Why Govt should implement Gender Development policies, says Expert

Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika

Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, a Gender Development expert and the first female Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, in this interview with, DAFIAGA JOSHUA, ATITEBI TOBI AND AKANLE OLUWADUNNI discusses  the significance of the International Women's Day, while raising awareness around women issues including gender equality, reproductive rights, gender stereotypes, and many more. 

Can you tell us what the IWD is all about to you?

Well, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day set aside to remember that women are also important in the scheme of global development. So, we should celebrate women and talk about their relevance in the scheme of things on this day.

Generally, the public sphere is perceived to be the exclusive preserve of the male folks. Meanwhile, women are also part and parcel of global development — but their work and contributions are not well appreciated. Therefore, it [International Women's Day] is a day set aside to place focus and emphasis on women. 

In what way do you think this movement has shaped early stereotypes about the female gender?

I  think that we are gradually becoming refocused on perception and issues of stereotypes. There is actually a paradigm shift in the aspect of women leading in the public sphere, both in the private and public sectors, and even in the international world. 

You see women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Ibukun A. Awosika, the Chairman of First Bank, which is one of the top leading financial institutions doing us proud. 

There are many women who are banks MDs and CEOs, and there are also women that are in other sectors. 

But, in the past, it used to be that women should take the backseat. Today, we are leaders of thought and are contributing to global development, so I think there is a paradigm shift. 

When you want to talk about women and development, you see more women standing up to speak out on issues, be it against their personnel issues or against other women and other development issues. And so we are becoming more involved beyond the private sphere. 

I’ll put it this way: “I think there is a paradigm shift, though the stereotypes still exist — particularly in media content. And it is high time we began to address issues like that because we need to challenge the stereotypes”. 

There are enough evidence that we can use to change the framing and narratives of who we are as women and I think that that is the way to go 

Would you say that women’s participation in political, cultural, educational and socio-economic affairs either locally or internationally has changed radically over the years?

I wouldn't make use of the word 'radical', I will rather say that there is a shift; and the changes are visible. I’ll give you this example in the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Lagos. When I joined, I was the only woman on ground; but today, you see many more females as lecturers in the department.

We can use that as a lens to examine others; and I think that things are changing. Though, in terms of representation into elective posts, we are still under represented across different levels of governance in the country. This is despite the fact that Nigeria has a national social gender policy. So, if a government cannot implement its own policies, then that leaves much to be desired.  Buhari’s government has not really implemented the National Gender Policy, which talks about the affirmative action of having more women in the public sphere. 

And I tell you pointedly that the Buhari’s administration has not really been fair to women in terms of political representation. 

He was fast to say that women account for his victory at the polls, but when it comes to representation — in terms of positions and appointments — how fair has he been to the women in terms of political representation? 

I leave the answer to you!

I think that we should also canvass that every responsible organization should begin to develop its own gender policies ,  with emphasis on how to have women in leadership positions. It has to be a deliberate attempt. 

They cannot say that we [women] are not qualified! Even myself I’m qualified, and there are thousands of women that are even better than me and are also qualified. 

I think that we must have a deliberate plan [gender equality plan] in every sphere to bridge the gender gap aimed at  gender equitable development and representation in all spheres. 

As an expert in gender development, what level of support do you think has been given to women of this generation?

First, I think our government is a signatory to many international instruments, conventions; and we were even part of the MDGs because it is a global thing and now the SDGs. All of these talk about development and gender as well. 

Our country belongs to these comity of nations. As such, must live up the billings; and develop policy policy frameworks for achieving the SDGs. Anyway, by and large, the major problem has been the implementation of policies; and the poor implementation of the National Gender Policy exemplifies this. 

I think that we should be more deliberate in terms of policy implementation to reduce gender imbalance in development. This cuts across all spheres; both the public and private sectors, and the government also has to be up and doing. A government that cannot implement its policies will not be able to hold others accountable. The policies are just documents or paper, unless they are implemented…even a group of women recently challenged Buhari’s administration in court for not living up to its billings and failing to implement those gender policies. 

