CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Women’s Month: Beyond celebration, empowering women with economic freedom, financial resources

It has become a tradition not only in Nigeria but the world over to celebrate women and their great achievements.

Like in previous years, on Friday, March 8, we celebrated the International Women’s Day, which among other things, was to remind ourselves of how incredible women – wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters – are.

The IWD is a day set aside every year to mark the trajectory of women’s struggle for equality to enable them develop their enormous potentials and help make the world a better place. This year’s edition marked the 114th edition of an event that has been celebrated since 1910.

Recall that it all started from a mass action by women in the needles trade who marched through New York City’s Lower East Side, clamouring for better working conditions and demanding for women’s right to vote. With the ratification of the First Amendment of the American Constitution, women gained the right to vote in 1920.

Here in Nigeria, following the Clifford Constitution of 1922, indigenous suffrage, limited to some privileged male Nigerians, was introduced. Nigerian women in the South gained their right to vote in 1954. Further progress was made 25 years later when the 1979 Presidential Constitution extended voting rights to Northern women due to its full adult suffrage provisions.

Since then, Nigerian women have progressed in leaps and bounds, producing the first female Senator (the late Franca Afegbua, 1983); first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Olubunmi Ette (June 2007) and numerous presidential candidates like: Sarah Jibril, Prof Remi Sonaiya among others. Going by the records, Nigerian women have occupied many top positions in their professions, bureaucracy and even the military.

The World Conference on Women, which held in Beijing, China in 1995, added more spur to women inclusion worldwide but in Nigeria there are still cries of non-inclusion, or discrimination at various levels.

The reality is that almost every country has had a history of ill-treating women. In other words, women from all over the world have been rebellious to reach the status they have today. While the western countries are still making progress, majority of Third World countries still lag behind in women empowerment.

Rights Activist and Research Officer Lead at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Zikorah Ibe, told Sunday Sun the need to remove all inhibiting forces against the women and their practical empowerment rather than mouthing it.

She said there is still much work ahead in terms of creating a functional society for women to strive and live their full potential.

Said Ibe, “Despite the celebration of women every year, there is still much work to be done in terms of creating a functional society for women to thrive in Nigeria. Women in the country still face entrenched cultural discrimination, gender-based violence, political marginalization, and limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities – all of which hamper their progress to become more.

“In particular, many women, majority of whom are still very much low-income earners depend on essential amenities such as education, water, healthcare for their security and empowerment yet lack access to them. Regrettably, the government’s increasing appetite for neo-liberal policies and the ongoing commodification of vital public services have only made things worse, further widening the inequality gap, impoverishing women, and worsening their stand in society.

“To address these issues, government must prioritize gender-responsive public financing and programmes that uphold women’s rights and access to quality public services like education, healthcare, and other social protection programs. By so doing, the government can truly invest in women, empowering them for even more positive impacts in society.”

Group Managing Director, ETK (Enterprises Trade and Knowledge Group), Bolaji Sofoluwa, said for women to achieve greater strides and be counted more, they must muster courage to take risks and boldness to do big things.

According to the entrepreneurship expert, “We need to create career pathways, and have more female champion’s at the C-Suite, who do not wish sit there alone but would like to introduce and coach more women into management r roles and leadership positions.

There is a school of thought that believes that unless there is inclusiveness of the women folk, society in general would fail to realize it’s full potential.

The argument is that no bird can fly with one wing, rather every bird flies with two wings. The implication they argue is that you cannot develop any economy or the society until you give the same rights to the women as you give to the men.

Dr Nwankwo Njoku, told Sunday Sun: ‘’Your gender shouldn’t have anything to do with how smart you are, how capable you are and what you can do, so categorisation is not something to be taken lightly.

‘’Women should have economic freedom, enough resources, financial investment a sort of, to be able to take care of their households as well as assist in equal development of the society.”

Njoku noted further that celebrating women is an important gesture that should be encouraged globally but that empowering them is cardinal.

“Empowering women should be more than a gesture by governments and civil society organizations. It is an essential component for progress and socio-economic development.

“By empowering women, we create a ripple effect that impacts every aspect of society leading to positive outcomes in various areas,” Njoku said.

Executive Director of CEE-HOPE, Betty Abah, believes that the only way to celebrate women the more is to accelerate the speed in providing skills for them.

So she is providing computer skills, including coding, programming and artificial intelligence to young girls in low-income communities in at least three states.

At the launch of the initiative recently in Makoko, a suburban community in the Yaba area of Lagos, Abah, said the aim is to empower girls from low-income backgrounds in Science, Technology, Empowerment and Mathematics (STEM).

On why the project is focusing on girls from low income communities, Abah said, “We are focusing on girls from low income communities because usually having to access computer and ICT and STEM education is a major challenge to them because most of the time they are in public schools where they don’t have enough computers or no computer at all.”

Stakeholders submit that there are various ways concerning how the womenfolk can be empowered. The individuals and government they agree must both come together to make it happen. Education for girls they stressed must be made compulsory so that women can become more literate to make a life for themselves.

Hon Blessing Nwagba, former member, Abia State House of Assembly, who is keen in the project of empowering women told Sunday Sun that women should be given equal opportunities to realize their potentials in life.

According to her, “Women must be given equal opportunities in every field, irrespective of gender. Moreover, they must also be given equal pay. We can empower women by abolishing child marriage. Various programs must be held where they can be taught skills to fend for themselves in case they face financial crisis.

“Most importantly, the shame of divorce and abuse must be thrown out of the window. Many women stay in abusive relationships because of the fear of society and its time Parents must teach their daughters that it is okay to come home divorced rather than in a coffin.

Nwagba said most women in politics are discriminated against, saying that there should be equal playing field rather than all measures put in place by the society to discourage the women.

“As we know, supporting women and creating a level playing field in the workplace leads to increased productivity and innovative solutions.

“But more importantly, when we get more women to participate in politics and governance, it always leads to a more just and equitable society.

“We must never view women empowerment as an act of charity rather it is a fundamental necessity for building a thriving and sustainable society. When we empower women we unlock a wealth of untapped talent, potentials, and opportunities that benefit everyone. Nigeria must be committed to leaving no woman behind,” Ibeh submitted.

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