Owanari Bobmanuel Duke, Chairman, Child Survival and Development Organisation of Nigeria has called for advocacy and action on gender parity. She made the call [on Tuesday, 15 March at a symposium hosted by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and the Centre for Black and African Art and Culture (CBAAC) in Lagos focused on gender parity at all levels of society. The event was to lend a voice to the need for Nigeria as a country to harness the potential of its female population for its development.
According to the lawyer and wife of the former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke, the government should provide and enforce laws that will ensure there is level playing ground for girls and women to reduce discrimination against the group. In her lecture, Duke also urged girls and women, saying, ‘no one will give you power, you must take it within the ambit of decency’, highlighting the necessity for boldness on the part of the female folk to salvage the country from the culture of patriarchy.
Meanwhile, on the same day, in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, the Senate rejected the Bill on Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women presented by Abiodun Olujimi, representing Ekiti South, during the Senate’s plenary session on the grounds that it runs short of culture, religion and the Nigerian constitution. The Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume and Sani Yerima of Zamfara State, among others, spoke against the bill, which was defeated as the Senate President; Bukola Saraki put it to vote.
Supporting the narrative of the need for gender parity to encourage development in Nigeria at the Symposium were Ferdinand Anikwe, the Director General of CBAAC, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Managing Director of the Nike Art Gallery, Ropo Sekoni, Board Chair of the WSCIJ and Gloria Chuma-Ibe, CBAAC’s Director of Exhibition and Museum.
The meeting commenced with the viewing of the Report Women: The untold stories of girls and women, a documentary produced by the WSCIJ to tell stories of lack of access to opportunities and continuous abuse as they affect girls and women in Nigeria. Another highlight of the event was the exhibition of works of art and pictures depicting the strength of women by CBAAC.
During the discussion session, Chuma-Ibe asked women and men to take personal decision to be better individuals to further gender synergy in the country. She said that individuals need to move out of the primitive mode to better understand the difference between right and wrong in their environments, which would lead to effective gender parity.
In his contribution, Sekoni highlighted the importance of cultural development to further gender equality. “Culture and tradition is never static, it is always dynamic”, said Sekoni. He also stated the need for accurate data on gender gap in Nigeria and the need for a policy on gender character, which he advised should be implemented better than the Federal Character provision of the country. He encouraged men to also take up the baton to improve gender parity adding that “the future of our children depends on both men and women”.
Another discussant, Davies-Okundaye urged women to continue to do well and focus on improving their skills in their various fields sharing the story of how she rose beyond the oppression of poverty and polygamy by concentrating on her art of cloth dyeing. According to her, she refused to be stopped from reaching her full potential by her inability to study beyond primary six by honing her skills.
Only last week, the Senate Majority Leader, Ndume in his contribution to the motion to mark the International Women’s Day (IWD) by the Chairman Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Remi Tinubu, advised that men take more wives in order to take care of women, asking the Senate President, Saraki to take the lead in this regard. In Ndume’s words, “As a sign of respect for women, let’s urge men to marry more than one wife.”
The symposium which was to commemorate the IWD is the third activity in a series of initiatives to support the Pledge for Parity theme of the 2016 edition of the programme in celebration of the prowess of women and in support of their continuous struggle to stop being treated as less human than their male counterparts. The first two activities were a walkathon creating awareness on gender parity and a Twitter chat on gender parity in the newsroom held on March 8 and 11 respectively.
The WSCIJ under its Report Women project, commenced in 2014, has trained eighty reporters across the country and commissioned thirty-one stories to improve the quantum and quality of reportage of girls and women issues in Nigeria. It has also published a documentary available on You Tube, as well as engaged with the National Human Rights Commission to further the cause of this marginalised group. The Centre alongside the media and other stakeholders will continue to work towards a country where the rights of the female are upheld as human rights.