AfriHeritage: Advancing Gender Advocacy through Policy Dialogue

The 3rd Afriheritage Policy Dialogue has taken a critical look at the burning issue of gender parity in Nigeria and its direct impact on the social, economic and political development of the nation. The event which was recently hosted at the Institution’s Seminar Room and moderated by its Executive Director, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, the Dialogue featured Dr. Stan Ukeje, a fellow of the Institution, and Dr. Cynthia Nwobodo, an expert on gender issues from the Gender and Development Policy Centre, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Okeke-Uzodike noted that engaging in the gender disparity discourse at this time is important because ample evidence exists that countries that have tackled this issue reasonably well have generally prospered. He said “it is rare to think of societies that have achieved peace, social justice and prosperity without addressing gender challenges”. Speaking further, he stressed, “Where there is gender gap and social injustice, there is always a conflict which is either obvious or embedded in the system. The issue of bridging gender gaps is a fairly new phenomenon around the world spanning the last 100 years, when women started to gain access to the political system and play more important roles within their political economies. It is therefore important to discuss gender disparity causes and impact on social, political and economic development in Nigeria in order to underscore salient points that will form part of our policy recommendation to the government.”

The Dialogue x-rayed the role that men play as fathers in achieving gender balance especially in the home, the varied and complementary roles of mothers and the dysfunctionalities inherently found in these somewhat stereotypical functions that culturally reinforce gender disparity. It sought to redefine gender in clearer perspectives to encapsulate the responsibilities an individual owes the society by virtue of being a man or a woman. It lamented that societies have constructed gender roles for men and women based on cultural and religious beliefs, undermining the peculiar abilities of individuals to access some life opportunities. The Dialogue denounced the practice in some cultures, like the Igbo culture, where the boy child is preferred and revered, with some privileges conferred on them which often leads to parents and society doing little or nothing to improve them, noting that such children invariably grow up with a sense of superiority, entitlement and an inheritance mindset and they end up shortchanging themselves and the society by performing below their potentials.

The Dialogue concluded that individuals need to start thinking of themselves as having equal opportunities and being responsible members of the society not minding their sex. On the premise of this personal awareness, female and male members of the society must be integrated to ensure equitable development. It recommended gender mainstreaming as an essential process towards ensuring the participation of women in decision making, and called on the government to publish on regular basis, statistics showing the benefits that will accrue from a gender-balanced society as a way of increasing public awareness on the critical importance of gender parity.