59 years after, Nigeria women not yet independent

Nigeria celebrated its 59th indepence anniversary on Tuesday, October 1, with different sectorsof national life being reviewed. ENE OSANG writes that women have continued to lament the discriminatory barriers to their progress politically, economically, among others.

The status and well-being of many Nigerian women and girls have progressed considerably beyond the situation of women before the independence in 1960.

There is general improvement across all social, economic and political indicators of development to produce better material conditions and quality of life for the  female half of the country’s over 140million population.

Research have shown that the absence of accurate and relevant  sex  disaggregated data and gender-sensitive indicators that capture change over time since the 1960’s makes it impossible to track women’s progress over  the  last  59  years.

Many  women have also  made  significant strides  in terms of access to education and training, formal and informal labour  force participation, political participation and representation.

The issues of women and girls have also received  increased public scrutiny  and  policy following the tireles struggles from many gender/feminist activists.

Nevertheless,  as highlighted in the National  Gender  Policy: Situation  Analysis and Framework (2007) wide  gender disparities persist between males and females.

These disparities continue to slow women’s progress and make the struggle to be at par with men in terms of education, leadership, governance, etc difficult if not impossible.

Not much progress

Speaking to Blueprint Weekend on how Nigerian women have fared in the last 59 years,  the National Coordinator AINSA Women Network, Mimidoo Achakpa, said Nigerian women instead of progressing were retrogressing.

She expressed deep converns over the reduction of women representation at various levels particularly in politics/governance.

“On the political scene, women have less than 10% for elective positions as against the previous which was about 15%. Even on the appointive positions we have not done so well. It only shows that patriarchy is still very much an issue in Nigeria.

Achakpa regretted that much has not been achieved over the past 59 years to give women the desired chance to attain greater heighhts even though Nigeria is signatory to the popular Beijing declaration which calls for 35% afformative action for women in leadership and governance.

Bad leadership for blame

 The National Coordinator blamed the slow progress of women particularly in politics on bad leadership, noting that after 59 years of independence from colonial rule, citizens are under the bondage of an evil cabal. Is this the independence they want us to celebrate,” she querried.

Speaking further she said: “When I hear the government urging citizens to be patriotic, I wonder that  means because a President who is unabashedly nepotic; who treats citizens with bias and malice, and by his actions and policies,  promotes ethnic, religious and sectarian tension, division and hostility, cannot inspire patriotism.”

According to her, “Bad and oppressive governance cannot inspire patriotism. The only patriotism an oppressive government should expect from citizens is resistance and struggle to reclaim their country from growing insecurity, poverty, deceit, corruption and repression. The civil liberties and democratic freedoms of Nigerians are under brutal attack.”

However, Achakpa urged citizens particularly women to continue the struggle to rescue the country from bad leadership if they must have their pride of place in the country.

“A cabal that has intimidated, weakened and seized control of the judiciary and using it to harass and imprison journalists, human rights activists and political enemies; a cabal that has effectively pocketed the legislature and using it to churn out anti people legislations aimed at closing the civic space.

“Nigerian Women have fought and will keep fighting until we meet the 35% affirmative action we are requesting. Next year is the review of the Beijing +25, what is Nigeria going to present to the world interms of progress made?,” she said.

People living with disability worse off

Also speaking to our correspondent, the Chairperson Abuja Chapter of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria (DWAN), Hellen  Beyioku-Alase, lamented the plight of deaf women in particular, lamenting that deaf women face more daunting challenges 59 years after independence.

“Nigeria at 59, I think as Deaf and women with disabilities, the situation of things in our country is very challenging one. Things are not the same unlike before where there are adequate supports but today, we have been left to our fate to carry our burdens with no supports.

“During the time of Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Many of us had access to various empowerment and Institutional supports such as Educational supports, Health Insurance, empowerments, Skills and acquisitions training, scholarships, welfares and loans specially focus on persons with disabilities.

“Today,  it has become very difficult and  we cannot boast of having access to them to support ourselves again. The expense of looking after ourselves and catering for our children, coping with various taxes and bills which we pay as  law-abiding citizens have trippled when you compare our expenses to the average person without disabilities, is not easy.

” That is why we are imploring on Mr. President to give us Disability Affairs Commission as Independence gift to oversee our welfare and eliminate all bottleneck we encounterdaily,” she appealed.

Long way from achieving gender balance

 Also speaking on women’s progress  59 years after Nugeria’s independence a  Former Vice President of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) Engineer Ishidi Yohanna Edith, said Nigeria was generally developing but needed more improvement.

She, however, lamented that the country has a long way to go in achieving gender equality and other issues affecting women’s growth.

“Women Engineers face quite enamous challenges, it is not easy being a female engineer because someone somewhere will always want to tell you that by African culture you as a woman should be lower at all times even when you are competent, and your voice must not be heard even in a meeting where issues are discussed you should be the last to speak and your opinion should be the last to be considered.

“This always make me begin to wonder that we did the same exams, were in same classes, and possibly the woman performed better than the men, so its a big challenge that we are trying to battle even till present day Nigeria.

“Our body, the Nigerian society of engineers is 61 years and has never had a female president. Even the association of women engineers is not standing on its own but, an arm of the NSE,” she lamented.

“Look at COREN, since the 1970’s of its existence there has never been any female president or registrar. Nigeria must improve in such a way that the younger generatiom will not have any reason to curse us,” she stressed.

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