Over the years, women have been branded with definitions associating them with the base of the ladder, constantly dependent on men and society for validation of womanhood. Statements like “she is a great manager of business but she is not married yet”, “How come her husband allowed her to work this late, who is taking care of the children” while the man can come in anytime and it is allowed or “She is over 30 with no husband and child”
With the increasing rate of women in power more than ever before, the need to promote equality in finances and policies to also favour the female gender is elusive.
Shola Mos-Shogbamimu: lawyer and women’s rights activist called out the major hindrance to women empowerment as stereotypes with societal perceptions constantly imposed on women to act or be a certain way. One starts to wonder if the 21st century is better than the traditional days of women backing babies to the farm with firewood on their heads. Women over the centuries, regardless of the society are bound by a common plague, that plague is Misrepresentation.
In the U.S, sometime in 2019, for International Women’s Day, women associated with the law and presidential candidates were interviewed on the biggest challenges facing women in the U.S. Most interviewee attested to lack of women in positions of power, sexism, and economic inequality, denial of access to equal opportunity, the increasing rate of maternal mortality and the difficulty in navigating career and motherhood. This indicates the battle that needs to be fought in closing the gap for women’s inequality.
In Nigeria, we are faced with several gender challenges, ranking 122nd out of 144 countries in closing the gender gap. Research has shown one in every three women has suffered physical or sexual abuse, earning only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work.
Women make up most of Nigeria’s unemployment and underemployment stats, yet attributing to the agricultural workforce, representing 13% of the agricultural landowners.
In highlighting the challenges women face daily in this era, the focus is on the five main challenges narrowed to occurrences and research. Which includes:
- Gender-based violence
- Economic inequality
- Political exclusion
- Education parity
- Discriminatory employment practices
According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 31% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence while 9% have experienced sexual violence. In marriage, about 36% of once-married women have suffered spousal violence and the prevalence of female genital mutilation continues to increase with an additional 20% of women between ages 15 and 49.
Violence against women continues to make a significant impact on women, and sadly to say without continuous effort to change this, it is bound to be more prominent in the future.
Findings from the United Nations Development Programme show that Nigerian women only earn 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work. Simply put a woman will get ₦7,700 for a ₦10,000 job, even with women being less than 50% of the population, they still contribute enormously to the poverty stats.
Women are mostly forced by their spouses to leave their jobs and focus on the family and children without prior consent or discussion, in some instances after maternity leaves these women are no longer retained by their companies as replacements have filled these roles. Sending them back to the unemployment market unjustly.
This is another issue faced by women in Nigeria. Only 24% of national parliamentarians were women in 2018, the Nigerian political race does not support the inclusion of women.
The Nigerian constitution on the other hand diminishes or reduces the right of expression to women, categorising them under minorities. Globally Nigeria ranks 181st out of 193 countries for female representation in parliament. In 2019, for the presidential elections out of the 73 candidates, only five females were candidates making up just 4% of the elected officials.
Accessibility to education for school-aged girls in Nigeria is low. Statistics from Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education Commission (NUBEC) showed more males enrol in basic education compared to girls. In 2019, the popular West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria had only 48.30% of the total number of females. Despite the low numbers in registration and education, Nigerian females have shown remarkable intellectual capacity passing the examination with at least five credits attributing to 50.23% of the total candidates.
Women are naturally great managers, investing in their education is an inevitable return on investment. Having more educated women in the population will in return boost the economy of the country in the nearest future.
Discriminatory employment practices
In the workspace today, the challenges women face steadily increases. The common discriminatory practices include wage parity, inadequate maternity leave, sexual harassment, and slow promotions to managerial positions.
Some women now must have some sort of sexual relations with hiring partners or managers to get jobs or even have a go at the promotional exams and in cases where they report, the issue is completely disregarded.
The increment in work output in the case of women does not translate to increased decision-making or wages, most times women are tied to assistant roles, secretaries, and many other minor roles and in cases where the chance for a more exquisite role comes, the men overshadow them.
The need for women to be included by the Nigerian government and to be protected is the right of every Nigerian woman and cannot be over-emphasized. Completely eradicating discrimination against women is not just a basic human right but also a necessity for a sustainable future for the economy.
According to McKinsey Global Institute, Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) can grow up to 23% by 2025 if women are included in the economy and given the freedom to make, take and manage decisions as men.
For this change to be seen, it takes little steps and these little steps start with every one of us. Change the narrative by being different.
Respect All Women and Girls.