African Heritage Institution, a research institution for policy-making has held its “Big Ideas Podium” with a call for women empowerment.
Keynote speaker at the event and and pro-democracy activist, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said women empowerment is necessary for them to develop their potential and contribute to the development of the world.
Okei-Odumakin who is the president of Women Arise Change Initiative observed that politically, “women are largely non existent in the Nigerian political sphere. Women are stereotyped as too weak or intelligently-handicapped”.
Speaking on the theme, “Gender Disparity and Underdevelopment in Nigeria”, Dr. Okei-Odumakin lamented that women are discriminated against in every sphere of life and anyone who is not ready to go out and strive for a better form will become a subject of pity.
According to her, “Women are not treated with such regards, values, and responsibility they deserve, especially in Nigeria, women are treated with so much contempt “. She faulted that and stressed that, “When women sit on a discussion table, better decisions are made”. Dr Okei-Odumakin pointed out that women are constrained socio-culturally, legally, politically and economically and that the challenges are based on biased belief system, illiteracy, repugant culture and tradition, poor economic base for women, low participation of women in politics and issues of corruption.
The multi-awards recipient who lamented high rate of domestic violence in marriage, posited that for the society to develop optimally, there must be gender balancing, while women and children must be empowered.
She commended the chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Mr. Allen Onyema, for making his company’s aircraft available to airlift some Nigerians from South Africa free of charge.
Dr. Okei-Odumakin announced that her organisation will confer him with the “Man of the Year” award in a few days time.
Earlier in a welcome address, the Executive Director of African Heritage Institution, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike stressed the need for gender equity. He stressed that there is ample evidence that although most countries globally have experienced substantial improvements on gender parity over the past few decades, much still remains to be done to ensure reasonable parity between men and women.
He noted that the latest edition of the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, which measures the gaps between women and men across four crucial areas: health, education, economy and politics, revealed that Nigeria is one of the few countries that actually scored lower overall
in 2018 than it did in the 2017 Gender Gap Report. Nigeria remains a hostile place to live for women and girls, he added.
According to Professor Okeke-Uzodike, statistics showed that overall, Nigeria ranks 133 globally out of 149 countries assessed for the 2018 report.
Specifically, Nigeria ranks 79 on “Economic Participation and Opportunity”; 140 on “Educational Attainment”; 132 on “Health and
Survival”; and 139 on “Political Empowerment”, he said.
He stated that the implications are clear. “Currently, Nigeria is basically one of the worst places to live on earth if you are poor, and especially if you are a poor woman,” he noted.
The executive director disclosed that the Big Ideas Podium seeks to table the issue of Gender Disparity with a view to seeking solutions and identifying good ideas on how best to resolve the challenge of gender-based exclusion and oppression in our society as explicitly underscored in the
He observed that whereas Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is emphatic that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law;” and that “the sanctity of the human person shall be recognized and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced, decision-makers have been slow in championing the ambitions of the national constitution.”
Professor Okeke-Uzodike explained further that while the potential remains and can still be harnessed, the lost opportunities and staggering costs in wasted potential and value will remain highly injurious to the fortunes of Nigeria.
“I must repeat that as with the rest of the world, Nigeria cannot turn its back to its future. All efforts to do so are assured to be futile and would only serve to deepen the rut that has continued to weaken our political economy and prospects going forward,” he said.
Representatives of various women groups like Police Officers Wives Associations, National Council of Women Society (NCWS), ministry of Gender Affairs, Enugu, National Orientation Agency, Awka, Anambra State, other groups and human rights groups were in attendance.