Also, the House Committee on Women should be more up and doing about its responsibility as well. Likewise, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs has to get more focused in order to ensure that things are done properly. Perhaps, they have to re-christen the ministry as the Ministry of Gender Equality — so that it can begin to look at gender imbalance instead of only focusing on women empowerment activities, particularly those that perpetually keep women in private sphere.

They need to get more focused in the area of gender and development; and challenge those structures that have perpetually kept women  in the private sphere. 

I personally think that the time has come for the Ministry of Women affairs to have key performance indicators to show what they have done in terms of ensuring that all these things [gender policies] are implemented both in the public and private spheres, and not just making  speeches at events — I think we need to go beyond that.


With regards to our motherland (Nigeria), do you agree that women and women’s rights are highly regarded? And if not what is your take on the infringement of girls and women’s rights in Nigeria?

I think that the issue of women’s  rights should be regarded to the fullest account; because when we are talking about rights, it has to do with every human being. 

The dignity of every human being is very important, but there are still people who suffer loss of dignity and have no way to challenge those things in court.

On the issue of gender; there are numerous violations of the rights of women like rape and domestic violence. But of course, we have it both ways, be it males or females, because it’s on gender and that’s why they say it’s ‘sexual and gender-based violence’ (SGBV). 

Nevertheless, girls and women are more victims and survivors of SGBV, and they are more susceptible because they’re seen as objects.

In a piece that I wrote recently, I was even canvassing that there should be a special court to try such cases. 

There are instances where  women who suffer SGBV press for charges in courts; and the cases drag for months and even years in courts, because of unnecessary  adjournments, leaving the survivors  distraught. To make matters worse, they grant very lenient bail conditions to the abuser, which leaves the abused discouraged. 

So, even when women go before the law court and press charges, the system tries to frustrate them and as the cases keep lingering. So, it’s still surprising that there are people who believe that women are suffering from this because they don’t press charges.

I think largely that with the way society is structured and how things are happening at present, we should realize that women are highly disadvantaged. Notwithstanding, some survivors are very resilient and still pursue litigation, because they understand that someday, justice will be served.

Nevertheless, I think that the system has to be called out in terms of timelines for justice administration concerning cases like this. They have to take a second look at it and be more detailed, because rape and violence in any form should not be condoned.

Then, in terms of the rights of women; I think we need to strengthen the judiciary and improve on  the timelines for justice administration . 

Quick dispensation of justice is critical to curtailing SGBV; just as the law was used to curtail female genital mutilation (FGM, which was a common practice, until it was legislated against in some states.  Therefore, legislation and quick justice administration are critical variable  in ensuring that women enjoy their human rights.

Also, women who are self actualizing are seen to be intruding in the public sphere, and so they try to demean them. It is time to pull out the laws, interpret the laws as fast as possible; and the implementation of these policies should be taken very seriously by the relevant authorities. 

Once we are able to do these, we would see that the rights of women will be respected and the society will treat women with a lot more dignity,  which is the way to go because today’s girl is tomorrow’s wife and mother. 

After all, the men are born of women — so we should be given the opportunity to rule the world! 


As the first female Professor and HOD of the department of Mass Communication over 50years of its existence, were you faced with any challenges in your field of expertise and what are some of the challenges you are also facing as a working class African woman?

My story is different because I was given equal opportunity with my siblings, so I didn't face most of the challenges that other women did. That was why I could be a doctoral student even before I ever thought of getting married and having children.

I was also brought up by parents who are highly focused educationists that saw the value of girl child education. Unlike in some families, where the female child has to get married after bagging her first level degree, I didn't. 

Education is so empowering. It enabled me to speak out and stand up for my right and speak up against injustice. As a woman, I am not ashamed to talk about anything that puts me down and that has helped me, because not every woman can and that is where the difference is. 

By God’s grace I am not a pushover. Albeit that, I took my work seriously both as a student and now that I am in the academia.

