By Elizabeth Uwandu
In commemoration of 2018 International Women’s Day tagged: PressforProgress, the French Consulate in partnership with the University of Lagos, UNILAG, organised a round-table discussion on Women on the move: gender expectations and unequal power relationships in the Nigerian society, moderated by Tabia Princewill, Special Adviser to the Secretary to the Lagos State Government.
The event held at the Afe Babalola Hall, had in attendance the French Consul-General, Lagos, Mr. Laurent Polonceaux, Professor Sophie Oluwole, renowned Nigerian philosopher and a promoter of Yoruba philosophy, indigenous languages and culture, Mrs. Titilola Vivour Adeniyi, Claudine Lepage, Rita Dominic, among others.
“The issue of the place of women and their role has continued to be a subject of discourse with many seeing the femalefolk as second class citizens. “Answers to these questions of societal expectations of men and women: who is considered a “real” man? And What does society believe are women’s responsibilities in Nigeria, seem ambiguous. In answering these questions, one finds that men are expected to provide, cater for their families’ financial needs and often leaving the women as passive receivers. “Again, both men and women are prisoners of certain stereotypes which are a hindrance to healthy, balanced relationships. In fact, because financial power is mostly in the hands of men, women’s entry into business, politics or other industries, is more difficult and so limits them to secondary role. What then is the place and role of women in the society? questioned Princewill.
Women were given equal treatment as man until colonisation — Prof. Oluwole
While answering the questions posed by the moderator of the event, Prof. Oluwole said that the place of women in the society was never in question as all human beings, irrespective of gender in pre-colonial Africa, were given equal opportunities until colonisation and the introduction of westernisation.
The historian went on to give instances and examples of “female kings”in Yorubaland where the monarch was a woman addressed as a king and not a queen in a secondary role. In her words: “I was told that the African woman has no place in the society but what happened to the parable that says, ‘A man sees a snake and runs, only for the woman to stay back and kill the snake?’ Again, in a recent research by a British scholar, 60 per cent of houses in Lagos were built by women. So, why say the woman has no place? asked Prof. Oluwole.
Calling on women to rise up, the female advocate said although Yoruba culture does not see the woman and man as equal, never was a woman’s rights and privileges denied because women showed high level of responsibility.“ Women need to be qualified to demand equal rights with men by being responsible,” she advised.
Pressforprogress entails freedom from all forms of abuse – Mrs Vivour-Adeniyi
For Mrs Vivour-Adeniyi, coordinator of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, DSVRT, Lagos State, the realisation of Pressforprogress for every woman can be achieved when victims are able to break the silence of oppression. “I wonder when a victim keeps silent in the face of oppression, intimidation and abuse. The way forward for this year’s theme is raising confident women who will not be cowed into silence if and when abused,“ said the DSVRT coordinator.
Boys and girls must have equal opportunities – Sen. Lepage
Sen. Lepage, a French Senator representing French nationals abroad and an educationalist whose passion has been the promotion of the French language abroad as well as the cultural values inherent in the French language which are called the francophonie, noted that progress can come to the world ony when male and female have equal opportunities in all spheres of life. Her words: “Boys and girls must have the same opportunities in society for it to be considered a real, functional, democracy,” noted Lepage.
Nollywood needs to reinvent the wheel, more female producers needed — Dominic
Speaking on the impact of Nollywood in the life of the youths, Rita Dominic, one of Nigeria’s leading actresses said that finance and illiteracy were major factors responsible for stereotypes in the Nigerian film industry.
According to the Nollywood screen diva, since many of the behind-the-scene acts have little or no formal education; and most times, the shots are called by men who usually finance productions, so there are chances that the women may not be given fair representation.
Calling for a paradigm shift, Dominic advocated for more female producers to be able to project the female positively. “As females, we can change the narrative in Nollywood where we are mostly portrayed as sex objects by acquiring skills to be relevant in the industry. We need more female producers,” she added.