Empowering The Nigerian Woman …High point of The Jonathan Presidency
The women folk have been described as an integral part of
nation building. Infact, they are an
important part necessary for sustainable development at all levels.
As in other democracies of the world, successive governments
in Nigeria have been engaged in the sustained campaign for greater and
effective women participation in politics in line with the Beijing conference
declaration which advocates for 35 percent affirmative action.
The affirmative action seeks higher representation of women
of at least, 35 per cent in appointments political and public offices.
For this to be realised, the Federal Government set up the
National Gender Policy to promote the attainment of this said target. Prior to
the present Civilian administration, previous military governments had several
programmes in place to empower women politically. For instance, the federal
government on June 13, 1985 signed and ratified the convention on the
elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
Subsequently, the government of General Ibrahim Babangida
began to initiate policies and programmes aimed at improving the lives of women
through Better Life for Rural Women programme of the late first lady, Mrs Maryam
In furtherance of that project, Mrs Babangida initiated the
establishment of National Commission for Women. The succeeding administration
of General Sani Abacha later consolidated on this foundation through the Family
Support Programme (FSP) of Mrs Mariam
Consequent upon the establishment of Women Affairs, there has been continued
impetus for the increasing positive role of women in politics. With it, women
organisations are now beginning to find a rallying point for common action
politically, economically and socially.
At state levels, various governors’ wives also initiated
programmes targeted at the development and empowerment of women and the girl-child.
In Rivers State for example, The Adolescent Project, TAP of
former First Lady, Mrs Mary Odili was succeeded by the Empowerment Support
Initiative, ESI of the present Governor’s Wife, Mrs Judith Amaechi.
In conscious effort to further realise the Gender
Affirmative Action, President Goodluck Jonathan while campaigning for election
in 2011 in Jos, Plateau State pledged to uphold the 35 percent Affirmative
Action Plan in his appointments if elected into office.
In fact, the President has gone a long way in giving
effective representation to women in political and public office appointments.
Today, there are about 13 women in Jonathan’s Federal
Executive Cabinet, representing about 32 per cent of the 42 member Cabinet,
with many others leading sensitive institutions.
This means, the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has
scored high marks on the empowerment of women.
To his credit, women now know that they can aspire to the
highest office in the country.
Only few months ago, Nigeria witnessed the emergence of the
first woman Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muktar Aloma.
Other Prominent women in the Jonathan administration include
Ministers for Petroleum, Aviation, Environment, Education and those of the Ministers of State for Defence
and Foreign Affairs among others.
However, the major force for women’s empowerment and greater
role in government in the present administration has been the First Lady, Dame
With her pet project, Women for Change Initiative, Dame
Patience Jonathan, widely seen as an Apostle of women empowerment, enhanced the
journey started by previous First Ladies into an era befitting of Nigerian
She struggled relentlessly to awaken and empower the
Nigerian woman through her various
summits, programmes, enlightenment campaigns, sensitisations including making
sure that women in politics in the country are constitutionally recognised as
stakeholders. She canvassed in several fora that women should be given more
opportunities to contribute to the development of the country.
It is also to her credit that women were effectively
mobilised for the last general election in Nigeria, and that President Goodluck
Jonathan affirmed and delivered the promise of
35 percent affirmative action for women in his administration is a step
in the right direction. Good enough, a
journey that women have been striving to achieve in nearly two decades was
achieved by the administration in less than a year.
However, in spite of these efforts, the engagement of women
in governance is yet to reach the desired level in Nigeria.
This is due largely to a number of factors ranging from
economic barriers to religious impediments. Because of these limitations, women
usually constitute a smaller percentage of political party membership. And
owing to their peculiar circumstance, they are often relegated to the
background in the scheme of things. Besides, only a very few men, even among
the educated, allow their wives to come out and participate in politics.
Furthermore, family responsibilities and childbearing also
hinder women from participating effectively in partisan political activities.
For better part of their lives, most women are involved not only in child
bearing but also in child rearing. Thus, much of the time they could have
devoted to politics is taken up by their maternal challenges and obligations.
Part of this challenge again is lack of adequate education.
Women constitute a larger percentage of the illiterate population in Nigeria.
