Celebrating Nigerian Women

In this season of politics when the din of campaigns and other shibboleths are drowning out other important national events, it was not unusual that the International Women’s Day, which came up on March 8th, was barely observed in the country. In line with the tradition, this year’s theme was “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity”. It envisions a world in which women can exercise their choices, whether that be participating in politics or living in a society free from violence and discrimination.
Incidentally, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, a globally endorsed framework towards advancing gender equality, human rights and women’s empowerment. In Nigeria, the progress to integrate the womenfolk into all aspects of national life has never been so relentless. Credit must go to President Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for appointing women into very top administrative positions. Even at that, mention must be made of the several efforts by political parties to provide the support and platform for women to actualise their ambitions.
Before now, not many of the womenfolk stood the chance of becoming successful politicians due to the numerous cultural and other environmental obstacles placed in their path. Today, all those seem to be changing as most gubernatorial aspirants are discovering the political correctness in choosing them as running mates. While this is commendable, the tendency is to see such tokenism as patronising. Nigerians want to see the day a woman will become President and female chief executives who got into such offices based on their individual merits occupy most government houses.
While that is still a long way, it is pertinent to note that women are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, even as violence against them is worse than that of men. Though the country has made significant progress in achieving basic education for the girl-child and reducing mortality rates, more needs to be done. It is known that violence against women and girls is a major cause of HIV infection and one of the key drivers behind the increasing number of females living with HIV and AIDS. Young women are especially at risk, as a result of sexual violence, trafficking for sexual exploitation, child marriage and other harmful practices.
Also, there is correlation between coercive sex and the risk of contracting the virus as a direct result of physical trauma, injuries and bleeding. The subordinate positions that many women and girls hold within their families, communities and societies restrict their access to information about sexual and reproductive health and their use of health-care services.
Fear of violence makes many reluctant to be tested or treated, and inhibits their capacity to negotiate safer sexual practices. All these must give way if the Nigerian society is to benefit from the active participation of the womenfolk who constitute more than 50 percent of the population.

About the author

Ihesiulo Grace

Leave a Comment