WE congratulate Nigerian women on the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8. All over the world, women are a significant proportion of the population and they are critical to the wellbeing of any nation. The special day dedicated to women therefore provides us a good opportunity to look at the matters that affect them and the health of the society at large.
The fate of children and youths is so intricately intertwined with that of women that it will do no good to separate them. Realising the importance of these three critical segments of the population, it is incumbent on any sensible nation to pay attention to the issues that affect them and, ultimately, the health of the society. But, what do we find? In most societies, especially those still grappling with the basics of development, the female gender is suppressed in an everlasting sacrifice to the male ego.
It is this unfair and self-defeatist tendency that advanced and advancing nations of the world have deliberately taken measures to reverse. How can any nation hope to develop, when matters that affect over half of its population are suppressed? Indeed, how can any nation or society for that matter, hope to advance, when the hand that rocks and moulds the most priced segments of its population is disabled? This is exactly what happens when matters that directly affect the female gender are not properly ventilated in any society.
Since the suffragette movement in Britain, Australia and the United States in the early 20th Century on the right of women to vote, not much progress has been made worldwide concerning other rights of women. Women now mostly vote, but their right to be voted for is still seriously curtailed. Whereas, it has been proved scientifically that men do not have a higher Intelligence Quotient than women, men still like to dominate the female folk and discriminate against them, holding on to age-long traditions, religions and cultures, and whatever other justification they can find.
Women have used the few, but now increasing opportunities they have found to prove their mettle, and they have earned, decisively, their equality with men. That is apart from their God-given talent to multi-task. This is why nations on the ascendancy are finding more and more opportunities for women to hold their own on the national and global stages. Such nations have embraced Affirmative Action and its equivalents, to consciously push female gender issues to the front burner.
But, we must not be fooled. Women issues are numerous and germane. Issues of maternal and child health, girl-child education, violence against women, female genital mutilation, and access to women participation in national affairs are still very much with us.
In Nigeria, the intractable challenge of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East has only accentuated the eternally bad situation of female gender issues. The female gender, to put it mildly, is at the receiving end of the ravaging insurgency. The carting away of over 250 female students from a school in Chibok, Borno State, into apparent slavery and exploitation by the insurgents, is an agonising reminder of how vulnerable female folks are in this part of the world.
With the economic downturn in the country, there is no debating the fact that women are making the most sacrifices. They are the ones that must drop out of school, the ones who have more health challenges, the ones who stay with the children more and must provide for them, the ones who are most vulnerable to physical attacks and incessant raids of their communities, and the ones who are most displaced. The overwhelming majority of women and children in the Internally Displaced Persons camps amply buttresses this point.
It is time Nigeria takes deliberate steps to reverse the equation. Women are key to the survival of the family unit and are, therefore, critical to the wellbeing of any society. It is in the immediate and long-term interest of any society that wants wholesome and rapid advancement to prioritise women’s issues and work assiduously to address them.