But the strides and achievements of the present
administration under President Goodluck Jonathan have not gone unnoticed.
In October last year, the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya
Zainab Maina, at the meeting of the 13th Regular Council on Women Affairs, said
that with the achievement of 33 per cent affirmative action, Nigeria can also
attain the 35 percent target.
According to Hon (Mrs) Johnson Dibia, the action has
attained a measure of success in Nigeria considering the African setting as
regards male and female issues.
She said ‘the typical African man so commonalised the female
gender to the extent that the places she belonged were the farms and the
kitchens while the males remained kings and Lords. But now, things have changed
both at the international, national and state levels.’
Dibia who commended the placement of women in key positions
at the federal level said however that the ratio is still lopsided in
comparison to the male counterparts.
“I think it is this 35 per cent affirmative action that has
brought the Finance, Petroleum, Education ministers among others to their
position but it is still insignificant in comparism and so I am saying that the
governments at both the federal and state levels should try more and give us
this action in the real word of it
On the role of the
First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan towards achieving the affirmative action,
she said “as our mother, she has tried so much. She actually mobilised the
women during the last pre-election campaigns and that spells out her interest
in bringing the women to limelight in the nation’s politics.
Noting the problems that the agitation for 35per cent Affirmative Action has attracted, the former Councilor
for Environment, Works and Transport lamented the activities and behaviour of
the female gender even in their quest for the attainment of the action.
“We are the ones hindering ourselves. There is a lot of
gossip, jealousy, envy and bad behaviours among us and these will only militate
against our pursuit of this 35 per cent Affirmative Action.”
She continued “we must come together as a common people with
a common aim. It was saddening that a
female vied for the position of
President and women did not vote for her. We must stop all forms of
negative attitudes and pursue the goal and only then will the men take us
Also reacting, a Human Rights Activists and Coordinator,
Women Initiative for Transparency and Social Justice (WITSOJ), Dr Jennifer
Spiff, said that the 35 per cent Affirmative Action had not been realistic.
In her words “women have not been really given the place
they fully deserve. No level playing
ground to vie for positions electorally. There is a high fee placed on
electoral forms and huge resources in campaigns and the woman is not
economically empowered to overcoming the odds.
“We only have a handful of women at key positions both at
the states and federal levels and that
is not enough to make us belief that we have achieved. What we have is more of
appointment handouts to the females where they dance to the tune of their
ogas masters and that is not the true
spirit of the 35 per cent Affirmative
Action. Let’s be voted and be given the space to exercise our voting rights and
then we can say the government is trying,’ she stated.
Spiff however lauded Dame Jonathan for her giant strides in
ensuring that the voice of women were heard during the last elections saying
“she gathered the women together, mobilised them and urged them to hold their
ground in the elections even though it was only Sarah Jubril that actually
Domestic Violence: Who Speaks For Men Abused By Wives?
Everyday men abuse women. Until in recent years, such abuses went unreported. Nowadays, due to advocacies by gender activists, violence against women and girls now feature more prominently in the media.
Even with the level of publicity that it receives, gender activists insist that gender-based violence remain largely under-reported.
In a twist of fate violence against men by their spouses are rarely reported nor even mentioned in public.
In some instances, women are known to have murdered their husbands due to one grievance or another. Infidelity features frequently in such cases.
For instance, in January 2020, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on convicted and sentenced Maryam Sanda to death by hanging for killing her husband, Bilyaminu Bello.
Delivering judgment, Justice Yusuf Halilu said every available evidence had proved that Maryam ‘fatally‘ stabbed her husband to death in Abuja on Nov. 19, 2017.
Similarly, Symphorosa Otike-Odibi, a Lagos-based lawyer, was in 2018 murdered by his lawyer wife, Udeme for having extra-marital affairs.
Udeme on May 3, 2018 allegedly stabbed Symphorosa, to death and mutilated his corpse by cutting off his genitals at their Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Lekki, Lagos home.
She claimed that whenever she raised the issue infidelity with him his responses were not satisfactory and nonchalant.
“When I returned to where the deceased was, I hit him on the head with the frying pan and continued to hit him on the head and used the knife to stab him in his abdomen”, she said.
