From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Ronke Adeyemi, a lawyer is former Vice Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and former Chairperson, Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kwara State Branch. In this interview, he spoke on issues bothering on women lawyers and women participation in politics.
What is your view on women participation in politics?
Not only should women have economic power but, they should have political power. And when we talk about political power, we are not asking for this so that we can oppress men or people. We are asking so that our interest can be protected. Say for instance, the issue of pregnancy and childbirth, a woman is in employment gets pregnancy and she was laid off. The boss says ‘I can’t retain a pregnant woman.’ Pregnancy and childbirth are natural occurrences. It is God who made us like that. And if you don’t have children, it is another problem in the family. If you have children you are going to have issue with your job. So, we need laws that will help to curtail such things.
I understand that in Lagos State now they have six months maternity leave, it is a good thing. It came about because they had a woman in the House of Assembly who brought up the topic. If it is only men that are in the state and national assembly there will be nobody that would think about the interest of woman because they don’t know how it looks like.
But, if women have political power, if we are in the legislature, the executive, we will also take decisions that would affect the lives of women and improve it. So, our clamouring for economic and political power is not to oppress but to help ourselves and to protect ourselves.
As a former chairperson of FIDA, what is FIDA doing to advance the course of women in the country?
FIDA is an association of woman lawyers and our aims and objectives is to take care of the legal issues relating to women and children in the various ways in which they can come, either through counselling, legal interventions in the court and fighting for their right. That is what FIDA is all about specifically. We have been providing a lot of free legal services to women ,widow, and women who were been maltreated, abused, divorced, children who were been abused and all that. That is what we have been doing and that’s what we hope to continue to do.
Recently too, we added enlightenment of women about acquiring economic power, doing seminars and workshops and passing information to them about how they can have economic power. We noticed that lack of economic power has been one of the major problems of women. Some of them are treated badly because they have nothing to contribute to the family. Some are enduring a lot of hardship because they don’t have economic power to pull out of a bad relationship or an abusive relationship. They feel ‘where would I go, how will I feed my children.’ So they continue to endure, some of them even die in the process. So, we have also added empowering women economically to our agenda.
How do you combine your practice with your domestic obligations?
I think God has created woman in such a way that we can multi task effectively. We can do many things at the same time. It takes a lot of planning and then you need a husband that really understands and supports you, most especially for those of us who are in private practice.
For those in government employment, it is relatively easy because they close 4:00pm and go home. But for those of us who are in private practice who want to reach the top of our profession, you have to work very hard even harder than the men because once you get to the court and they see that you are a woman, even the judge expect less from you. You have to do more to prove to them that you are not less intelligent than your colleague who is a man. And you try and balance your life and give what you need to give priority to. But you just have to work harder than the men because you wake up in the morning, take care of the children, take them to school, cook and quickly back in the office by 8:00am. Your colleague who is a male wakes in the morning, take his bath, breakfast and to work. And when you get to work , you will still have the same amount of work to do. You are expected to close and rush back home to cook, take care of the home, while the male colleague can stay in the office till 7:00 or 8:00 in the night preparing for tomorrow’s court matter before he goes home. You can’t stay in the office till 8:00pm and explain to your husband or children that you are sorry, you have a court case tomorrow. It just takes harder work.
What is your future plan in the profession?
By the grace of God, I think every lawyer want to get to the top of the profession. I also want to get to the very top. l pray God to help me.