Not too long ago, I was in a discussion in which some female friends asserted that this was a woman’s world and that men just live in it. I could not but agree with them. These were ladies who have never lacked anything in their lives. They came from what you would call privileged backgrounds. They did not know what it meant for a father to refuse to send a girl-child to school because the family could not afford to pay the fees of all the children, and since a girl would get married and take another man’s name, she could as well make the sacrifice for her male sibling.
They grew up seeing their fathers pander to every desire of their mothers. They were ferried to school out of Nigeria very early and never experienced the deprivations that girls suffer when they manage to make it to school. They grew up to the beck and call of loads of drivers, stewards, nannies and bodyguards. In the very unlikely event of a car ever breaking down, the driver broke the sweat or at worst, they called dad, or brother or boyfriend or lately, husband to come and deal with it while they hopped on the next taxi home, even unable to wait for another driver to pick them up.
Marriage to people like these is nothing more than a contract or business relationship. If it works, so be it, if not, what the heck. There are no eternal sacrifices. The guy would not dare raise his hands against them and they never worry about infidelities or any other kind of misbehaviour. “Let him just try it”, they would say, assuring you that he would pay heavily for it in such a way that he possibly would never recover.
So how do you blame these kind of people when they say that the world belongs to them? They live in a world which is oblivious of the travails that poor sisters suffer all over the world. They are insulated from the stories of millions of girl-children who are out of school all over the world. They very likely never of the story of 12-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and left for dead by Pakistani extremists for daring to speak up for education. They do not hear of girls, barely out of diapers who are forced into marriage. They do not know about women who have suffered untold consequences from philandering husbands, women who have lost their lives from the physical, emotional and psychological abuses from men. They do not know about diseases that ravage women as a result of forced marriage or the risks that hundreds of thousands of women are exposed to just because they get pregnant and are about to bring children forth. They do not seek employment from anyone neither are they interested in politics and so they are unaware of the reality of the glass ceiling or the discrimination that limit the aspirations of women. They are just in a world of their own and cannot empathise with women who are not in luck as they are.
But in the real world where you and I live, life is much harder for the female gender. dosomething.com, a United States of America based not-for-profit platform for young people and social change, quoting Amnesty, gives some statistics that we should consider. In an article with entitled: “11 facts about women around the world”, the platform informed that one woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth every 90 seconds in the world with about 80 percent of these deaths, which mostly happen in developing countries, preventable.
The report also indicates that violence against women increases during pregnancy and that women make up 80 percent of all refugees and displaced people all over the world. This is as a result imply that Instruments of genocide such as sexual violence and rape are often directed at women and girls.
The report goes further to show that in spite of the fact that women make about 50 percent of the global population, they fill less than 20 percent of parliamentary seats all over the world.
While more than 16.4 Million women are infected with HIV/AIDS in the world, the report showed that girls are five more times likely to be HIV-positive than boys, just as women make the majority of persons smuggled illegally across country borders with a large number sold into the sex industry by their family members.
Possibly most striking is the report that women account for 70 percent of the global population living in absolute poverty meaning less than $1.00 a day. How then can it be a woman’s world?
Those at home with the situation of things in Nigeria would very readily agree to the fact that things are difficult for the female gender here. Just two days ago, THE PUNCH published the report of a man who confessed to having raped his daughter because a spirit told him to do so, so bizarre is the rate at which incest occurs in our society these days. This current story is happening while Nigerians are just recovering from the shocking experience of the torture and sodomizing of three ladies in the Ejigbo area of Lagos about one year ago. One of the women eventually lost her life as a result of the severity of the torture.
According to the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, an average of 45 women died from pregnancy complications every day between January and March 2013. This makes Nigeria possibly the worst case of maternal deaths in the world. It is also important to note that for every maternal death, twenty other women suffer short or long-term disabilities like obstetric fistula, ruptured uterus, paralysis and other complications
Experts believe that these mortalities and morbidities are largely due to poverty and lack of education which manifest in malnutrition, harmful traditional beliefs, ignorance, lack of access to hospitals and skilled personnel among many others.
So what is Nigeria doing to improve the access of women to education knowing that education would make girls knowledgeable family planners, competent mothers, more productive and better paid workers, informed citizens, confident individuals and skilful decision makers? I would say not much at the moment.
Between 60 and 70 percent of the 46 million illiterate adults in Nigeria are believed to be women. And of the 10.5 million children who are said to be out of school in Nigeria, it is believed that not less than 60 percent are girls. How this would improve in the very near future is totally uncertain especially given that most of the girls who are currently out of school in Nigeria are from the northern part of the country where the Boko Haram insurgency and traditional practices like child marriage makes any educational revolution unlikely.
But that can only continue for long to the eternal peril of our nation. As Former United States Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton wrote in her preface to “Global Women’s Issues: Women in the World Today”, a publication of the US Department of States Bureau of International Information Programs, not giving women, equal opportunities to grow “…offends our basic sense of justice and fairness. But it is unacceptable for another reason too — because it keeps countries from making real progress in creating jobs, sparking economic growth and giving all their people an opportunity to create a better future. No country can advance when half its population is left behind. In short, women around the world sustain families, build communities and knit the social fabric together”
As we celebrate another edition of the International Women’s Day on Saturday, I suggest that we all reflect on ways in which we can inspire change towards positively affecting the issues that militate against the progress of women. The National Assembly should pass the Violence Against Persons and Gender Equality Opportunity Bills currently before it even as the executive arm at the three levels of government must redouble effort at reducing the burden of illiteracy in the land. For any country to attain its potentials in today’s world, all hands, whether they belong to men or to women must be on deck and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
Adedokun, a Lagos based PR practitioner wrote in via [email protected]