Gender inequality has been an issue of public discourse and great concern to many in Nigeria, especially the womenfolk, who are said to have been marginalised and deprived of certain rights and privileges in the socio-economic cum political development of Nigeria.
However, over the years, the federal and some states government have begun to take steps to tackle the issues of gender imbalance.
The word gender describes the socially-constructed roles and responsibilities that societies consider appropriate for men and women.
Gender inequality is the unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender sex. This means that gender equality is attained when men and women have equal power and equal opportunities for financial independence, education and personal development. It is a fundamental human right which is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development.
The United Nations has been in the forefront in advocating gender parity and balance. The United Nation’s Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres has stated that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.
Within the UN’s first year, the Economic and Social Council established its Commission on the Status of Women, as the principal global policy -making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Women’s rights as a human right was part of international human rights law by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December, 1948.
As the international feminist movement began to gain momentum during the 1970’s, the General Assembly declared 1975 as the International Women’s Year and organised the first World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City.
The Nigerian Constitution provides for gender equality and discrimination, though women continue to suffer injustices and marginalization. This could be as a result of discriminatory laws, religious and cultural norms, gender stereotypes, low levels of education and the effect of poverty on women.
Despite these hurdles, some women had worked through to hold key leadership positions in Nigeria, leaving behind majority of women in all spheres where they have been historically excluded and discriminated against.
Rivers State, in recent times has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights and closing the gender gap, especially in politics. Specifically, gender-related legislations have come into effect to impact on the rights of women and also empower them to rise to their potentials. Some of the legislations include; Rivers State Abolition of Female Circumcision Law,No.2; 2001; Rivers State Law on Reproductive Health,2003; School’s Rights (Parents, Children and Teachers)Law; No. 2, 2005; Child Rights Law, 2009; Violence Against Women Prohibition Law, 2020. Similarly, the 9th Assembly has carried out several measures to ensure that issues that concern women were given priority attention. One of the measures is the “Rivers State Prohibition of the Curtailment of the Rights of Women to Share in Family Property Bill,2022”, which has passed public hearing state.
At the political and administrative levels, more women have been empowered to contribute to the Socio-Economic and political development of the state. A lot of women have been appointed judges and Permanent Secretaries, while in the last seven years the state has had a female deputy governor, with the possibility of continuity in 2023.
However, gender equality in Nigeria was rated at 0.34% in 2020 according to World Bank sources. Also, Nigeria ranked 139th out of 153 countries, the worst since 2006, according to a data from a 2021 Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum(WEF).
These reports which show disparities in access to education, proper health and employment in Nigeria had lead to temporal or permanent disabilities, mental health disorders and others.
But the struggle to bridge the inequality gap in Nigeria started subtly and unconsciously in 1929 during the Aba Women’s riot. Though, over the years, remarkable growth has been recorded which is evident in the noticeable presence in all spheres of life in Nigeria. It is also evident that topmost gender issues in Nigeria include gender based violence, education parity, child marriage and pregnancy, economic inequality due to discriminatory employment practices cum unrecognized domestic work and political exclusion.
Reports have it that one in every three Nigerian women had suffered physical or sexual violence. According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 31% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced sexual violence, while 9% have experienced sexual violence. Also,36% of once married Nigerian women have suffered spousal violence. It also reported that Nigeria has a prevalence of female genital mutilation, at least 20% of Nigerian women between ages 15 and 49 were circumcised as of 2018.
Incidents reported include situations where Nigerian women are in greater danger of molestation by the law enforcement officers. This explains the reason why more women featured prominently in the ENDSARS protests against police brutality in October, 2020. Greater number of women were victims of targeted violence by law enforcement. In 2019, after police raided two Abuja night clubs and arrested sixty-five women on suspicion of prostitution, they reportedly raped those who could not afford bail. Also, inter-ethnic, religious and generalized bandits in the northern States and kidnapping across many parts of the south tend to have similar impact.
Many girls especially from poor families still face some types of gender discrimination mostly in education. Reports have it that access to education for school age girls in Nigeria is also low. Statistics from Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) showed that males had higher enrolment numbers for basic education as of 2018. In 2019 in the West African Senior Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria, only 48.30 percent of the total number of candidates were female. Meanwhile, Nigerian girls have shown incredible excellence in potentials. According to UBEC, females had the most basic education promotion and completion rates. Moreso, 50% of the candidates who got five credits, including English and Mathematics in 2019, WASSCE were females.
