By Asmau Ahmad
Gender advocates on Monday called on government at all levels to stop the marginalisation of women and encourage them to unleash their potential in their various fields of endeavour.
The participants made the call at a Business Day Webinar in Lagos titled: “Advancing Women Economic Sustainability in Nigeria,” to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.
Dr Hauwah Abdulkareem, a Development Economist at Kwara State University, Ilorin, said the percentage of women in leadership positions was low, going by the global gender gap index.
According to her, this accounts for about 15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We are not saying that there are no women in leadership positions, what we are saying is that the percentage is low; since the inception of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) we just had a female head in 2021.
“So, you can see that the population of male to female is about 50/50, and from the report of the global gender gap index, Nigeria ranks 128 out of 153 countries.
“And in the 53 African countries, Nigeria ranks 27th when it comes to the gender gap index; also, you have only about 12 per cent female directors in corporate boards in the whole country,” she said.
She added that women accounted for 41 per cent of micro businesses.
“You have the gender-based gap being 23 per cent, and if Nigeria continues this way you will realise that we are not about closing this gender gap until in about 100 years.
“This has monetary cost; when you place monetary value on our gender gap, it costs us about 15 per cent of our GDP,” she said.
Prof. Heoma Nsirim-Worlu, Centre for Gender and Development Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers, said statistically women were sidelined, particularly in decision making.
“For us to talk about sustainability, a few things must be done well and proper and must be done by Nigerians. That means that policies, laws must be made to favour women, which means that at the point of employment there must be some subtle way of creating room for women rather than asking who she knows.
“We should be given an opportunity where women should be able to express themselves and those who merit it should be given such positions on merit.
“But some waivers must be made to bring women into positions of decision making. Clearly, the number of women in decision making today is not such that will bring sustainability to women and enhance their economic status,” she said.
The Programme Director, Wisdom Tools Initiatives, Mrs Chigozie Ekeh, said this could be achieved when the government came up with practices that would support long term economic development of women.
She explained that this could be achieved by increasing loans for eligible women, with emphasis on women in education, and improved access to healthcare.
Mr Alikor Victor, Columnist and Economic Analyst with Business Day, urged men to join hands to fight gender inequality in Nigeria and never to see women’s economic empowerment as a threat.
Entrepreneur and Leadership Coach, Emmanuel Musa, said Nigeria was growing at a fast pace and encouraged women to unleash their potential in their various fields.
He said as of today, there were many women Chief Executive Officers of banking institutions and women were gradually benefitting more from entrepreneurship opportunities than men.
“It is no longer news that women are gradually occupying laudable leadership positions and part of decision making in various organisations, agencies and government parastatals,” he said.
He encouraged women globally to believe in themselves and continue to dream big, adding that delay was not denial.
Besides, he urged them to stop hating one another; rather, they should help themselves to rise and make an impact.