Communique of the Big Ideas Podium on Gender Disparity and Underdevelopment in Nigeria

Communique of the Big Ideas Podium on Gender Disparity and Underdevelopment in Nigeria, held on Tuesday September 24, 2019, at the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), 54 Nza Street, Independence Layout, Enugu. 

INTRODUCTION

The Big Ideas Podium is a national platform for public policy debates on burning and salient issues that affect or shape development or governance in Nigeria and beyond. It encourages the deployment of both intellectual and empirical insights as it scrutinizes societal and national problems with a view to developing shared understandings of, and proffering recommendations for policies or solutions to social, economic, governance and political challenges facing Nigeria and the African continent

The theme of the September 24, 2019 edition of the program is Gender Disparity and Underdevelopment in Nigeria. It was aimed at understanding how gender inequality affects various dimensions of development of the Nigerian society i.e. social, political, economic, etc. spheres. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, a notable human rights campaigner, gender activist and the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative. Participants at the event included people from the academia, the media, professional groups and other women organizations.

Observations

1.      The term "gender" has almost completely become synonymous with "female", and each time the term is used, the intention has always been to mirror "woman" or younger females within the social context. "Gender" has been rarely used whenever the "man" or the male is the subject in focus. Hence, the term has almost become only contextually relevant when there is a need to socially highlight the "who" in the circumstance.

2.      Gender disparity means not having equality in terms of gender, either in language use, equal participation in educational programme or in the form of textbook or curriculum itself. Gender inequality on the other hand is a broader concept. It is a result of the persistent discrimination of one group of people based upon gender and it manifests itself differently according to race, culture, politics, country, and economic situation.

3.      Gender development index is the extent to which a country promotes equality in achievements between its men and women. Countries with high gender development indices (which mean that achievements between men and women are near equal) have been known to do better in overall development. By contrast, countries with low gender development index (those with wide disparity in achievement between men and women) have continued to remain at the bottom of the development ladder.

4.      One of the major drivers of under-development in Nigeria is the lack of commitment on the part of political actors to gender balancing. Gender balancing ensures that men and women are represented equally in social, economic and political spheres of life.

5.      The National Assembly has failed to consent to the clamour for gender equality which poses a substantial constraint to equality among men and women in the country.

6.      Constraints to gender equality include socio-cultural constraints, legal constraint and political constraints. Some of the challenges confronting women include a biased belief system, illiteracy, repugnant culture and traditions, sex stereotypes, poor economic base for women, and low participation of women in politics.

Recommendations

1.      Solutions to gender disparity should include the empowerment of women; the provision of adequate opportunities for women to develop their potentials and contribute to the development of the nation in particular and the world in general.

2.      Education of the girl-child should be prioritized. The social pressures on females such as early marriage and other extraneous factors and religious practices which hinder the progress of women should be discouraged.

3.      Nigerian government should commit to the UN’s planet 50-50-Step it up for Gender Equality to ensure equal political representation and decision making by 2030,

4.      Establishment of Gender-Equity Commission: As a regulatory body to monitor due compliance of gender commitments by the various tiers of government – Including minimum 35% women representation at all levels in line with national policy.

5.      Funds should be set up for women in politics to promote their campaign and election into positions in government.

6.      Concerted efforts should be made to end violence against women and trafficking of women and girls.

7.      Civil society organizations and NGOs must remain proactive in the call to action for gender parity.