Women are more than fifty percent of the world’s population. They perform two-third of the world’s work, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own one-hundredth of the world’s property. They represent a staggering seventy percent of the world’s one billion poorest people. This is a stack development reality for our world.
Nigeria has the highest population of any African country. With a population of over 162 million, Nigeria is ranked the world’s seventh most populated country. Of this magnitude, forty-nine percent are female; some 80.2 million girls and women. Comparatively, thirty-eight percent of women in Nigeria lack formal education as against twenty-five for men and only four percent of women have higher education against the seven percent of their male counterpart. Nigeria ranks 118 of 134 countries in the Gender Equality Index.
Commenting on the fore, it is apparent that no appreciable development can be made either at the local, national or international platform without recognizing girls and women as equal players in the game of life whilst empowering, up-skilling and investing in them for a better world. “When we empower women, we empower communities, nations and entire human family” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
We live in a world where majority of girls and women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation and injustice, which could run through from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to violence and brutalization to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination and atrocities a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common in our global society.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria and the World at large has in the last decade witnessed an unprecedented expansion of women’s rights, being one of the most profound social revolutions the world has ever seen. Couple of decades back, only two countries allowed women to vote. Today, that right is virtually universal. Millions of men and women around the world now support the call for gender equality although there is much to be done especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
Reviewing the UK Department for International Development (DFID), 2012 Gender Report in Nigeria, exposed that over 1.5 million Nigeria children aged 6-14(8.1%) are currently not in school, a situation which has effortlessly earned Nigeria the world’s largest out of school children country-an unfortunate achievement of a robust nation. “In eight Northern States, over 80% of women are unable to read (compared with 54% for men). In Jigawa State, 94% of women (42% of men) are illiterate” and also“Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of women are concentrated in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment. Only 15% of women have a bank account”.
“Women around the world are dynamic leaders and powerful advocates of change. But space for their leadership and broader social and political participation remains constrained. By mid-2011, only 28 countries could claim that women’s parliamentary representation had reached a critical mass of 30 percent or more. Only 19 women were leading their countries as elected heads of state or government”.
In Nigeria, only 25 out of the 360 members of the Nigerian House of Representatives being women and only about 4% of local government councillors are women, confirming that “women are under-represented in all political decision making bodies and their representation has not increased since the inception of democratic rule”. This could perhaps be an explanation for Nigeria’s low investment in sections that are crucial to human development outcomes such as health and education.
Rape, sexual insult and assault, brutalization and molestation, domestic violence on girls and women have in recent time upsurge in Nigeria, with victims feeling embarrassed to report such incidence to the right agencies for justice. However, kudos must be given to some individuals, civil society and media organisations that have continually been campaigning against violence on the female folk, though, there is more to be done noting that women and girls pay an unjustifiable price for violence and discrimination, but they do not do so alone.
Curbing and stopping violence against women requires the creation and passage of laws regarding such violence, adopting action plans and budgets to implement legislation, instituting prevention programmes and protection services for women survivors, and campaigning to raise awareness whilst instilling sound moral and religious instructions in the girl-child towards a chaste and modest future.
This fight for gender equality can only be successful with YOU and I playing our individual yet concerted roles towards successful women’s leadership; strengthening women’s economic empowerment; ending violence against women; promoting women’s participation in peace and security processes; and ensuring that public planning and budgeting responds to the needs and rights of women. Together-we can make it happen!
According to the Executive Director, UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, “Gender equality must become a lived reality”.