Also in 2018, Rachael Adetsav, killed her husband and three children, she was said to have been having issues with her husband, which culminated into killing him and the children.
Adetsav was said to have killed her husband and immediately rushed out of their apartment to smash the victim’s car before she committing suicide.
In February 2019, a 19-year-old girl, Mary Adeniyi, was arrested by police in Lagos for allegedly stabbing her husband to death.
Adeniyi, a nursing mother and her husband, Solomon Nduka, 30 had a fight over alleged infidelity.
He allegedly stabbed him on the neck region with a knife which prompted neighbours to rush him to a nearby hospital. He later died.
Also, in 2012, Hadezia Abutu (nee Afegbua), was accused of killing her husband, Ibrahim, just two days after a new wife was welcomed into the family in December 2011.
She was said to have allegedly shot her husband, Ibrahim, in their Wuse II, Abuja residence just two days after Ibrahim married another wife.
Before he died he informed his younger brother, Obotu, that he had been shot by his wife, Hadezia.
Mrs Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, Coordinator, Lagos State, Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team said men have difficulty reporting incidents of assault by their partners, a situation she attributes to cultural norms.
According to her, patriarchy is an enemy of everybody because it keeps people in silence.
“From a young age, males are not allowed to express themselves when they are experiencing trauma and that lingers on to adulthood”, she said.
She said between January and June 2021 there were about 194 reported assaults by wives against their men in Lagos state alone.
Fagbohungbe Oni, a professor of psychology, University of Lagos, said that one of the most common attributes displayed by a potential killer-woman display is destructive tendency.
Mr David Aloysius, a psychologist said domestic violence is committed mainly against the women but recent events show that women as also perpetrate violence against their husbands.
Aloysius said some men are daily being beaten, subjugated and traumatised by their wives, adding that most of the abuses go unreported.
This according to him is because of the notion that the man is always superior to the woman in terms of physical strength.
He said while the ‘norm’ was men abusing their spouses, the table seems to be turning against men as they now face regular abuse in the hands of their women.
He called on gender right advocates to beam their searchlight on the plight of men who are under the subjugation of women.
Aloysius said that domestic violence involving wives physically assaulting their husbands was assuming a dangerous dimension.
He said some wives not only beat up their husbands to stupor but kill them in some cases.
According to him, though men are naturally perceived as being mentally stronger in some instances the reverse is the case.
Dr Kehinde Samuel, a psychiatrist, said domestic violence could be drastically curtailed through counsel and mental evaluation of potential couples.
It is gladdening to note that the law has not spared women brought before it for abusing their spouses.
However, analysts say it is necessary for stakeholders to make conscious efforts to bring to the front burner that plight of thousands of men suffering in silence from abuse by their partners.
Early Marriage And Girl-Child Dev
Early marriage occurs when the persons involved are in the ages of 13 and 15 years. In fact any marriage contracted before the age of 18 is termed early marriage.
Early marriage has become a problem affecting many nations, cultures, religion and ethnic groups.
In early marriage, the girl-child is always the one to suffer the consequences because it is associated with many problems. In most cases the partner, that is the man is usually older and more experienced. In the first place, she may not have completed her secondary education to be more knowledgeable in making the right choice in terms of marriage.
A situation where a 13-year-old girl will be forced and given to a 50-year-old man in marriage should be condemned. This may happen due to certain reasons. The truth is that some of the marriages involving minors as we have seen do not last. The cause of some divorce cases in recent times are as a result of early marriages. After marrying in ignorance, when the girl becomes aware of things she never knew before the marriage will begin to make moves to quit. I have seen a girl whose parents forced into marriage with an old man. When she later saw that her mates were getting married to younger men she simply withdrew. Others may demand to complete their secondary education or to further into tertiary institutions.
Parents will sometimes push their girl-child into marriage feeling that she is a burden to them, so giving her out in marriage will reduce the liability on them. Some parents are of the opinion that girls who go into marriage on time, will have more chances of pregnancy and children than graduates. Anybody can still have children after school, it just depends on planning.
