By Onyekere Ifeanyi, The Sight News
ENUGU: Gender disparity, the discrimination along gender line, has been identified as one of the major causes of underdevelopment in Nigeria and most developing countries around the world.
This was made known in Enugu during the Big Idea Podium event organized by African Heritage Institution with the theme “Gender Disparity and Underdevelopment in Nigeria”.
In a keynote speech, a human right activist, Dr. Joe Okie-Odumakin said that no progress can be made in a society that disregards gender equity and equality. In her own words, “countries with high gender index (the achievement of women against men) are more developed than those with low gender index.”
Dr. Okei-Odumakin who is also the president of an NGO, Women Arise for Change Initiative, pointed out that lack of commitment by political actors is the main reason gender balancing has not been thriving in Nigeria.
She said, “Gender Empowerment Index, the representation of women in social, economic and political sphere in a country which is a signatory to over 13 charters on gender issues has been abysmally low”.
She noted that since 1999, the Nigeria senate has had about 37 female members altogether till date in a house with total number of 109 every four years while the House of Representative had 13 in 1999, 21 in 2003, 27 in 2007, 25 in 2011, 22 in 2015 and 11 in 2019 out of 360 members. Dr. Okei-Odumakin condemned gender based violence which is majorly inflicted against women.
In a contribution, a discussant, Barr. Crownwell Chibuzo, faulted Nigeria’s constitution on the ground that women were not involved in its drafting.
Chibuzo who is also a human rights-activist, likened gender parity to balancing of a vehicle’s tyres to improve its performance. In his words, “Gender disparity is more catastrophic than climate change. It is also a disobedience to creation order whereby God created men and women”.
He recalled that the major cause of crisis around the world is inequality, adding that “Peace is intricately related to justice in a manner that is inseparable”.
Another discussant and former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender Affairs, Mrs Angela Gbanite, stated that gender which is a social construct that ascribe responsibilities to males and females, changes overtime, and that for a country to grow, it must ensure that everyone is carried along, and women empowered to give their best to the society.
She highlighted the difference between empowerment and welfarism, stating that, “giving out food items, money, clothes and even sewing machines is welfarism. Empowerment is education and training in trade given to women, and equity in all spheres of life”.
Gbanite, who is also a politician advised that political caucus meetings should not be held during odd hours to enable women attend them, and amount of political forms reduced for women.
She stressed that, “Women should be empowered socially, politically, economically and psychologically. There should be gender mainstreaming whereby every gender is considered in every decision-making. Nigeria should domesticate the 35% affirmative agreement. Any abuse on women could affect anyone because we have daughters and sisters”.
Participants in the event cut across the academia, security and news agencies, NGO’s and private individuals.
Big Idea Podium is a flagship programme unveiled in March 2017 by AfriHeritage as a national platform for public policy debates with the objective to identify and address crucial issues of governance and development in Nigeria and across Africa.