Economic inequality and discriminatory employment practices are indications that Nigerian women still experience gender discrepancy. Even though women comprise slightly less than 50% of Nigeria’s population, they account for over 70% of those in extreme poverty. A lot of these women do not own bank accounts, making more than half of them financially excluded.
According to the International Labour Organisation, Nigerian women are still discriminated against in terms of wage parity, inadequate maternity leave, sexual harassment and slow promotion to top managerial positions.
According to Mckinsey Global Institute, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could grow by 23% by 2025 if women took part in the economy at the same level with men. Also, an economist in IMF Africa Department, Monique Newiak stated that if Nigeria reduced gender inequality both in the labour market, in political representation, education, legal rights and also by improving health outcomes for women, the economy could grow on average by as much as 1.25 percentage points more which would steer it towards development.
Percentage of female lawmakers in the South African, Senegalese and Ethiopian parliament is 46,41 and 38 percent respectively. However, in 2022, Nigeria was 184 out of 187 countries in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) global ranking of women in national parliaments, This means that the country’s ranking is poor in comparism with other countries in Africa.
Meanwhile, Rivers State is the only State in Nigeria where there is a policy for women to run for political offices in the state since 2017, Governor Nyesom Wike insisted that the Vice chairmanship seat in all the 23 local governments areas of the state be reserved for women, in addition of 150 councillors in local government areas. The administration also made history in the state for the first time when it produced the first female Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo.
It is of note that gender issues suffered by Nigerian women calls for the complete enforcement of human rights laws, development of a comprehensive framework for women’s protection in the country, domestication of the Violence Against Persons(prohibition) Act, also development of legislation and framework to guide 35% affirmative action in states across the country.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Different Hair Styles For Women
Braided hairstyles can make you look natural. They can also make you look trendy. The following hairstyles will make you look attractive.
Criss-cross goddess braids
This is perfect during periods you want to give your hair a break or when you are going on a vacation. When you don’t want to style your hair every morning. The good thing about this kind of braid is that it does not take too long during weaving.
Dynamic side-swept cornrows
This is popular among blacks because it protects the hair. It is free from heat for several weeks until you desire to loose it.
Asymmetrical godess braids
Mix plaits of different sizes into braids hairstyles to create texture and dimension. Here, tiny braids are unnecessary. It is more exciting than the regular braids. It makes hairdo to look like a fun. You can add beads to the tips.
Long chunky black braids
Always in total style. The hairdo feels very hot with alternative thin braids. No matter the volume and length, you can style the hair in ways your natural look will take.
This hairdo is beneficial in the sense that it makes cornrow hairstyles look more natural and less bulky by creating a narrow and flat point at the hairline. This protects the edges.
Cornrows enclosed by headband braid
There is no room for breakage when you have this hairdo. It is better to protect the hairstyle by wrapping the hairdo with hair net at night.
Jumbo double-twisted updo
Here is a simple ‘updo’ for black women with natural hair that can work when going for an event. It can done in a few minutes.
Intricate boxer braids
The style of hairdo showcases your personality and your personal taste. When you braid hairs, it protects the hair and makes you look gorgeous. So always search for hairstyles that protect your hair and gives you the best.
Reverse flat twists
Traditional cornrows go from forehead to nape, but if you have shorter hair, you want to have some volume on top of your head, reverse them. When you reverse them, bunch of curls look very sweet and makes one look younger.
When you braid your hair, you forget about hair styling for several weeks. Braided hair will help you give your hair some rest and protect it from harsh environmental hazards.
Women And Rubbing Of Powder During Naming Ceremony
The significance of rubbing powder by women during naming ceremonies can not be over-emphasised.
Naming ceremonies for newborns are always a thing of joy.
In some parts of our Nigerian culture, as soon as the news of a baby is announced, the women within that neighbourhood will gather and begin to sing songs of joy.
In most of our local communities, naming of a child is seen as symbolic and significant, hence the need for invitaiton of friends and relatives for a ceremony or party to announce the name of the child.
Naming ceremony is usually marked with prayers by the family’s Christian faithful.
It is celebrated with gifts, refreshments and some other activities depending on the tradition of the people or the place where the child is born.
