By Moses Nosike
Barrister Nkechi Chukwueke Onyedim, is a young woman with many colours; a former governorship candidate under ANPP, Lagos, legal practitioner, public analyst, politician, business woman and National Co-ordinator, Child-Mother Welfare Development Centre. She is among the few women in the society that believes a woman can achieve more than men if they would possess a strong will despite environmental, religious and cultural challenges. In this chart with Saturday Vanguard Business, she encourages Nigerian women to come out and fight for their fair share even she advises government to do more on women empowerment. Excerpts:
Empowering women in the society, do you think enough has been done to empower Nigerian women?
Before now, women had not been empowered enough to take their own shares from the abundant resources God blessed Nigeria with. But recently and in fairness to the present government, they have been able to recognise women to some extent, yet we are asking for more because I don’t think Nigerian women have got their own share in terms of equity sharing.
There is this argument that women don’t come out to fight for their rightful positions in the society and that is the reason why they are suppressed, is that true?
I don’t think it’s true because it’s when you ask it will be given to you. Even in the Bible, it’s said: “Ask you shall receive, knock the door shall be opened, and seek you shall find. Like in politics it’s not father Christmas. If you don’t ask nothing for you. This same thing is applicable in Law. The law will not grant you what you didn’t ask for. You have to seek for a leave before the court will look into it and grant you your plea as the case may be.
So, if women don’t come out to demand for their right nothing will be given to them. They need to come out and become part of governance in their community, ward, local government, state and country. But women are not forthcoming as expected. Again you shouldn’t blame them sometimes because of some restricting factors surrounding the environment in which they find themselves. For instance, in Africa, women are not all that recognised to hold some key positions in the society; the region will be against you, the society, the family issue is there, culture, environment even women among themselves will be against you.
So, you will discover that there are many women who have the zeal, ambition to come out and showcase what they have but these factors become a barrier. But for me, that should not deter any woman who knows what she wants to do or contribute to the society, because being a woman is not a curse or minus rather it should be a plus.
Women have advantages because as a mother, you are a home builder, more passionate and considerate. Women should be able to understand every environment they find themselves more than the men because they perceive more than the men. Being a woman, God has endowed us with potentials and we should be able to use them to the advantage of the society.
Having contested for deputy governorship seat under ANPP, how was your experience being a woman?
This question had been asked often times and I will answer it for the rest of my life. Vying for the position of deputy governorship election as a woman and in Lagos for that matter was full of experiences and challenges, but I love challenges. Sometimes I look at myself and said: ‘’Nkechi you’re a very bold person”. And I have made up my mind that deputy governorship seat would be the least position I will go for henceforth.
It was not easy but I liked the experience because it exposed me to a lot of things I didn’t know. Initially, I took a lot of things for granted but now I know better. So anytime I would go back for elective position as a woman politician I will know how to discuss and bargain better and also enhance my profile. In all, it’s a learning process, so I would not say I regretted any bit of it even though there were challenges. Like I said, challenges are part of me and it has helped make me what I am today. In all, it was not a bad experience.
Are you in the school of thought that if women were empowered like the men, they would have done better in leadership?
Yes! I’m hundred per cent sure. I remember when I was contesting and one of my friends gave me some money but I was surprised because I didn’t expect it. But she looked at me and saw how surprised I was and she asked me why was I sounding surprised even though I’m a person that do appreciate. She told me that men do better in helping themselves, and I learnt a lesson from her.
What I’m saying is that apart from personal relationship, the society at large has not recognised women, the government and the constitution. For instance, now women are pleading to be recognised in the on going constitution reform, the affirmative action to be enshrined in the constitution. That is why I said that women have not been recognised that much.
There has not been enough provision to empower the women unlike the men folk. They allocate oil blocks to men, make them ministers, give them large contracts etc. How many women have the opportunity of having oil blocks apart from Alakija which I pray for her everyday? How many women are doing NDDC job, doing contract job in the ministries? How many women are there heading government parastatals, even the commissions and agencies? You hardly see women heading them. And that is not doing us well. If you ask me I would say, women have not really been encouraged or recognised as it should be.
Your NGO, Child-Mother Welfare Development Centre, what has been the achievement so far?
Child-Mother Welfare Development Centre is my baby child. I have emotion attached to it and in fact that is why I have to go into the project in the first place. Teenage pregnancy is very rare, but when I want to analyse it I do ask, Is the one outside wedlock or the one you voluntarily went into marriage and you are now abused and confined into a marriage even though still a child?
There are two different lines here. But the one I concentrate more on is unplanned pregnancy, I don’t want to use the word unwanted pregnancy because no child is unwanted. A teenage child, most times children also make children vulnerable, they are naïve. When children or a child becomes a mother, that is not because she was wayward or promiscuous and all of that.
But sometimes lack of education, family background could be blamed, not being there for her, no proper care, no medication, parents’ inability to discuss sex etc. At the end of it, some of these children become victims of circumstance, rape while others are being abused by relations and relatives. I have seen a lot, interacted with sympathetic stories and because of the stigma attached to such cases, the young mothers tend to go into abortion, tend to sell the baby and some give birth and kill and all that. The society has to do a lot.