place low priority on educating the girl child, non-provision of educational facilities by government, poor funding of the educational sector, weak educational policies, early marriage, early childbirth, poor sanitation, ignorance amongst others.
“Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of women are concentrated in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment. Only 15% of women have a bank account”. Educating and empowering the girl child implies preparing her for future motherhood challenges that will in the nearest future affect a family and the larger society either positively or negatively.
The huge geographical and ideological disparities of Nigeria, makes her a unique country with though global yet slightly peculiar challenges and opportunities, even as it relates to gender inequality. Human development outcomes for girls and women are worse in the northern part of the country where poverty levels are sometimes twice as high as in the south. Nearly half of all children under age five are malnourished in the North-East, with the figures expected to increase across the country in the wake of national and international food crises.
On maternal mortality, the 2012 DFID Gender Report in Nigeria noted that Nigeria has one of the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, a case where in every ten minutes, one Nigerian women dies in childbirth. With about forty-seven percent of Nigerian women being mothers before the age of twenty, the report cautioned that without access to safe childbirth services, adequate and affordable emergency obstetric care, improved healthcare funding, enormous political will and civil society pressure, Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate could double from its current 545 deaths per 100,000 live births. Note, “Every 90 seconds of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth”, world over.
“Women around the world are dynamic leaders and powerful advocates of change. But space for their leadership and broader social and political participation remains constrained. By mid-2011, only 28 countries could claim that women’s parliamentary representation had reached a critical mass of 30 percent or more. Only 19 women were leading their countries as elected heads of state or government”.
In Nigeria, only 25 out of the 360 members of the Nigerian House of Representatives being women and only about 4% of local government councillors are women, confirming that “women are under-represented in all political decision making bodies and their representation has not increased since the inception of democratic rule”. This could perhaps be an explanation for Nigeria’s low investment in sections that are crucial to human development outcomes such as health and education.
It is pertinent to note that the quality of our democracy, the strength of our economies, the health of our societies and the sustainability of peace —are all undermined when we fail to fully tap half of the world’s talent and potential. Where women have access to secondary education, good jobs, land and other assets, national growth and stability are enhanced, and we see lower maternal mortality, improved child nutrition, greater food security, and less risk of HIV and AIDS.
In a society like ours, violence against women and girls cannot be ignored though it is being ignored. “One in three of all women and girls aged 15-24 have been a victim of violence. Women who have never married are more likely to have been attacked than married women. Up to one third of Nigerian women report that they have been subjected to some form of violence. One in five has experienced physical violence”.
Rape, sexual insult and assault, brutalization and molestation, domestic violence on girls and women have in recent time upsurge in Nigeria, with victims feeling embarrassed to report such incidence to the right agencies for justice. However, kudos must be given to some individuals, civil society and media organisations that have continually been campaigning against violence on the female folk, though, there is more to be done noting that women and girls pay an unjustifiable price for violence and discrimination, but they do not do so alone.
The United Nation Women says “Ending violence against women requires know-how”. The know-how of judicial and health processes. In her words, Karen Valero, Colombia said “I dream of a world where women are free from domestic violence…Everyone is equal. We have the same rights in every way”
Curbing and stopping violence against women requires the creation and passage of laws regarding such violence, adopting action plans and budgets to implement legislation, instituting prevention programmes and protection services for women survivors, and campaigning to raise awareness whilst instilling sound moral and religious instructions in the girl-child towards a chaste and modest future.
Achieving gender equality and women’s rights in Nigeria and the world at large is crucial to establishing and sustaining developments as specifically addressed by three Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Gender inequality has a much greater impact than the explicit MDGs. Gender dynamics underpin all of the MDGs and to make progress, we need specific gender-sensitive policies and action across the entire project.
In promoting women’s livelihood, the 2012 DFID Gender Report in Nigeria, recommends that “Government policy should prioritise agriculture and rural development, because 54 million of Nigeria’s 80.2 million women live and work in rural areas where they constitute 60-70% of the rural work force”. It also advocates the formulation and implementation of laws that will assist the female gender in actualising her mandate.
On education, the report advised the creation of incentives for all girls to complete primary and secondary education, whilst delivering free education to girls and better funding for the educational sector both at the state and national levels.
This fight for gender equality can only be successful with YOU and I playing our individual yet concerted roles towards successful women’s leadership; strengthening women’s economic empowerment; ending violence against women; promoting women’s participation in peace and security processes; and ensuring that public planning and budgeting responds to the needs and rights of women. Together-we can make it happen!
According to the Executive Director, UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, “Gender equality must become a lived reality”.
At this juncture, let me drop my pen in recognition and appreciation of all female: girls and women across the globe, who despite societal inequality and discrimination have just like my mother and sisters continued to grow in leaps and bounds…I love, respect and cherish you all. PEACE!
Tayo Elegbede Jet reports.
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