I remember watching a Nigerian movie when I was younger. In this movie, a father who lived in a village had six children and only one of them was a boy. The father took care of the boy and sent him to school even though formal education was expensive in that village because students had to travel to the city to study. The other five children, the girls, were always on the father’s farm working and the money made from the sales of the farm produce was used to send the boy to school. This is because then, formal education was strictly for male children because it was the norm then that a female child always ended up in a man’s house and ultimately in the kitchen. As a result, sending a girl to school was seen as a waste of time and money.
Formal education in Nigeria is not called ‘male education’ neither is it tagged ‘female education’, it is education for all. However, the patriarchal nature of the country gave the right to education and empowerment to the male gender. Women were reduced to cooks, child bearers, subordinates and passive observers in the society. The right to education was denied girls and hence most of the girls who even had the opportunity of going to school did not go beyond the secondary school level. Women were made inferior to men and could not compete with men for any leadership position.
Also, while growing up as a girl child, I was made to understand that boys and girls cannot handle the same position and also cannot perform similar functions at home, in schools, in politics and in the society at large. Girls do the cooking while the boys do the eating, boys become class captains and girls were just allowed to sit in class (if at all they were allowed to go to school), boys can proceed to the university or college while a girl was already old enough to be a wife and a mother after secondary school. The females who do not go to schools have to marry at a very young age (from 13years).
Therefore, from childhood, girls have always seen themselves as being inferior to boys and women inferior to men. It was the world of men and women had no say. But the world has evolved, things have changed. Women now boast of having educational qualification and handling leadership positions. Organisations like the United Nations have over the decades ensured that women are treated equally with men. Through the policies made by the United Nations, the member countries of the organisation have given more attention to the role of women in the world. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework addresses gender equality under SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. One of the targets of the gender equality goal is to ‘end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.’ The female gender is still being discriminated against at the family level and in the society. In some parts of Nigeria, a female child has no right to inheritance, just as she does not have a say in family decision making even if she is the eldest.
However, the United Nations has continued to make significant progress over the decades to ensure that women are empowered and given equal opportunities like men. According to the UN, gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Women empowerment does not only fuel thriving economies but also spurs productivity and growth. As a result of the need to promote gender equality across countries, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women which was the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in July, 2010. UN Women works closely with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs as well as those in the States to promote gender equality and women empowerment.
In recent time, the organisation has implemented various projects and programmes in Nigeria. These included Women and Mastercard Launch: The Identity Registration Project for Women in Nigeria; Capacity Building Workshop for female journalists on Gender-Sensitive Reporting in Nigeria; UN Women launches Baseline Survey Report on the engagement of women in Peace and Security Processes in Northern Nigeria; Capacity Building Workshop on Gender, Peace and other Related Issues Conducted in Gombe State Nigeria; among others.
Examine yourself. Take a look at gender issues in your family. You can help end all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Stand by SDG 5: Gender Equality.
Written by Ms Olaide Olumide (An intern)