One of the key issues that reverbrated-across the country last week as Nigerian women joined their counterparts the world over to commemorate the 101st International Women’s Day (IWD) was the need for adequate attention to be paid to the plights of women.
Many non-governmental organisations, activists, governors’ wives, female lawmaker, female politicians, who spoke at different occasions organised to mark the day highlighted the numerous issues militating against women in Nigeria such as gender inequality, discrimination, rape, tradition, lack of education, poverty and others and emphasised that the nation cannot move forward if these problems were not adequately addressed.
Even young school girls knew that it was high time the potentials of women, particularly the young ones were maximised if the nation must take it’s rightful place among the community of nations.
Many of them therefore, considered the theme of this year’s IWD. “Connecting Girls, inspiring futures, as being apt, especially in Nigeria, going by the mirage of problems confronting the girl-child in the communities, village, schools and every where in the country.
It was observed that despite the progress women and girls have made in Nigeria, challenges like child labour, gender-base violence under-aged pregnancy, marginalisation continue to be on daily increase. Thousands of women are still suppressed, tortured and abused under several semblances, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and molestation, especially in higher institutions.
Many women are still being excluded from village councils and parliaments, boardrooms and negotiating tables here decisions affecting them are made.
Over the years, wives of successive leaders of the country at federal, states and local government levels have tried to champion the course of womanhood through their pet projects.
Even though some critics said they merely used such projects to enrich themselves, the issue concerning women continued to dominate public discourse.
Since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office in 2011, his wife Dame Patience Jonathan has taken the issues of properly positioning women in the country politically as a burden. Before the April, 2011, general elections, she toured almost the entire country, canvassing for at least 35 per cent seats for women in elective and appointed positions.
It is believed that through her efforts more women are today occupying more political positions in the nation.
On her own part, wife of the Rivers State Governor, Dame Judith Amaechi, has not rested on her Oars in ensuring that women in the state have a better life. Through her pet project, Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI), she has empowered women politically, morally, economically and educationally.
During a recent courtesy call on her by the executive members of the state chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, she out lined some of the achievements of ESI. They included free, quality education for children in the kindagerten and primary schools, provision of taxi cab’s for women, empowerment of women through adult education, provision of monogram machine for breast cancer patients, organising leadership fellowship and training for women, award of scholarship to some indigene students, among others.
She urged women to take advantage of facilities provided by ESI and the state government to better their lives, adding that the era when women were confined to the kitchen was over.
Similarly the state Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Joeba M. West during the celebration of IWD in the state yesterday, called on women in Rivers State to take full advantage of government’s commitment to make them equal partners with men in the development of the state.
She amphasised that the state Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and his wife were determined to impact positively on the lives of women in the state through education, seminars, lectures and other programmes.
Mrs. West also encourage women to forge an alliance to reverse the current negative situation and move up desirably, adding that the solution to women’s problems lies with them.
That actually drums homes the very essence of International Womens’ Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate women.
In different countries, the focus of the celebration ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements.
Over the years, in many regions, the day lost its political flavour and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and St Valentine’s Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong and political, cultural and social awareness of the struggle of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.
Some analysts have however, suggested that a more proactive approach should be adopted towards feminine gender issues rather than merely discussing them so that more enduring positive results will be achieved.
They insist that the situation can only change when concerted effort are made by those in authority, men, women and the entire people to address religious, traditional, social, economical, political and other factors pulling women down.
The Ministry of Women Affair is expected to take up specific cases where under-aged girls are exposed through hawking of petty articles. Cases of denial of education, early and forced marriages, rape and blatant deprivation of rights on the account of gender are expected to be taken up by the Ministry and women groups. They should persuade government at all levels to ensure effective implementation of laws against rape. The entire evidential burden place on victims makes it difficult for them to pursue the part of justice hence it should be reviewed.
In the words of the wife of Abia State Governor, Mrs. Mercy Orji, “As the baton bearers in our tomorrow’s relay race to greatness and services for excellence, we need to ensure that the injustice against the girl-child is stopped now for a better tomorrow. We need to encourage them in education, career counselling and adulthood as the successful future wives and mothers.”
The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton once said, “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in the society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish,”
In line with this, some people have suggested that women should be actually involved in finding solutions to terrorism, insecurity and other forms of violence in the country. They attributed the disturbances in various parts of the country to the neglect of the important role of women in the society, adding that federal government should partner women groups in the country to confront growing spate of illiteracy among women for a more peaceful, violent free society.
That is why the effort of NAWOJ, Rivers State in sensitising and educating women and girls on health and social issues that concern them should be commended.
In an interview with the NAWOJ Chairman, Ms. Enale Kodu, she disclosed that NAWOJ had chosen to focus on the education of the girl-child, women’s health and development as well as empowerment of some women in some selected local government areas in the state.
However, as advised by Mrs. West, it is expected of women particularly those in Rivers State to appreciate the need to provide education to the girl-child as well as de-emphasise the penchant to ask for monetary handouts from government instead of empowerment, infrastructure and rural development.
There is also need for women to unite and support themselves in order to progress. They should participate in socio-economic and political activities and get actively involved in decision making process to make Nigeria better.