Women constitute a central focus in the socio-culture system of every nation. Many world bodies, international, non-government organizations have also established legal, administrative and institutional structure for the effective existence and survival of women and girls.
In 1995, the Beijing platform for action remains a relevant guideline for development programming. It provide for “an agenda for women’s empowerment” signed by all government that is seen as “a necessary and fundamental pre-requisite for equality, development and peace.
Despite the fact that Nigeria is a sovereign member of the United Nations and competent signatory to the above international instruments against child abuse and violence against women and girls. This intolerable social phenomenon is on the steady increase in the country and Africa at large. In fact, it is absurd to note that millions of African women are subjected daily to all forms of abuses ranging from trafficking to slavery and forced labor. This ugly situation continues in spite of the effort by law enforcement agencies, international, national and governmental authorities.
What is gender equality? The convention on the right of the women recognizes that women are to be treated in the same fair manner as men. Within the preview of this article, gender equality is the different between men and women that are socially and culturally constructed and change overtime. These differences are reflected in roles, responsibilities, access to resources, constraints, opportunities, needs, perceptions, and view held by both men and women. Thus gender is not a synonym for women, but considers both women and men and their independent relationships.
Violence against women is any act capable of damaging a woman. It involve s all act outside legal and reasonable use of a woman. It includes any act or step taken to injure the physical and mental construction of a woman. Violence against women and girls also includes all conceivable means of causing threats, battering, dowry related violence, female infariticide prenatal sex selection, forced abortion by young girls which later affects them, harmful genital mutilation, rape, sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace and in educational institutional and forced prostitutions.
Taking a look at a story of a primary five, 13 years old blessing who was entrusted to the care of her uncle by her parents before they died to help see her through school till the end of her graduation. This girl was made to do so many works at home; before she could finish her work at home is almost late for school. One fateful day, when blessing was washing some of the dirty dishes in the kitchen, her uncle busted in, carried the girl and forced her into bed and raped her. She became sore in her genital and developed severe pains and high fever as a result. When her uncle’s wife came back, the uncle lied to his wife that she became sick. When his opted to take her to see the doctor, her uncle objected but rather asked his wife to give her some paracetamol for treatment. Meanwhile, Blessing’s uncle has already threatened to kill her if she ever reveals what happened. Subsequently, her uncle raped her again and again on many different occasions. The matter only got blown open when her uncle’s wife noticed she was two weeks pregnant.
Now what do we say about contemporary African cultures. For instance, at death of a husband, a wife is made to go through widowhood ceremonies, which are often humiliating and disgraceful practices for the women. During the mourning period she is forced to stay indoors for several days or months and she is also made to do such things like shaving her hair or wearing black clothes. During this period, she is not free to manage her business or go to farm. While at the death of a wife, these same ceremonies are not imposed on the husband who has the freedom to take care of his business. Even though a ceremony will be performed, it is symbolic, without restriction, and only last for a brief period.
The issues of rape constitute one of the cruel violence against women and girls. However, despite the incessant campaign against rape, the number of rape cases still increases progressively and majority of the victims suffer and cry in silence. It is our candid opinion that government at various levels should set a functioning heart to heart centre, where people could report cases of rape and they will be encouraged. This in turn will have pave way for others to come and report similar cases and perpetrators will be put to book because these women and girls that are maltreated like this are women and girls that have multiple roles. At any given time they can be mothers, leaders, decision-makers, farmer, workers, voters, and much more. In each day these role, the ability to be educated and healthy and to enjoy opportunities and choices are critical to the attainments of the goals.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to achieving the MDGs because without these capabilities and opportunities, women are less able to reach their full potential, live a life of dignity, and be productive citizens of the nation. Gender equality helps to accelerate achievements of each goal. In addition, there is solid evidence that progress in gender equality in one goal often contribute simultaneously towards progress on a number of other development goals.
In promoting gender equality and empower women, one third of developing countries women constitute less than 10% of member of parliament . An education girl tends to become women with greater economic independent. They have an increased ability to negative and bargain in home, community and economic life.
It is time for youths to join hands in promoting the mechanism that gives women a voice in politics and governance institutions and stop any form of discrimination because these mechanism can vary widely from proportional representation system that increase the probability women will be elected , to more transparent political party selection processes, public funding for campaign and more.
In my opinion, in countries around the world, a woman in politics strengthens the credibility of democracies through their participation, reinvigorating political accountability and they contribute to improve the efficiency in policy making through their diverse perspectives. Let’s give women a voice!
This article is part of the UNYANET Millennium Development Goals blog series.
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