By Sola Ogundipe
Wife of former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Arese Carrington, has called for sustained emancipation of Nigerian women in the drive to attain a developed status for the country.
Carrington, an International Public Health Consultant and Vice President, Africana Consultants, USA, noted that Nigeria would only attain a developed status if it adopted and maintained the culture of gender equity like is the situation in developed countries.
Speaking recently during the Eminent series lectures of the University of Benin, Uniben, with the theme “Nigeria and the future of the Black World”, held in collaboration with Pfizer Nigeria, she urged Nigerian women to get better educated and enlightened because education gives ability to think and analyse things critically.
Noting that there is a patriarchal mindset ruling Nigeria, she avowed that Nigeria must move from patriarchal society to a gender – equal one.
Her words: “An uneducated population is a population in bondage. Education is the passport to freedom. Hence, we must speak the truth to ourselves. With education, no one can pull the wool over our eyes.
“Education, health and income generation form the axis of development. So, it is essential for more Nigerian women to have access to these. They need to be given the opportunity to advance in science and technology.’’
Further, she noted that a lot of women are gifted in Mathematics and Science but lamented that some can’t harness this potential to halt the problems that have stunted growth in Africa.
A UK study on gender issues in Nigeria shows that 49 percent of the Nigerian population is female (80.2 million) and nearly one out of every four females in sub-Saharan Africa is a Nigerian.
Carrington argued that if given opportunity, Nigerian women are great potential for development, urging that Nigeria must, thus, lead the change in stopping education disparity, dehumanization and control of women.
“Nigeria and Africa’s future is dependent on not discarding the role of females in the society nor their potentials to contribute economically and politically. Rwanda has harnessed this opportunity. After the genocide, the women were in the forefront in the reconstruction and the emotional healing of the nation. Realizing this, President Paul Kagame made the extra effort to empower women. Half the Supreme Court population is female,” She said.
She emphasised that the 2015 data from the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) shows that in Rwanda 63.8 percent of the lower chamber of parliament and 38.5 percent of the upper chamber are women.’But in Nigeria, only 5.6 percent and 6.5 percent are women in the lower and upper chambers respectively.
A 2012 UK study data ranks Nigeria 118 out of 134 countries in the Gender Equality Index. It showed that women make up only 21 percent of the non-agricultural paid labour force, the majority occupied in casual, low-skilled, low-paid informal sector employment.
She regretted that each day, 144 Nigerian women die in childbirth, equivalent to one death every 10 minutes. “Women don’t have to die because they want to give birth. Birth should be a thing of joy. It is essential for women to have access to education.”