I want to say that the problems associated with early marriage outweigh the gains. There is also this inequality between boys and girls which emanates from harmful social and gender norms, they will say the incomes they have should be used to train their male children since the girl will leave the parents’ family one day while the male child will remain.
Parents think that when girls get married on time, it will protect them from violence and insecurity, but in our society today, mature married women are also kidnapped and raped.
Others feel that younger wives are more submissive than the older ones as well as dowries paid on younger ones are less than when the woman becomes a graduate and gets more mature.
Many early marriages had caused our girls to drop out of school. In these days of civilisation, socialisation and computer age, even if a girl completes her secondary education at 18, it is still early. An 18-year-old girl needs more awareness on marriage. Marriage is not something you jump in and out, it has to do with maturity in mind, soul and education.
Education acquired in character and in learning will guide her in managing herself when she finally settles down. With this level of education and empowerment, she can cope when the spouse is not doing enough.
I have seen a situation where a girl who got married with a school certificate requested to further her education and the husband refused and said she must give birth to children as much as he wants first. If the man is not a graduate may be apprehensive that the woman will become his rival one day.
Most underage in marriage usually end up as full-time housewives. Being a full-time housewife has its own implications. A wife without empowerment that will depend on her husband for everything. When her demands are not met troubles may occur.
When a girl gets married at a tender age, the right choice may not be there. Recommendation comes through friends, relatives and well-wishers. This kind of marriage comes with persuasion and at the end of the day problems occur because she never made the choice herself. When a lady gets mature before marriage, she can handle issues that may arise. She chooses her spouse herself perhaps after courtship, in this case, will not blame anyone if problems arise.
Pregnancy and childbearing have to do maturity. A minor or an adolescent who is unable to manage herself going into marriage will definitely end up frustrated. One who behaves like a baby cannot take care of another baby. At night she may fall asleep and abandon the baby while he or she is crying.
In girl-child pregnancy, the danger of being infected with one form of disease or the other is there. Underage mothers have difficulty in labour because according to medical experts the muscles in the hip and all the mechanism that facilitate delivery may not have developed. The cervix and the uterus which connect the womb may be affected which can lead to cervical cancer. The complication to lead to the death of both mother and child.
Furthermore, early marriage can occur when a man forcefully impregnates a girl and the parents ask the man to take her for a wife, the man could decide to drop her later. When that happens the girl becomes a single parent. This is a situation parents should guide against.
To put a stop to this in our society, government should enforce laws that will protect girls from forceful marriages and rape cases. Any rape case concerning our girls should be taken serious and the perpetrator be brought to book.
I call on the Ministry of Social Welfare and other relevant agencies saddled with the responsibility of protecting the girl-child and women to review policies and programmes that will educate communities and our schools at secondary and tertiary levels on the dangers associated with girls and early marriages.
More awareness should be raised and in fact, we engage local and religious leaders, parents, informing them that empowerment of girls through education and employment is necessary.
When girls go to school, the knowledge they gain help protect them from illness, unwanted pregnancies and social vices.
Educated girls gain certain potentials, social and economic status in the society. They contribute to the health care and welfare of their immediate and extended families as well as where they from with the income got from jobs after graduation.
An empowered girl-child can cater for her family in the absence of her husband.
Remember, train a woman and you train a nation.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Women And Obnoxious Practices
It is worrisome to hear that a woman or a girl is bathed with acidic contents just because she refuses to adhere to one instruction or the other from an opposite sex.
Sometimes, you see a woman with bruises on the face, with one eye swollen as if she is an animal perhaps she demanded one or two things from her spouse.
A situation where a widow will be mandated to marry a brother-in-law for her to still belong to the family where she is married and to partake in inheritance should be looked into.
Severally, there have been talks, seminars, workshops, fora, arguments, bills and laws abolishing the issue that concern women, especially violence. But a lot has not been achieved to curtail the menace.
Violence against girls and women has been on the increase. From time to time, it is either girls are denied access to father’s property or a widow is denied inheritance to husband’s properties. Even when laws are put in place about things that will help women have their rights, some persons feel that culture and tradition do not permit.
We are aware that some women are rich and may not want to partake in the share of their late parents’ property, but there are vulnerable ones who need to be empowered, through perhaps, late parents’ property inheritance.
