People have come to me with cases on domestic/sexual abuses, and they ask me for practical advice on what course of action to take. Many times, I refer them to people whose core area of advocacy is gender-based violence and they are shocked. They ask why I do not handle these situations myself seeing I am also a gender advocate. I tell them that it is not my core area of advocacy, and that I am referring them to people who are passionate about and competent enough to give them the information and help they seek.
When people hear that someone is a gender advocate, they assume that the person is involved in all the aspects or areas of gender advocacy. Thinking about this often, I have come to realise that this misconception arises because many people do not realise that there are actually different areas or aspects of gender advocate. A gender advocate usually has an area they focus on or are passionate about.
For me, I am all about girls and women shattering glass ceilings and breaking stereotypes. Of course, from time to time, I show my support to people those who are involved in other areas of advocacy. I do this by shedding light on what they do by interviewing them and featuring them on my blog (www.roselineadewuyi.com) and my social media handles. Sometimes, I also tell people about their upcoming programmes.
I would like to talk briefly about the major areas of gender advocacy that exist, and they are explained below in this reflection.
Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): This area of gender advocacy focuses on sparking the girl-child’s interest in female STEM at a young age. It also aims to encourage women already in this field to hold their heads high and work hard in this male-dominated sphere. It aims to see many women involved in scientific discoveries, inventions, innovations, and technological advancements.
Leadership: This area of advocacy aims to see more women represented in all spheres of leadership. Their goal is to see more female representation in the board rooms. They want to see more women as chief executives, managing directors, chairpersons of boards, and so on. They empower women to know that they can lead, and they encourage them to aspire to and apply for such leadership positions.
Legal support for women: This area of advocacy seeks to provide support for women, especially underprivileged women, who are going through gender-based violence and all sorts of abuse or right infringement. It seeks to bring redress to women who have been aggrieved in one way or another. Many times, their services are rendered free of charge or heavily supported by a third party/benefactor or a non-governmental agency.
Women in politics: This form of advocacy encourages women to participate in political processes. It is also aimed at encouraging female representation in political offices. They encourage women to vote and exercise their franchise. They also let women know that they deserve seats at the tables where issues affecting them and the nation are decided.
Women in agriculture: This area of advocacy offers encouragement and support for women who are farmers. It offers education and incentives from time to time. It helps train them in better and more modern ways of making agriculture less stressful and more yielding. It also teaches them how to package their products and write business plans to attract investors.
Breaking stereotypes: This is my core competency and my area focus. Here, we teach young girls and inspire women to break away from age-long societal norms, constructs and stereotypes that have limited their progress. We show them that they can do anything and be whomever they choose to be regardless of society’s dictates. We teach them to discard society’s scripts and follow their individual passion and purpose to be the best version of whom they want to be.
Sexual and reproductive health and right: This advocacy focuses on teaching young girls and women about their bodies. It shows them that their bodies belong to them and they have the right to decide what happens in their bodies and what does not. Here, young girls and women are educated on sex education, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, and so on. This area also advocates for women’s rights to contraception, irrespective of who approves or who does not.
Maternal and newborn health: This area of advocacy takes care of mothers and their children. It teaches new mothers how to care for their newborns and presents them with feeding options. It also focuses on making sure mother and child are safe, in great health and adequately fed from the first day of pregnancy until the child is weaned. It is this aspect of gender advocacy that emphasises on women receiving antenatal care and compels employers to give paid maternal leaves to women who have just been delivered of babies.
Girl-child education: The girl-child education advocacy is aimed at taking girls off the street and stopping early-child marriages. This advocacy usually focuses on girls who are in rural areas or areas that have terrible archaic cultural practices. They teach parents the importance of sending their girls to school and they usually help provide free education with free meals for girls in such areas.
Gender-based violence: This area of advocacy focuses on rape and all forms of violence against women. It is aimed at educating the general public about rape and violence, and how they affect women negatively. It is also aimed at providing support to victims of rape and violence, and also helps them seek redress in order to give them closure and deter offenders from hurting others.
Women and peace and security: Women are affected differently, and sometimes a lot worse than some men are when war happens. This is because society usually sees women in a different light than they see men. This area of advocacy focuses on involving women in peacekeeping. The idea behind this is that when all the parties affected by wars and conflicts come together to advocate for peace, the result is going to be tremendous. Hence, this area advocates for women to speak up and lend their voice to stopping all forms of wars and conflicts in their society.
These are the core areas of gender advocacy there is. I am putting it out there so that you could know which one a person is about when you hear them speak on gender issues. This would help you know who you need to speak with when you have any issues that concern women or the girl-child. I like to think that expecting a gender advocate to be a Jack of all trade is like calling Africa a country. But Africa is a continent made up of different countries filled with people as diverse and as many as their languages and tribes. Like the many countries that make up Africa, all these forms of advocacy are different but equally important and geared towards the same goal—stamping women’s equality in every area and sphere of life.
Adewuyi is a social educator and a girl-child/gender advocate