By Helen Ovbiagele
It was a nice surprise to have reactions from men on this topic. I hadn’t expected any, because, usually, women’s issues are not regarded serious matters in this country. Once in a while, a few concessions concerning women may be made to ‘humour’ them/ ‘keep’ them quiet, but at no time, so far, are women’s issues taken up with a lot of concern and commitment. However, if men feel obliged enough to write in, concerning our issues, there’s hope for the future. They probably are beginning to realize that we do matter in the scheme of things.
Another surprise was that while reactions from women were mostly about how we’re marginalized and treated with no respect, the men felt that our major problems is the usual saying that ‘women are their own worst enemies’.
Some of them feel that other than harping on Nigeria’s non-implementation of the contents of U.N documents on women’s issues to which our country is signatory, the few women we have in powerful positions are doing nothing to push our issues.
‘Madam Helen, what are women in high places in this country doing about the plight of their fellow women who are disadvantaged? Point out any woman who had occupied a place of power, and at the end of the day can hold up a score card with high marks for the causes of women she pushed through to fruition!
I can’t think of any. Most of those in parliament, are there to fulfill the agenda of their male sponsors, and this usually are not women-slanted policies. I don’t support all women’s causes, but those concerning their empowerment for a better life is worth pursuing vigorously because when a woman has good quality life, her children will benefit from it, and we shall have more children growing into well-adjusted adults. Behind every child who roams aimlessly on the street, exposed to prostitution and criminal activities, is a disadvantaged mother who’s depressed and dejected. Thanks - Matt, Lagos.’
‘Sister Helen, as long as men are the main rulers in this country, women’s issues will always be left on the back-burner. The truth is that even where you have women heading Ministries, the real officers in charge of policies that will make any headway are men.
Don’t mention the parliament because the women who are there are there by courtesy of the powerful and influential men in their lives; fathers, husbands, brothers, boyfriends, etc. As typical Nigerian males, these ones have their own reservations about the emancipation of the Nigerian woman. Many of them are uncomfortable about women being allowed their human rights and total control of their lives, including their bodies.
So, if any female member in their midst gets fiery and eloquent about the implementation of CEDAW, or proposes a bill that will ensure that stiff sentences should be handed out to those who engage in any form of violence to women, and those who torture/disinherit widows, she’s likely to be called to order and told that MPs are not in the House for that.
If she wouldn’t listen, I’m sure her male sponsor would be told to caution her. That would definitely calm down her enthusiasm to do something to uplift her fellow women. A way out is to create an atmosphere where money/power won’t be the determining factor in standing for/winning elections, and worthy/capable women can get elected on their own merit. Then will they be able to fight for women without restraint. Thank you. - Mary O, Enugu.’
‘Madam, I don’t think it’s only files on women’s issues that get left and forgotten on shelves in government establishments. Our rulers from time immemorial, say the right things and make the right promises, at any given time or venue, but agreements reached upon are easily forgotten because of their lack of commitment to our citizens, to push anything through and get the desired goal/end.
They put together panels to investigate/look into one thing or the other; but it all ends up in smoke as we never hear of the matter again. And because of the daily stress that living in this country brings, we easily forget these things ourselves, after the initial outcry or fury dies down, and we turn our attention to other pressing matters; until those offences are committed again. What we need are determined citizens who can push through a cause till the desired results are got. - Isaac, Ibadan.’
‘Mrs. Ovbiagele, if the women you have in government or in parliament really take up women’s issues, I’m sure there would be a gradual change in the status of women in this country; ending all the humiliation and deprivation that our culture heaps on them.
Unfortunately, recent events show that women in both the public and private sectors love money more than fighting women’s issues. Isn’t it a shame that women are now part of those who defraud the country shamelessly? A country is finished when women whose duty it is to raise honest and well-behaved citizens begin to dip their hands in the public till to enrich themselves.
The men would feel justified to continue stealing the nation’s money. What’s more, they would laugh at the feeble efforts we make in trying to assert ourselves and demand better treatment. We should go back to the old values in our culture, when women were raised to be honest, responsible and reliable citizens, and they took their duties of raising children of good character seriously. These days, it appears money takes centre stage in all aspects of our lives in this country. This is a pity. - Martha, Awka.’
‘Madam I share your view that after the noise of Women’s Day celebrations, we wait in vain for our activities to bring the desired relief to our women. There’s usually no notable action by the government until another Women’s day, when we go through all the motions of celebrating it again.
I used to attend the various activities here in Lagos that were used in marking the day, but not any more. What’s the use when all those well-meaning rallies, seminars, etc. don’t yield any meaningful results? The government never fails to mark the day with their own programmes, but there the matter ends.
Our rulers never keep their promises, and this is very frustrating for the women who work tirelessly lobbying the government, and trying to get them to keep their promises. I just wonder if it’s because we don’t have enough committed women in government to act on our behalf? Thanks for the piece, anyway. - Patience, Surulere, Lagos.’
We thank all those who sent in their views.