Breaking bias, barriers to women’s growth

The need to break every bias hindering the growth and development of women is being advocated to enable Nigeria have full participation of both men and women in nation building, ENE OSHABA writes.

Gender equity; concerning resource access and allocation as well as opportunities for social and economic advancement have been prominent items on the agenda of recent international meetings.

There has also been investigation into the basic link between gender equity and sustainable development, defining specific mechanisms and objectives for international cooperation.

It is a widely help perception that when women are given equal opportunities as the men it would not only reduce the burden on men but also reduce over dependency on the government regarding needs of its citizens.

The Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, reiterated the importance of these new options, drawing up an agenda to strengthen the status of women and adopting a declaration and platform for action aimed at overcoming the barriers to gender equity and guaranteeing women’s active participation in all spheres of life.

It is on this note that governments, the international community and civil societies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the private sector have been called upon to take strategic action in reduce the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women such as unequal access to education and training; unequal access to economic resources and health care; as well as persistent discrimination against and violence against women and girls among others.

In its advocacy against these gender inequalities GirlPot Africa, a girls and women based NGO, recently convened a webinar tagged: “Breaking Intergenerational Bias and Barriers.”

Sharing experience

Speaking during the Webinar, Founder, GirlPot Africa, Joy Aderele, said it was organised in order to create space for girls and women to always share experiences on their common challenges in order to learn winning ways from each other and as well teach the younger generation on the need to be focused and determined amidst all odds against the female gender.

Aderele decried the fact that gender bias was already in the subconscious mind of many people, especially in Nigeria, noting that was why women were being excluded from the scheme of things and thereby facing multiple challenges because of unfavourable policies.

Similarly, the National Coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, Mrs. Felicia Onibon, noted women struggle in the political and other leadership spaces, stating that women were continuously not given the opportunity to unleash their full potential, especially in the political trajectory.

According to her, patriarchy was more visible in the run up to the coming elections.

She regretted the fact that relegating women to the background, especially in politics, was a norm that really needed to be broken.

Sharing her experience, the Senior Programmes Assistant, The Education Partnership (TEP) Centre, Motunrayo Fatoke, said the bias and barriers she faced at the workplace was for no other reason than that she was female.

Fatoke, who is an education and development practitioner, recalled how she was denied team leader position because there were males who also wanted the same position.

She lamented that it was discouraging that females were perpetually subjected to assistant class representation position.

Another participant Khadija Bawas, a development journalist and programme manager with Liberty TV/Radio, Kano, said her passion for education was not considered to be something a woman should be so ambitious about.

She decried the fact that the society expected to see her married and bear kids more than anything else.

According to her, these discriminatory conditions, especially in the northern part of the country, put women in a very stressful place trying to be who society wants them to be.

She added that this makes women go the extra mile with confidence in order to curtail the backlashes and stand strong.

She, however, stressed the need for the immediate family, especially parents, to support their female children to attain greater heights as they encourage the male children.

Khadija added that with adequate support the girl child cannot give up on her dreams stating; “There is a need to break the bias within the family especially in the north where there is a high level of illiteracy. For me, my family’s support was a great deal because in the north, a girl is expected to be married with children because of her age.

”I had to be too confident to be able to stand in front of people even when the opportunity to do so is very slim and I am still facing this bias in my place of work. As a journalist, whenever we have meetings in the office they get to ask all the male about their opinions before they ask the females regardless of the office they occupy.

”It is also sad that sometimes opportunities are being withdrawn because I’m a woman, but I constantly find ways to address issues and so I work extra to prove my capability,” she said.

”Women face gender barriers in workplace and people see me as rude because I’m trying to be assertive, while they see men as being confident being assertive.

”Gender barriers affected me in school when I was prevented from being a team leader because of the gender choice preference for that position after working really hard. It is discouraging that females are subjected to be assistant class representatives in a facility meant to be correctional,” Motunrayo added.

For Joy Aderele, she started experiencing gender bias from birth. According to her, “My parents wanted a boy and I showed up. You can imagine the disappointment. As an adult it’s funny that you can’t rent an apartment in Abuja as a woman without being asked if you have a husband even with your money,” said

Joy went further to condemn the norm where women were basically considered for appointments and other positions out of pity.

She opined that women should be appointed based on merit and not necessarily out of a pity party, while calling on competent women to be interested in politics in order to occupy positions that will enable them change discriminatory policies, stereotypes and long existing norms.

“Women who are competent should overtake the political space and deliberately develop it. Women should be deliberate to develop confidence as this is what helps leadership,” she stressed.

Way forward

To enable lasting solutions, women were urged to be deliberate and intentional with their ambition and goals in life, as leadership positions are not gotten on a platter of gold.

“Women should always show up, be consistent in what they do because consistently gives credibility.

“Always get the job done by building skill set just to show your capability because it is only when one is capable they can be trusted with a position of leadership,” she said.

On her part, Mrs. Oniban stressed the importance of being intentional in empowering women, noting that she had her mandate and several other platforms where she has encouraged and mentored women to come out more, at least and to find a community of like minds.

Similarly, the Deputy Head, Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund at Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Mrs. Sharon Ayeni, recounted her personal experience on diversity and racism as a black woman working in the political space for a white establishment, noting that she didn’t feel included for years yet stayed put and hopeful.

“Grace, growth and giving back, what I call the 3 G’s is what keeps me going and I remind myself that every day that grace is God’s unmerited favour after struggling with trying to be visible. Learn to tap from the competency from those ahead and even from the younger generation. Learn to speak out and ask questions

“Growth – continue to grow in the profession you find yourself. Even when you fail take yourself up and continue.

“Giving back – Be authentic and show up as God made you. As you get older you step out the more. Continually develop your leadership skills and experiences. Build resilience and character competence regardless, support other women, be a good role model and tap out of your comfort zone,” she urged.

Blueprint Weekend reports that participants called for such sessions to be held more frequently in order to keep up progress in learning and building.

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