According to statistics, women account for 49% of Nigerian population, yet the same women are marginalized by the so called cultural stereotype, traditional practices and patriarchal structure of the society: thereby limiting their contribution in economic, politics and social activities of the country.
Likewise, the inability to address the issues militating against women and girl child in the society has also continued to characterize the social-economic problems affecting the nation as a whole.
To address these issues however, some concerned organizations that are determined to ensure that women plights are given a voice to as well as ensuring that gender parity is attained at all levels of the society have organized a symposium to enlightened the people about the need for equal level playing ground for both men and women in the society.
The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSIJ) in collaboration with Centre for Black Africa Art and Civilisation (CBAAC) led the voice for gender parity to commemorate the International Women Day and to support the Pledge for Parity- the internationally acclaimed theme for this year edition while supporting the need for Nigeria as a whole to harness the potential of its population for it development.
The event which was held recently at Arch Bishop Shoremekun Hall in Lagos was tagged: ‘Encouraging Gender Parity at all Level of the society “and saw the likes of former first lady of Cross Rivers state and the Chairman Board of Directors, Child Survival and Development Organization of Nigeria, Mrs Onari Duke who was the main speaker at the event.
According to Duke, “The government should provide and enforce laws that will ensure there is level playing ground for girls and women to reduce discrimination against the group.” Also, girls and women must take power within the ambit of decency as no one will give them the power. She equally stressed the necessity for boldness on the part of female folks to salvage the country from the culture of patriarchy.
The meeting which opened with the viewing of the “Report Women: The Untold Stories of Girls and Women”, a documentary produced by the WSIJ to tell the stories of lack of access to opportunities and continuous abuse as they affect girls and women in Nigeria also showcased an exhibition of works of art and pictures depicting numerous women who had made incredible achievements across the globe.
The symposium also witnessed the presence of some renowned Nigerians who were there to support the need for gender parity as a catalyst for national development. The likes of Ferdinand Anikwe, the Director General , (CBAAC); Nike Davies- Okundaye, Nike Art Galery; Ropo Sekoni, Board of Chair, WSIJ and Gloria Chuma-Ibe CBAAC’s Director of Exhibition and Museum.
In the words of Anikwe: The struggle for economic reconstruction and social progress which we strive to attain as a nation can only be achieved when women are made to occupy places of relevance in the scheme of things. Because of their position in the family and homes, across our country, women have a continuing influence in the shaping of a peaceful and prosperous society which Nigeria of today is canvassing for.” He advised.
Of course, culture cannot be excepted from this discourse if gender parity is to be achieved, according to Sekoni, “Cultural development is necessary to further gender equality as culture and tradition is never static but ever dynamic. Also, he advised that there is need for accurate data on gender gap in Nigeria and the need for a policy on gender character, which should be implemented better than the Federal Character provision of the country. Men must take up the baton to improve gender parity adding that “the future of our children depends on both men and women.”
Mean while, women are also urged to continue to do well and focus on improving their skills in their various fields according to Davies Okundaye, another discussant while sharing the story of how she rose beyond the oppression of poverty and polygamy by concentrating on her art of cloth dyeing as well as refusing to be stopped from reaching her full potential by her inability to study beyond primary six.
It is also sad to note that on the same day, right in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, the Senate rejected the Bill on Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women presented by Abiodun Olujimi, representing Ekiti South, during the Senate’s plenary session on the grounds that it runs short of culture, religion and the Nigerian constitution. The Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume and Sani Yerima of Zamfara State, among others, spoke against the bill, which was defeated as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki put it to vote.