By Ngozi Nwoke
Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf is the Lagos State commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture. She does not believe in feminism. She is a firm believer in the fact that every human being deserves equal rights.
However, she is saddened that women have found themselves in a world where their strength is underrated and unrecognized.
In this interview recently in Lagos, she decried a situation where so much focus is placed on the girl child at the expense of the male child ad noted that this imbalance is a contributing factor to domestic violence today
Mrs. Akinbliie-Yussuf proffered solutions to achieve gender equality and empower youths to become useful citizens.
You have won numerous awards at the state and national level. What did you do differently that earned you these awards?
For the awards and recognition, I see it as a way of encouragement to do more and not to relent in what I am doing. It shows that my little effort and impact in the society is appreciated and recognized. I don’t want to let down the people that look up to me. This also shows that lots of people are watching me, following up on my activities and expecting me to do more in my public service activities. Also, as a pharmacist, I engage in community service. I love to serve any community I find myself in. So, when I remember that I am being looked up to, it spurs me to do more.
How did you come into politics, considering your career as a pharmacist?
My nature has always been to serve humanity. I see it as an honour and privilege to serve. Nonetheless, I have not deviated from my profession as a medical practitioner. I still practice health service alongside my functional duties as a commissioner. Although I might not have the opportunity to serve as much as I used to when I was fully in health service, I am still a pharmacist. I don’t joke with it because it is a dream come true for me. It took me a very long time to acquire the certificate and I will not take it for granted. That is why I wear the crown everywhere. I am proudly a pharmacist and a public servant. However, serving as a commissioner has given me the opportunity to serve the public beyond my profession.
Women are beginning to discover their potential and value in society. What is your view on those that, unfortunately, still suffer domestic violence?
I am not a feminist. I believe every human being deserves equal rights, and gender-based violence should not be ascribed only to women as victims. Men and boys also face some form of abuse in society. Secondly, I don’t believe that there should be a particular job or position meant specifically for a certain gender.
I strongly believe that what a man can do, a woman can also do. We are all one. Why we respect the men, in past, is because of their masculine physique. God has built in them the strength and energy. And we are not in any competition with men. I respect all. However, it is sad that we find ourselves in a world where the strength of the woman is underrated and not recognized. This is where I call on women not to see themselves as less privileged.
Women should begin to correct this wrong impression by showcasing their potential in nation-building and family growth. They should go out and become meaningful persons with their skills. Women have more potential to multi-task than men. Times are changing, the narrative that women are only meant to become housewives and stay-at-home mothers is beginning to change, and I am impressed about that. Today, women are wives, mothers, CEOs, MDs, senators and so on. It is a step in the right direction.
This year’s International Women’s Day was centred on gender equality. What policies would you suggest to government for women to be given fair treatment and equality?
Talking about equality and fairness, I think in Lagos state ministries women are well recognized, except in the society. Most of the permanent secretaries are women. We have at least, 60 per cent of women as civil servants. So, we are being given the fair opportunity to utilize our skills in the state’s service. I recommend that government should implement the policy of having at least 60 per cent of women employed in all workplaces. They should be given that opportunity to use their skills and talents to see the growth of the nation and their families. This is sometimes the root cause of gender-based violence. When a woman has nothing to contribute to the family’s welfare and only the man is left to cater for the family, the man begins to feel unhappy with the burden, which often times leads to anger. I also appeal to men in general to give us that opportunity to shine. Some men feel threatened by a woman’s success and accomplishments. That is why you have most women becoming housewives. It is unfair to deny women the opportunity to exhibit their skills and talents.
What do you think are the causes of child rape, teenage pregnancies and women suffering domestic violence?
We are putting so much focus on the girl child, leaving the boy child behind. I think the focus should be on the both genders because, when we focus more on women, it is still the men that will molest and assault these women on the streets and when they get married to them. So, this is my position on gender-based violence.
From the families, the boy child and girl child should be taught the moral values of respect and regard. Both genders should be treated equally. I always say that gender equality must begin from the family before it can be greatly achieved in the society because most people who indulge in violence come from homes. We are protecting the girl child from being molested, but what teaching and upbringing are we giving to the boy child?
This is why I lay so much emphasis on equal treatment in the family. You treat the boy child with so much respect and dignity and treat the girl child with utmost disdain. Tomorrow the boy child grows up with the mentality that women should be disrespected and treated as objects. You treat the girl child with so much love and care, and treat the boy child with so much negligence. Tomorrow, the boy child grows up to see the girl child as a threat. He becomes vindictive and tries to vent his lack of love on the girl. This kind of upbringing is totally wrong and this is why we have so much gender-based violence in society and families. It is obviously a sign of bad parenting. Government should also help to cub the increasing rate of domestic violence in homes and society by adequately taking over responsibility for homeless children roaming the streets.