Some of the obnoxious laws were made before now without the consent of women. There was no representative to either argue for or against so as to be beneficial to women generally. Some of the laws were so primitive that even when civilisation came, became difficult to change. Very unfortunately, it is the women that execute the laws made by men in their absence. Women are suffering it.
If government can establish laws abolishing certain practices against women and girls, it will be better for them. For long, laws against female genital mutilation and circumcision have existed but some communities with their culture and tradition have refused to put a stop to it with reasons best known to them.
Circumcision of a full-grown girl or lady may not be the only way of attaining maturity. It is a harmful practice and the pain associated with it cannot be imagined. The illegal operation is not performed in the hospital so the dangers inherent will be much.
For those who still practise it, the menace should be discouraged as that is not a proper way of ushering a girl into womanhood. A lot of women lose their lives due to pains experienced during the process. If it was practised in the past when civilisation was not there, it is a different case, nowadays with science and technology proving it wrong, those who still practice not should resist.
We know that government is doing a lot to save women and girls from some of the pains they go through but right steps should be taken in the right direction and all stakeholders intensify efforts in dealing with persons who perpetuate evil against their fellow women.
One issue that comes to mind is implementation even if policies and laws are out in place by relevant agencies. The issues have been dwelt on for decades, but it is still practised as big ceremonies in some communities.
When it comes to inheritance, a girl born into a family, married or unmarried will be denied access to father’s property.
If parents are sick, the female child will pick him or her for care and offset medical bills. If it has to do with the demise of parents, the woman and the husband will be mandated to provide a cow and perform other burial rites.
If the National Assembly make laws concerning the well-being of women, community heads, molecular leaders, women groups and associations, religious organisations, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)should create more awareness through the media to sensitise rural dwellers.
In this digital era, it should be forbidden that a woman loses her spouse and she is mandated to drink water used on the late husband.
A legal practitioner, Tam Jacobs, said if one forcefully shaves a woman’s hair with the intention that she is mourning her late spouse, she can sue that person for assault.
He said if the woman is forced to drink water used on her late husband’s body, she can also sue for attempted murder.
According to him, several cases of girl-child inheritance have been won and documented in the law court but some cannot claim it.
“Even a widow who is handicapped may not be able to make attempts so NGOs, CSOs should be in the forefront to support them and ensure that the laws are implemented at the grassroots level where they are practised”, he said.
A pharmacist, Eno Amos said any culture that does not add colour and value to life, especially as it concerns women should be abolished.
She added that implementation can be easy in the cities where awareness has been created but expressed fear that it may not be easy in the rural areas where culture is really practised.
A business woman, Agnes Ugwu, said tradition and culture were made by man and not God and wondered why people who claim to be educated still follow the tradition of ancestors who never went to school.
Ignorance also comes to play here. If you have watched a documentary showing female genital mutilation and the gory experience the young women go through is something else. Some of the perpetrators claim that the practice has existed for ages. Women have to learn more about issues that concern them.
A nurse, Rosy Ekeocha, said it is not about culture but about the behavior of a group of people in the community who force it on others.
According to her, let people change their behaviour and leave culture alone. It doesn’t happen in every family and if any family allows it that’s their business.
She said we are in the 21st century, certain cultures and tradition need to be reviewed to ensure that they align with today’s reality.
Culture is dynamic she said, but that implementation of laws relating to the vulnerable in the society calls for concern.
We should not behave the way people behaved twenty dacades ago, after all, we do not dress the way our forefathers dressed. Time has evolved and things are getting better as it concerns women. We are getting more exposed and more enlightened about issues that concern is. Information is moving round as the world is a global village.
Talking about culture nowadays, we wear shoes whereas our forefathers never had any. They walked barefooted
far distances to get family necessities but things are better now as we are mobile.
That should also happen to culture and tradition. There are certain aspects of our culture and tradition which are practised today that have expired long ago. We should get rid off them.
Sometime the bill for prohibition of obnoxious practices against women at the National Assembly was a welcome development, how far have the powers that be gone to ensure that it favours women.
It is expected that the bills abolishing obnoxious practices against women and girls in the society should have started achieving results as it concerns their wellbeing.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
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