One usual practice in naming ceremonies in some parts of Nigeria is rubbing of white powder. In some places, immediately after the birth of the child is announced, women around the neighborhood get white powder or white native chalk and rub it on their necks and faces.
I have always wondered why it is done that way. This is common practice in our local communities and even in urban areas where women dominate. Sometimes they do it in the markets once any of their neighbours or a member in the market has a new-born.
In some areas in Nigeria, they use nzu (white native chalk). Normally, they do this while singing joyous songs as women are gathered and soft drinks, garden eggs, peanuts, cucumber and others are made available.
Apart from the fact that the white powder is used on necks during the child’s naming ceremony, some women also use it around their abdomen and womb area. This is usually done for everyone who took part in the naming ceremony.
They also say that rubbing the powder around the abdomen shows that more babies will be born.
Even after that day, other women who visit the family are normally provided with white powder to rub on their neck while they present gifts to the new baby.
The use of white powder at naming ceremonies at the birth of the child is said to signify purity of heart, goodwill and welcome for the new child. It also signifies happiness and joy of a gift of a child.
In some places, other preparations include cooking of rice, preparation of pounded yam with different kind of soup during the naming ceremony.
Reports have it that Palm oil is also a significant part of the naming ceremony. A drop of it, they say, will be put in the baby’s mouth and everyone present at the naming ceremony will also taste the oil. It is said that tasting the oil is a sign of blessing for the baby.
In some communities, things like honey, sugar, kolanut, bitter kola, alligator pepper, palmoil, sugar, sugarcane, salt, and alcohol are also used at naming ceremonies, all having different meanings.
Some other important activities at naming ceremonies are prayers said for the newborn and the parents, eating and drinking and of course, announcing the name of the child by the parents, through the person officiating the ceremony.
Eunice Choko Kayode
Early Detection: Key To Combating Breast Cancer
For prominent Nigerians and celebrities in the country, cancer is no longer an ailment to only imagine. It is one that is currently ravaging their ranks and reducing their numbers.Such was the case of two notable women. One 48-year-old Roseline Ogbemudia, wife of the eldest son of Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, former Governor of Edo State, South-South of Nigeria, and the other victim; a popular socialite and sister of former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Evangelist Bimpe Oluwayose-Sorinolu. Roseline and Bimpe both battled breast cancer till death. While the former died in a hospital in India, the latter died in a London hospital.
From first discovering a tiny growth on the left or right breast to eventually having the entire section removed through a painful and expensive surgery, life has not been the same for breast cancer survivors. Some of them eventually live from hand to mouth after losing their main source of income and other material assets in the course of battling with their situation. Regrettably, some have had their entire physiognomy changed, virtually looking like the shadow of themselves and in most cases, the wounds far from healing. A victim once painfully said, “I wish the day I felt that tiny growth on my breast which I thought was mere fat cyst never came. If I had known that it was a cancerous lump growing in my breast, I would have paid more attention. Maybe that would have made the difference.”
From the experiences of many women under the breast cancer scourge, the world has refused to renege on its effort at getting the populace more aware of the enigma and how to combat it. For women across the globe, the awareness created about ‘breast cancer’, cannot be forgotten in a hurry. For once, the phobia they have had over the years of the monster called Breast cancer as a death sentence is doused down. Now it is crystal clear that breast cancer though a traumatic health challenge, is curable.
In pursuance of this course, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State chapter appealed to government at all levels, politicians and philanthropists to provide free Chemotherapy Centres in the State. The association made the appeal during the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign organised in partnership with Engraced Life Foundation in Port Harcourt.
In a statement by the Chairperson, Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwikhana and Secretary, Dr. Ngozi Anosike, the body demanded that cancer treatments be made free so that everyone suffering from it can have access to free test and treatment, pointing out that such gesture will go a long way in reducing preventable deaths caused by cancer.
Maintaining that early detection saves lives, NAWOJ enumerated the importance of self breast examination so as to be able to detect lumps in the breast that might likely cause cancer and advised women to see their doctors once a lump is detected on any part of the breast.
The association observed with dismay that most of the women screened for free during the breast cancer awareness campaign in the State are suffering from breast cancer, but lack access to treatment due to poverty.
