“They don’t pay us in cash! They only pay the men. They pay us with broken rice that falls off the machine,” these were the words of a Nigerian woman operator of a processing mill.
The above statement captures the enormity of gender disparity in wage employment in Nigeria. The women who are working in the rice mills were being discriminated against in terms of wages not because they are not hardworking, but simply because of their gender which is reinforced by cultural stereotypes. The women can’t enjoy fully the fruit of their labour because they are “women” who are not culturally seen to be financially at par with their male counterparts.
By this, it is not how hard you work, that determines how much you get. It was therefore not surprising that the Global Gender Gap Report, 2017, recently released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), said Nigeria is 122 out of 144 countries in closing the gender gap. The WEF report ranked gender-based disparities in different countries particularly in the areas of economic participation, education, health and survival, and political empowerment.
However, since the WEF started tracking these 10 years ago, the international organisation revealed that for the first time things didn’t look so good. “A bad year in a good decade: The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017 finds the parity gap across health, education, politics and the workplace widening for the first time since records began in 2006”, it shared in a press release today November 2, 2017.
“A total of 68% of the world’s gender gap is now closed, with the reversal driven by declining gender equality in the workplace and political representation.” Many gender rights activists lamented the situation in Africa’s richest economy.
A former Nigerian Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili, for instance, said the country’s position is “is poor and we must do better from now.” “Part of Rwanda’s sustained strong economic performance over last 15 years is traceable to the inspiring way it has bridged the gender gap,” she said. The convener of the #BringBackOurGirls added that “we have to prepare ourselves rapidly for post-oil Nigeria, and the best way is to empower all our girls and women and unleash their talents.”
The United Nations Millennium Development Goal says that gender equality can help achieve higher levels of economic growth through women empowerment and development by getting rid of gender stereotyping, gender bias, gender-based violence.
There is no gainsaying the fact that educating women and girls will make them healthier and earn higher incomes that can lift their households out of poverty while the benefits are been transferred to their children. Despite these laudable benefits of gender parity Nigeria stands to derive, the place of women in food production in Nigeria cannot is still not encouraging. Available statistics has it that women contribute more than 70 percent of the labour force in the sector, 60 percent engage in food processing, while 50 percent are involved in animal husbandry.
But despite these contributions, Nigerian women are still mired in the daunting challenges of access to land, finance, farm implements and extension services. Another study shows that less than five per cent of women has access to land, less than three per cent has access to finance, a little over four per cent has access to extension services and only 23 per cent has access to farm input.
The apparent neglect of tapping the enormous potentials of women deepens the poverty level across the country.
Women Advocacy, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) in collaboration with the Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE), recently said female farmers have the solution to poverty in the country. The NGO spoke in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital when it led a group of women farmers to the state Ministry of Agriculture to present the farmers’ a-10-point demands.
The Programme Coordinator, WARDC, Folake Kuti, said her group was out to sensitise government all levels to enunciate policies and programmes that are friendly to the women folk The NGO said in the last two years, the project has been on in four states of Benue, Kwara, Enugu and Osun and the federal level so as to engage government that we need a gender policy on agric. What one of the women farmers, Fatima Garba, said was so even more intriguing. “Despite government avowed commitment to drive the economy through agriculture and expand food production to reduce hunger to zero level, women farmers who constitute about 70 percent labour in food production, food processing and marketing are yet to receive special support,” she said.
It is expedient that government at all levels expedite action in ensuring decent wage employment for women in Nigeria. By virtue of their critical role in leading the home front, poverty, illiteracy, economic empowerment will be easily achieved through eradicating gender disparity.
All hope is not lost. It is therefore heartening to know that the Nigeria Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with the Dutch Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Development (INCLUDE) and Partnership for Africa Social and Governance Research are currently engaging critical policymakers to ensure that such gender disparity in wage employment and other challenges to inclusion in Nigeria is curtailed. Ms Yushau, a gender advocate, writes from Abuja