Closing the gap on gender inequality before 2030 International Women’s Day has become a global phenomenon and more countries are keying into the event to celebrate their women. But can the gender disparity between women and men be closed in the next fifteen years? JOYCE REMI- BABAYEJU asks
This year’s celebration of the International Women’s Day ought to be a time of reminiscence on the plight of women, especially in this part of our clime. Fortunately the 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. Obviously, this is United Nations’ idea of observing IWD every March 8 to reflect on how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda.
UN used the first 15 years which ended in 2015 to pursue the Millennium Development Goals which are 8 targets goals and obviously because most countries, including Nigeria were not able to fulfil these goals necessitated the introduction of Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s theme of the IWD is for building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years. This year, it is expected that the theme of the celebration will as much focus on new commitments under UN Women’s step it up initiative and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.
The big question regarding the importance of celebrating women is how much progress has been achieved? Nigeria is culpable in terms of women’s rights and welfare from socio-cultural, political, religious to several other factors. There is a definite gap between the affairs of women and men. The gap can be likened a valley between two rivers.
Lately, the girl – child has become an endangered species- from child marriage to rape to domestic violence and currently abduction. Going by this year’s tag, there is still a lot to be done especially because of the stereotype surrounding the female gender.
Our cultural socialisation makes the girl vulnerable. She is not to be given quality education which is perceived as a waste of time and resources; after all she would end up in the kitchen. This is already a gap. Only a well catered girl would grow into an empowered woman and women are integral part of social development of every society or economy.
Rape of the girl-child is almost a daily activity. That a two year old girl is being defiled by an adult old enough to be her father, grandfather or an uncle is rampant news. There an increasing speed and number of little girls who are molested by men stung by lunacy. The latest of crimes against girls is abduction and kidnap of girls, minors and adolescent girls which became popular beginning with the kidnap of the Chibok School girls now turned suicide bombers, sex slaves and mothers of future terrorists.
From Ese Oruru, the abducted Bayelsa 13 year old girl impregnated by her captor, one Yinusa Dahiru alias Yellow, to the three kidnapped school girls from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School located in Lughusi village in Ikorodu and recently the other report about a 15-year old Benue girl, Patience Paul, who had been abducted by two neighbours and married off to a certain “Sarkin Musulmi” in Sokoto State, the number of victims are on the increase. These are just a minute number of rising cases of abduction of minors for forceful marriages. Although child marriage is not legal in Nigerian constitution and not acceptable but the practice persists under religious guises.
A Muslim woman, Mrs Arafat Abulazeez , not real name who spoke on the issue of child abduction and early marriage debunked the belief that it is Islamic but said that it is cultural among those who practice it in the northern parts of the country. According to her, if a girl under the age of 18 is forced into marriage most times it is done with ulterior motives and not for the real purposes of marriage. ‘’This s why the girls are later dumped by their husbands because they must have taken away their stars for ritualistic reasons’’, she explained.
This is definitely not a very good occasion to enumerate the various disparities affecting women in the various sub- sectors of the economy like politics, education, and the rest but the real focus should as a matter of urgency is on the girl child who deserves to be protected and given a sense of quality life.
Nigeria like other countries found wanting in these menace still have the next 15 years to fastrack their policies in order to meet up with the sustainable development goals.
The IWD is a day to celebrate the achievement and to evaluate the progress of women in every country but this can only be done when there are some milestone commitment and implementation of policies and laws that bridge gender gaps. Experts said that there is the need to give girls and women quality livelihood. They also need protection from villains. Authorities therefore need to ensure that culprits of child or women rape and abduction are brought to book.
For instance, it has been suggested that those who are found to rape children should be castrated and made to serve long jail terms as deterrent to others. Child molesters be jailed without option and most importantly the Child Rights Act be domesticated in all states of the Federation and CEDAW laws signed into Nigerian Legal system for good.
Historically, the United Nations began celebrating IWD on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
International Women’s Day first started from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
The day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Nigeria is expected to key into this opportunity so she can be relevant in the comity of nations because development lies in the wellbeing of citizens be male or female.