By Peter Osalor
“The newest member of the UN family was born today,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly after it passed the resolution setting up the new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. “This is truly a watershed day,” he declared.
“By bringing together four parts of the UN system dedicated to women’s issues, Member States have created a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level,” said the Secretary-General. “It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls – or to fail to take the necessary action,” he added.
Access to public services such as healthcare, water supply, sanitation and education are essential prerequisites for development. Women often have more difficulty accessing this services they need and are entitled to. Also, women are often under-represented in public administrations, particularly in senior positions and accountability is a legal obligation of the governments. Their aim is therefore; to make sure that all policies and services are in the interest of society-especially women, who have lagged behind for years.
Government should strives to ensure that women have a real voice in all governance institutions, from the judiciary to the civil service, as well as in the private sector and civil society, so they can participate equally with men in public dialogue and decision making. When women participate in decision-making there are benefits for women, men, children, communities and nations.
The condition of Nigerian women, curiously, holds within itself the means to simultaneous upliftment and greater common good. Their traditional involvement in subsistence-level activities essentially means Nigerian women are historically equipped with entrepreneurial innovation, know-how and experience that can be leveraged for inclusive growth and lasting national prosperity.
Abuja is banking on accelerated enterprise development from the micro-level upwards to help achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and its indigenous target of taking the country to the top 20 world economies by 2020. There is little doubt that the success of these objective rests to a large extent on Nigeria’s ability to harness the abilities of its women folk and drive them as engines of durable growth.
Nigeria’s future growth prospects are therefore irrevocably tied to the status of its women and its ability to adequately leverage their considerable economic potential. In this light, the following are some of the key issues the country’s government and policy makers need to explore.
* Legal reforms guaranteeing equal rights of women to ownership, property and financial control. Social reforms to enforce humane treatment of women and their worthwhile participation in the development of their families and communities.
*Development of special entrepreneurial initiatives that focus on unbiased participation of women in gainful enterprises and make adequate allowances for their socio-cultural, economic and legal constraints.
*Redrawing budgetary allowances and state expenditure outlays to specifically improve gender equality and promote increased participation of women in new and existing entrepreneurial activities.
Enhanced collaboration between women and financial, policy and aid agencies through innovative models that takes their lack of formal training and business expertise into account.
*Minimised failure-rates for enterprises involving women through ongoing technical and financial assistance, with in-built frameworks for efficiency monitoring and continuous survey.
*Improved communication and cooperation between women entrepreneurs across related sectors to assist creation of resource pools and sharing of expertise and technical support.
*Improved accountability on women’s issues at both state and federal levels through objective assessment of official programmes.
*Strengthen national statistics and planning offices capacities to collect, analyze and use statistics on use of and access to services by women and men.
While these points are by no means exhaustive in terms of the issues facing Nigerian women, they do outline in broad strokes the efforts necessary to successfully empower and include them in the process of sustainable growth.
Commendation should also go to Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan because through her efforts and struggle, the affirmation action has materialized through the appointment of 13 female Ministers and four Special Advisers. Despite their past and present condition, Nigerian women hold the key to its long-term prosperity.