You’re wrong Kazaure, empowering women is key to Nigeria’s success
On March 8 the achievements of women were celebrated all over the world as part of International Women’s Day. IWD has been marked since the early 1900s and was recognised by the United Nations in 1975. As well as celebrating the social, economical and political achievements of women, it also draws attention to women’s rights issues and gender parity.
The theme for this year #PressForProgress seems especially timely in light of the recent wave of support for female activism in the shape of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements
Ironic then, that it was on this day, House of Representatives member Gudaji Muhammed Kazaure chose to give a speech about the ‘dangers’ of giving women ‘too much opportunity.’
Kazaure, who represents the Kazaure/Roni/Gwiwa/Yankwashi constituency in Jigawa state, told the house that while it was ‘good to give women opportunities’ because ‘they play a good role in our lives’ by ‘taking care of our lives, cooking and taking care of children,’ but he was fearful that giving women opportunity outside the home would mean women would ‘capture everything’ and ‘overthrow’ men.
He went on to say that despite owing his own political success to women voters, who gave him ‘60-70% of his votes’ that if the Chamber comprised of mostly women, they would ‘mess it up.’
The speech, and some of the responses to it, show that in some circles in Nigeria, the fear of truly empowered women still runs deep. A woman who is liberated financially, socially and sexually is something to be feared, in case it renders men obsolete.
The idea that women should be ‘given’ opportunities because of the ‘good’ role they play in men’s lives and through domestic work is as flawed as it is condescending and reveals a one dimensional way of viewing women.
News flash, women are not simply additions to the lives of men, we have our own goals, our own lives and our own purpose. Opportunities should not be ‘given’ because women are ‘good’ to men or because some women facilitate the needs of the men in their lives, women should be afforded equal access to opportunities because it is what decent, just, democratic societies are based on.
His concern, that if more women understood political dynamics would vote him out, is telling. Why, if he were putting the needs of his constituents first as he should be doing in the first place, would he be voted out?
Perhaps most exasperatingly was his assertion that ‘If you give women the opportunity to take over this chamber, they will mess up.’ Not only is this misogynistic, it’s false.
Since Nigeria’s Independence 58 years ago, the country has been ruled exclusively by men. There has never been a female president, or a female vice president. Currently there are no female governors, 10 female members of the House of Representatives (out of 360) and 7 female senators (out of 106). We only have to look at the statistics to see how well the country has fared as a result.
Though it can’t be definitively proven that female leadership would have impacted the country for the better, many studies have proven that empowering women at all levels leads to positive change for communities and society as a whole.
Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF said in a 2016 speech that empowering women ‘can be an economic game changer for any country’“For instance, if women were to participate in the labor force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by 5 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Japan, and 27 percent in India.” What kind of that impact have in Nigeria?
“To put it differently,” she said “If you discourage half the population from fully participating in the labor market, you are essentially behaving like an airline pilot who shuts down half his engines in mid-flight. Sure, your plane will likely continue to fly, but it would be such a crazy thing to do.”A 2016 article published by Mckinsey argued that organizations with increased gender diversity had better overall performance and morale. In the political sphere UN women says that increased female participation in ‘decision making processes improves them’
Kazaure’s speech, drew laughter from the audience, some of whom were women, which is another sad reminder of the current state of affairs. The 2017 Global Gender Gap report ranked Nigeria 122 out of 144 falling 6 places from its 2016 ranking. It’s hard to see what’s amusing about that, ironically though, the joke is on the country because by not empowering women, Nigeria is the one short-changed.
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