It may interest you to know that even though I missed a first class, I was still the best graduating student in my set when I did my first degree, and I have also had several fellowships and scholarships.

Therefore, every woman must prepare themselves to be very competitive. When you are very competitive, nobody can talk you down. 

I also have a lot of support structures in terms of home management and family life; not discounting the fact that  I do a lot of forward planning. These are costly, but achievable and doable. 

I also chose not to be distracted even when I had things that could distract my attention. I’m a strong-willed person and I believe that at every point in time no challenge is insurmountable.  

We are all humans, and whatever challenges that we face are either biological or created by society, they are surmountable!. So if you can provide support structures that can take care of those societal hindrances, then you are likely to move forward. 

Though it has not been a bed of roses.  We should all work hard,  because there is ‘no food for a lazy man’.  So, we must all channel our energies  in the right direction. Above all, I give glory to God because it’s His grace. And if I could get to the place I am today despite all the hurdles and challenges, you too can do it! Therefore, I urge you to be hardworking, bold and courageous and remain confident that you are going to surmount whatever challenge that you’re facing.

Final words: What advice will you give to aspiring young girls and adult women on how they can Choose to Challenge in their political, cultural, educational and socioeconomic affairs today?

The first thing is that they must put God first because nobody can do anything without God; the God factor is number one.

Secondly, they should remain focused because distractions will come, either at the family or social level; challenges will come, and because we don’t talk about them does not mean we don’t go through them. We go through them, but we chose to remain resilient and you can only remain resilient by God’s grace

Also, they should get good mentors and they should be loyal to them as well as learn from them. They should be willing to follow their guardians even when it’s very painful. 

Then for me, in terms of juggling career and children, it’s better for career women not to have too many kids, because  child care is demanding. 

I’m not saying "don’t have kids," I’m saying they shouldn't have too many. Instead, there should be moderation because children take quite a number of years from the lives  of mothers. However, if they have enough structures and support systems in place, then they can go for as many children as they want.

Finally , they should have good people around them and be deliberate about the kinds of friends they make and keep; as well as hold on to their family values because without the kind of socialization that in formative years, I don’t think I’ll be where I am today.

The socialization factor is very important; it helps you to speak out for yourself. I grew up in the midst of boys and this accounts for some of my actions (chuckles), because I can speak out when I need help and when I am being oppressed. 

I also maintain that no man should glory in himself...It is still the God factor. The Holy books (the Bible or the Quran) buttress my stand — All glory to God!. 

 

Comments

  1. Eunice BabatundeMay 6, 2021 at 3:52 AM

    Would be nice if the government takes it up

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  2. It would be great if the policies can be implemented

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  3. It will be helpful and effective if the policies can be implemented

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  4. I think it is an important policy

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  5. It would be of immense good if the government took a good look at the issue.

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  6. It would be of great help if government helps to look into it

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  7. I love this #feminist #equalrightsforallgendersandsexes

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  8. Exactly there should be equality between both genders including the public sector. As a lady or woman one needs to be very hardworking and determined. Most women in high place all have this quality as well as integrity. The most important as she said is to put God first. With God you can overcome challenges.

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  9. The bliss! Gender discrimination is one of our major problems in Nigeria and bridging that breach would be so relieving.

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  10. We have a long way to go in Nigeria but it's to remain hopeful and fight against stereotypes and gender discrimination. Well written.

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  11. It would great if the government could follow up with the implementation

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  12. Sensitization of such issues should start within ourselves, immediate family members before we enlist the help of people in authority

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  13. I'm happy this is being addressed. It would be great if the government can look into this issue

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  14. This is great because even with everyone trying to be woke online and trying to uplift women we are still at a disadvantage.

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  15. It'd be great if the government look into this matter
    There should really be gender equality across all sectors

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  16. It would be nice if the issue can be looked into and tackled.

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  17. Gender equality/right should be considered..
    Especially politically,we should be given chances.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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