By Josfyn Uba
“A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.”
That was the basis on which this year’s edition of International Women’s Day was built, with the theme #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021. The essence of the annual ritual, which holds on March 8, is to celebrate women’s achievement, dignity, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality. After 26 years of the Beijing Conference, the impact is growing stronger. Women have not only shattered the glass ceiling, they have proven their worth in all spheres of life. With the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and first African to steer the affairs of the World Trade Organization and Kamala Harris as the first female Vice-President of the United States, the entire world salutes the feminine gender for their courage, determination and success.
So, what next after these remarkable achievements? Daily Sun sounded out two female activists, Dr. Nkiru Ifekwem and Theresa Nsinni Abasi Biobaku. They both submitted that women have done well but there is still more to be done. According to them, it is no yet Uhuru because, politically, the ratio of men compared to women in parliament and political representation is still not equitable. They expressed optimism that the gap will soon close up, stressing the fact that women are the main catalyst the world needs for peace and, since charity begins at home, there is need for every woman to deliberate strive to inculcate the right values in their children.
Dr. Mrs. Nkiru Ifekwem, gender activist and head, Department of Business Administration, Bells University of Technology
Dr. Ifekwem revels in the fact that women have really demonstrated their capability in leadership positions in all facets of life as captains of industry and heads of businesses.
The recent appointment of our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and first African boss of World Trade Organization (WTO) is a clear manifestation that it is no longer business as usual when it comes to gender parity. Women have strongly asserted themselves and the whole world applauds them.
There is no sector of human endeavour where women have not excelled. We all remember not too distant past, during the U.S. presidential election, a woman vied for the vice presidential position and took it home. So, over the years, they have learnt to support themselves, form networks and have mentored themselves to become fully in control of their choices. Now, the whole world stands in awe of their success. I am so proud of what women have become, strong. They are courageous and resilient.
It is no yet Uhuru though, because, politically, the ratio of men as compared to women in the parliament and representation is still not equitable. However, I am optimistic that we shall soon close the gap. Nothing says a woman can’t be the President of this nation. After all, there are great nations of the world like Germany, Venezuela and India, where women have steered the ship, and successfully too.
Even in the face of danger, challenges and odds in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19), which brought the entire world to its knees, women took the drivers’ seat and helped navigate the health sector to where we are now, at least in a safety terrain, and now we are talking about the vaccine. Even now, the women are still there and, back at home, they are the pillars of families that ensure all COVID protocols are observed at home.
So, what are we talking about?
The truth is that women have come a long way and their resilience, doggedness and determination have paid off. They have proven their worth.
But, like I said earlier, the issue of minimal involvement of women in leadership positions, in parliaments and political representation, brings about minimal interventions for women. It is worrisome that there are no specific policies or interventions for women in face of such grave health danger. Even, when we have, they are not well implemented. Think of number of women who were involved in domestic violence or number of women whose spouses vented the frustration of COVID-19 in violent domestic reactions. The statistics are there with no concrete intervention in place. But I dare say that there have been huge positive fall out of COVID-19. It became advantageous for the working woman. This is what we have been advocating for all along. Flexible working hours, working from home, holding virtual meetings, all these afford women who are naturally multi tasked, the opportunity to put in their best both at the work place and at home. COVID-19 can has afforded opportunity of achieving an equal future world
Of course, years after Beijing conference, a lot has been achieved but the best is yet to come. Beijing platform for action flagged 12 Critical Areas of Concern where urgent actions were needed to ensure greater equality and opportunities for women. However, I don’t think there is any of the 12 critical areas that we would beat our chest and say we have overcome. Is it women and poverty, or the Girl Child issue, Violence against women or women and armed conflict?
What is the Nigerian women position in all these 12 critical areas?
Look at the number of women affected by insecurity and armed conflict all over the country. Until we have an equitable number of women in leadership position especially in political leadership where policies affecting the nation are made, we might not be able to make significant progress. Different women organizations are called upon to ensure quality women are placed in leadership positions. Women should try to down play intra gender animosity and support their fellow women. So, in bridging the gender gap, all we need is massive education. Not only educating the womenfolk but also massive education for the menfolk to see the inherent attributes that nature has bestowed on women. There are some men today who still see women as second fiddle. They need to be educated.
Theresa Nsinni Abasi Biobaku, gender advocate
For Theresa Nsinni Abasi Biobaku, a gender advocate, this year’s International Women’s Day Celebration theme which is #Choose to Challenge is a remarkable one that resonates the reality of our new normal. She says that every woman must be deliberate to inculcate the right values in our children. And that since charity begins at home, it is women’s responsibility as mothers to guide their children. I applaud every woman that had committed resources to help actualize the dreams of any girl child to greater heights in the society. Women are the catalyst the world needs for stability.’
Lending our support in challenging lots of epidemic crisis in an unprecedented Covid-19 situation had been quite overwhelming. Our dynamic resilience to stay strong despite the odds is testament to our unwavering strength in whatever obstacles we face. The Beijing conference after 26 years is definitely a success to an extent, but we could achieve more goals by amplifying our voices. The awareness and sensitization as a result of this Beijing conference had resulted in helping Girl Child rights being enforced in some countries.
I am happy to say that the acceleration of women leadership to greater heights and in this regard, celebrating our own Nigerian Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s recent appointment as the new DG of the World Trade Organisation. Even though women emancipation in terms of economic, social, political and religious equality with men has remained unfortunately gradual showcasing independent growth that had been a struggle historically. For me, emancipated woman is free from mental slavery that denotes women leadership only “ to the other room” but when we choose to challenge any negative societal vice or barrier that hinders the Girl child from being educated to become the confident bold woman, we create a world where collectively we can fight against sexual violence, sexual enslavement, domestic violence and rape because when a girl is raped, her soul is ripped and her mental stability is affected
I can confidently say that women are the backbone of any organization. They don’t compromise their standards and are passionately resolute. Now, women in Nigeria, for instance are positioned both in State and National assemblies as well as the House of Representatives.
There has also been increase in female ministerial appointments at federal level and commissioner at the state levels. The Minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, is a woman. Women agitation for inclusiveness is for sustainable development which ensures equal representation enhanced collaboration with synchronized perspectives in diversity for significant organizational growth. Therefore, we must choose to challenge stereotypical norms that subjugate women. We must choose to challenge the discrimination against women. Women must also choose to break the silence culture and enjoy the freedom to express their displeasure and not be stigmatized
Every woman must be deliberate to inculcate the right values in our children. Charity begins at home and it is our responsibility as mothers to guide our children. I applaud every woman that had committed resources to help actualize the dreams of any girl child to greater heights in the society. Women are the Catalyst the world need for stability.