By Kenechukwu Obiezu
WOMEN continue to face significant hurdles in the Nigerian society. These hurdles, which are spread out across homes, workplaces, politics, and economics, pose a serious threat to genuine development of the country and must be removed if Nigeria is to move forward. It appears even to the blind that Nigeria’s constant battle to end gender violence will go down to the wire.
It has been a formidable challenge to ensure that, as a mark of equity and justice, gender equality is enshrined in Nigerian Constitution.
But maybe, just maybe, Nigeria has not fought any battle as difficult as this, because the country continues to be on the receiving end of one loss after another. Where women should be treated as equal partners in the Nigerian project, they’re forced to lag behind out of sheer sabotage.
What makes the pills women are always forced to swallow especially bitter is that women can give as much as they take if they are given equal opportunity. But they are not, and Nigeria has continued to live this reality for years now, with the main challenges coming in the form of costs and missed opportunities.
Who can tell the difference it would have made if women were allowed to fully participate in, and shape the Nigerian project. Perhaps, they would have shaped it into something better, and contributed to shaping what remains unsightly because it is shapeless. Nigeria has a slew of laws that seek to protect women and create a safe space for them to thrive.
There is a National Gender Policy, and of course, it is noteworthy that there is a subsisting decision of the Federal High Court mandating 35 per cent of political appointments in the public sector be reserved for women. But Nigeria must do more. Leaders must show more political will by showing commitment to the issues that affect women. Women continue to be criminally undermined and underutilised in public life.
To fix this, they ought to be given more political appointments, especially into key positions where their visibility will help open up the space for other groups that are on the margins of society. The laws that codify the protection of women must also be reviewed. Do they have enough thrust and teeth? If they don’t, what can be done to ensure that they do.
There is also a need to change age-old beliefs about women. Some of these beliefs are rooted in customs and traditions, while others are rooted in religion. In the face of current realities, these are as archaic as they come.
Nigerian leaders in all walks of life must also be seen to be standing up for women, their rights, and their interests.
Traditional leaders and religious leaders must speak up for the protection of women more often so that gradually,those spheres, which are usually immutable when it comes to the rights of women, can turn a corner. There is also the need to catch them young. It is important that, in raising children, Nigerians strive to instil in children the idea that there should be no unhealthy discrimination between girls and boys.
Nigeria continues to scandalously fail women in defiance of the sterling examples of countries like Sweden and Rwanda, who continue to show that there is really no limits to what can be achieved when gender equality is given priority.
A country where domestic violence continues to be treated with kid gloves is a country that is not yet ready to give women their Nigeria.
To become a country where women count, the root, stem and branches of domestic violence of any kind must be cut down and cast into the fire of change. Nigeria can do so only if her leaders summon appropriate political will.
*Obiezu, a commentator on public issues, wrote via [email protected]
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