It expressed belief that establishment of free chemotherapy and cancer treatment centres in different locations in the state would reduce to the barest minimum the number of women who die of the deadly disease. The association, in collaboration with Engraced Life Foundation, embarked on some form of community outreach to some communities within the state . Women in the visited communities had their vital signs examined, and blood sugar tested..Thousands of women were screened for free, given medications especially for the minor diagnosis while serious cases were referred to Oncologists for further investigations and possible treatments.
Breast cancer, a disease that is characterised by the abnormal growth of cells in the breast (CDC, 2020). is the most common malignant disorder affecting women and the leading cause of death among them (Bray et al., 2004). The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump or thickening in the breast – but there are other symptoms too.They include:Change in size or feel of the breast, Changes in the skin of the breast, such as dimpling or redness.Fluid leaking from the nipple, outside of pregnancy or breast-feeding. Change in position of the nipple.These symptoms can be caused by other conditions any way.
Breast cancer is characterised by cells lining the duct turning into cancerous cells but not spreading into nearby breast tissue through the walls of the duct. It is an early stage of breast cancer, most women having it can be cured. Invasive Breast Cancer spread into surrounding breast. Most breast cancers fall into this category but the two most common types are invasive ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells lining the milk duct, and invasive lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules of the breast.Triple-negative Breast Cancer is a type of cancer where the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors and also makes little of the HER2 protein. It grows and spreads faster than other forms of invasive breast cancer and accounts for about 10-15per cent of all breast cancers.
The fourth is . Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) – IBC occurs as a result of cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin and therefore making the breast look inflamed. It is a rare form of breast cancer and accounts for only about 1-5per cent of all breast cancers. Paget disease of the Breast is a type of cancer that affects the nipples and areola of the breast. It is a rare form of breast cancer and usually only affects one breast. The majority of cases are found along with ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive ductal carcinoma. Angiosarcoma of the Breast– This rare type of breast cancer begins in the cells lining blood and lymph vessels. It is said to often be the result of complications of previous breast radiation treatment and tend to grow and spread rapidly.
Phyllodes Tumor – This is a tumor that develops in the connective tissue of the breast. It is a rare form of breast cancer and mostly occurs in women in their 40s. Most phyllodes tumors are benign but 25per cent are malignant.
In the case of Nigerian women, breast cancer tends to be diagnosed at an advanced stage and the chances of survival are low (Adebamowo & Adekunle, 1999, Ihekwaba, 1992). Women in the country are also more frequently diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer than women of European ancestry (Huo et al., 2009), with cases occurring at a much younger age (Adesunkanmi et al., 2006). As a result of the late presentation of the disease, the only options available are expensive treatment procedures, which may be unaffordable for the average Nigerian woman.
Though there is a high incidence of breast cancer in Nigeria, studies have shown that the majority of Nigerian women, both in rural and urban areas possess little or no knowledge about risk factors and symptoms of the disease (Motilewa et al., 2015, Olayide et al., 2017). In cases where women are aware of these, there is hesitation in seeking healthcare which results in untimely death. Religious, economic and socio-cultural factors have shown to play a part in women’s attitude towards the disease (George et al., 2019, Pruitt et al., 2014). There is also a lack of knowledge on breast self-examinations (BSE) and who should conduct them, especially in rural areas (Nwaneri et al., 2016, Oladimeji et al., 2015).
Late Mrs. Beatrice Mensah Osae, the beloved mother of Amazing Grace Baaba Danso, was diagnosed in 2011 when she discovered a tumor in her left breast which grew bigger to the point it became inoperable. It burst and became an open sore on her chest and ate away her breast even claiming her nipple. She had three chemo treatments which weakened her greatly till she switched to homeopathic treatment. This helped her regain her strength a bit but ultimately she succumbed to the disease and passed in September 2016″ .
With the high incidence and mortality rate associated with breast cancer in low and middle income countries like Nigeria, there is a need for efforts to be made to create more awareness about the disease, especially among uneducated women and proper structures for early detection. With proper education of women in both rural and urban areas and affordable screening programmes developed, the chances of survival can be increased. Policies on the breast cancer detection and care also need to be developed and disseminated to aid healthcare workers make informed decisions.
Above all, early diagnosis which has been proven to improve survival chances, should be encouraged especially through the use of the media to spread the message of breast cancer, its signs and symptoms, causes as well as management procedures.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
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