Gender: Analysing deteriorating status in Nigeria

Gender imbalance in Nigeria, especially the development outcomes relating to women and girls, has continued to rise enabling more setbacks in the growth of women and girls in the country ENE OSHABA writes.

The experiences of women over the years as defined typically by recurrent inadequacy in their access to critical health services, basic education, and economic empowerment opportunities, including socio-cultural injustices that they face, remains a source of great concern, raising questions whether gender equality could be achieved any time soon.

While infrastructural deficits and welfare inadequacies are apparent in various strata of life in Nigeria, Blueprint Weekend findings showed that shortages are more acute among women and girls.

An advocacy brochure titled: Gender in Nigeria 2020, published by a media research and data analytics organisation, Dataphyte Nigeria Limited, indicate that official data showed that many Nigerian citizens cannot own assets or inheritance because they are female.

The brochure also revealed that many women do not have a say on the number of pregnancies they can or want to carry; as well as that the choice on frequency of their pregnancies and use of contraceptives was still at the sole discretion of the male partner.

“Furthermore, we observed an upsurge in the number of sexual and gender based violence. Survey responses showed that while there are institutions established to give aid to victims, stigma around victims of sexual and domestic violence make them reluctant to report these incidences or seek justice in courts.

“Findings from the analyses in this report show that a typical woman and girl child in Nigeria still lacks equal opportunities for personal development as men and boys do.

“This discrimination incapacitates the girl child and indeed every female from competing for scarce opportunities under the already austere societal conditions,” the brochure explained.

This comes with grave impact on their health, welfare, and capacity for self-help, even as hindering women’s access to more rewarding vocations, overtly or subtly, does not only limit human resource potential but discounts overall economic growth and national development, it added.

Need for advocacy

Speaking to Blueprint Weekend on why the brochure was published, the Founder of Dataphyte, Joshua Olufemi, described the status of gender in Nigeria as a deteriorating situation.

He expressed disappointment on the poor knowledge and understanding of gender based violence in Nigeria, stating that men and women have in various ways encouraged and supported violence and abuse of women and girls.

According to Olufemi, Nigeria still records 80-90 per cent of violence level for women, which trickle down to toddlers, infants being abused by those who are supposed to protect them.

“In every 10 scenarios, 8 or 9 women are violently engaged and in all the situations it is because culture enables this. Again the interpretations of religious texts in some way enables violence so I would say there is 80-90 per cent  violence level for women in Nigeria.

“We have heard cases of toddlers, infants being abused by their parents, teachers and other supposed wards, to describe this in numbers I would say in every 10 scenarios 8 or 9 females are abused,” he said.

According to him, “There are instances where both men and women agree to beat a wife simply for burning food. A woman is cooking and gets busy with something else and food got burnt and women, even more than the men agreed she should be beaten or abused in any other way just for that course.

“We took up the initiative to come up with the publication as a follow-up to the last one published by the national population commission to have a current compilation of gender situation in Nigeria because the last publication was compiled in 2015 by the NDE.

“The publication will help gender advocates who rely on data or content for their advocacy, we also hope the brochure will arm activists with the kind of data they will use for work, also, policy makers can use this as a planned document to reflect on what needs to be done.”

Speaking further the founder said, “There is still lack of access in terms of Education, health, finance etc which are rights of everyone not to talk about women who holds more critical, more developmental roles in the society.”

Women’s plight

The brochure noted Nigeria’s employment and education statistics revealed gaps between the male and female genders, with females mostly at a disadvantage.

“For instance, 35 per cent of women aged 15-49 have no form of education, as against 22 per cent of the men. Similarly, most employed women earn less than their husbands do. Within the age category of 15-48, 65 per cent of women have jobs as against 86 per cent of men.

“Typically, Nigerian women marry at a younger age than men do. We noted an average of 19 years for women as against 28 years for men. Further, estimates of married people return 70 per cent for women as against 57 per cent for men,” it further indicated.

It also noted that the constraint on the level of education a girl child attains creates an artificial ceiling on a woman’s social enlightenment and economic advancement.

“Regarding sexual activities, men practice high-risk sex than women. Men in Nigeria have more sexual partners in a lifetime than women, average of four against two.

According to the 2018 national survey, 13 per cent of men have had over two sex partners compared to 1 per cent of the women within the same period.

“We also noted a trend of male dominance regarding household decision-making. Almost two-third (66 per cent) of women married don’t take part in decisions regarding their own health and major household purchases. The man also has the say on family visitations, the report disclosed.

“As for violence, 31 per cent of women were physically abused, and 9 per cent reported sexual assault. Of this number, 6 per cent of them experienced violence during pregnancy. About four in 10 women suffer violence from at the hands of their spouses.

“Correspondingly, four in 10 men believe wife battery is justifiable, that is, they have good reasons to beat their wives up when they deem necessary, while three in 10 women also share this same belief.”

Behaviour change as antidote

To ensure a positive change on the status of gender in Nigeria Olufemi stressed that men have a great role to play, saying there is an urgent need for a behavioral change to enable this happen considering that most of the violence against women are pepetrated by the men.

“The conversation starts with the men first because they hold a critical role. They are fathers, brothers, uncles and you cannot have a total conversation without the men taking the frontal position. So, aside taking the advocacy to them, involve them in some behavioural change advocacy because it is already part of the culture.

“Even me, I have to police myself in every conversation I have with my partner to ensure I’m not falling prey to what my culture or religion tells me about how to deal with my partner.

“We need a lot of behaviour change communication that has to go back to the roots and we need to ask ourselves what it means for a man to feel legitimate about beating, harassing, or not negotiating sex with his wife before beating her up. This is happening already but more men need to take frontal role in doing this,” he maintained.

Gender in 2020

It’s been argued that a lot still needed to be achieved in Nigeria in terms of equality; however, some analysts think that remarkable progress has been made so far.

Backing his argument, the founder Dataphyte said the fact that more states are against domestic violence and creating laws against it is a good example of progress recorded so far.

“I wouldn’t say we are not making progress on gender equality, I would say across the country more than 10 states are now creating laws against rape, domestic violence and that shows that advocacy is gaining grounds more than ever.

“We see how the ongoing protests gave voice not only to men but women, in fact, the iconic face if the #EndSARS protest is a female voice. That is some progress and in all of this, we can see lots of consciousness in the part of especially development circles to put gender in the agenda at every point in time.

“2020 is a year of advocacy for gender, there has been an increase amount of awareness and more women are coming out to name and shame perpetrators of violence and there is more advocacies going on so the year is a year of speaking up and this will enable policy funding for development because this has become agenda for stakeholders and decision makers.

Way forward

Continuing, the gender advocate expressed displeasure at the fact that most decisions taken on behalf of women were out of assumption as the women were usually not consulted before decisions were made for them.

“I will advise lawmakers to listen to women more, pay more attention to their plights so that they are not assuming to know the problems.

“We need to listen more so we can enumerate what the problems are to be able to change the situation. I see a lot of assumptions even amongst women who are promoting gender equality, there should be a lot of listening, being deliberate and intentional to bringing positive change,” he stressed.

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