Women need to take charge, not ask for it - Ogun­layi

Daily Trust - - HOME FRONT - By Ruby Leo

Mu­ni­rat Ogun­layi is the deputy team leader of Voices For Change. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is set to re­lease a new re­search next week sug­gest­ing wide gaps be­tween per­cep­tions and re­al­i­ties that point to the pres­sures of be­ing a man in Nige­ria. It also de­tails im­pact of con­flict, re­li­gion and media on women and chil­dren. In this in­ter­view, Ogun­layi says gen­der eq­uity, so­cial­iza­tion and de­ci­sion mak­ing are all fac­tors that bring to the fore huge changes in Nige­ria.

Tell us about this new re­search on men’s at­ti­tudes and prac­tices to fam­ily, com­mu­nity life and re­la­tion­ships, and it be­ing cru­cial to im­prov­ing and en­cour­ag­ing more eq­ui­table re­la­tion­ships be­tween men and women. When will it be dis­sem­i­nated?

It is not a one-day af­fair to pub­li­cize this re­port. Each com­po­nent is im­por­tant. We need to pick each, do a fur­ther anal­y­sis and in­form and ed­u­cate the so­ci­ety as much as pos­si­ble. What’s Voices for Change? It is a pro­gramme funded by the UK Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment. It is de­signed with the goal of strength­en­ing and en­abling a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for girls and women to max­i­mize their po­ten­tials, pro­mote gen­der eq­uity and jus­tice.

We are work­ing to achieve re­sults in five key ar­eas. One is to build the skills of girls and women, while fo­cus­ing on at­ti­tu­di­nal change and prac­tices, es­pe­cially when it comes to gen­der equal­ity and women em­pow­er­ment. We work with re­li­gious and tra­di­tional lead­ers with fo­cus on three key norm ar­eas -vi­o­lence against women and girls, de­ci­sion mak­ing and lead­er­ship.

There are cer­tain things routed in our cul­ture, which are norms - the way we think things should be, but they ac­tu­ally need to change.

We work with boys and men as key in­flu­encers, be­cause they count. If it is only work­ing with women alone, they are not the only ones in the so­ci­ety - boys and men are part of so­ci­ety. It is only when boys and men can agree with girls and women that we can have a bet­ter so­ci­ety, a so­ci­ety that ben­e­fits all.

We work to make laws and bud­gets work for men and women. We played a strate­gic role in the pass­ing of the Vi­o­lence Against Per­sons Pro­hi­bi­tion Act by work­ing with coali­tions to have the bill passed. The next stage is to pub­li­cize it and en­gage with other states to pass it into law. Two-thirds of the states have to pass it be­fore it be­comes a gen­er­al­ized ac­cepted law.

We are en­gag­ing to pass the Gen­der and Equal Op­por­tu­nity bill with the leg­is­la­tors. And by YouWin, it is a way of mak­ing gov­ern­ment bud­get work for girls and women. We played a tac­ti­cal role to the line min­istries to en­sure this is one, and that played a very vi­tal role.

Now with a new gov­ern­ment in place, it is some­thing we want to con­tinue to en­gage and work on. What’s im­por­tant is that the bud­get works for girls and women as well as for boys and men.

We are also get­ting new ev­i­dence to in­form our poli­cies and prac­tices. The land­mark re­port fo­cus­ing on mas­culin­ity has gen­er­ated re­port on be­ing a man in Nige­ria.

How do gen­der is­sues stand in Nige­rian so­ci­ety and how are they chang­ing?

To­day is bet­ter than yesterday. I re­mem­ber in those days, you open a text­book and see di­a­gram of a man in stetho­scope, engi­neer, and then a girl in home eco­nom­ics text­book as the cook. To­day, that is chang­ing. You pick a book now, you see both gen­der be­ing rep­re­sented, not for a par­tic­u­lar pro­fes­sion. I want to be­lieve this is as a re­sult of cur­ricu­lum re­view as well as strength­en­ing our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

In terms of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions, even though we haven’t got­ten there yet, there is some im­prove­ment. In past ad­min­is­tra­tions, you see a lot of women in ap­pointive po­si­tions and you also ex­pect more from the cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

I know there’s been a kind of re­gres­sion when it comes to elec­tive po­si­tions. Dur­ing Obasanjo’s regime, I think women made up 11% of elec­tive po­si­tions. By the time it got to Jonathan’s regime, it dropped to 9%. Now we are an­a­lyz­ing, it seems to have dropped to like 5%. We ac­tu­ally ex­pected things to be in­creas­ing, which is another thing we need to look at.

When it comes to elec­tive po­si­tions, peo­ple say the men are oc­cu­py­ing space and they need to shift. I be­lieve it is not about the men shift­ing, but it is ac­tu­ally about the women ac­tively tak­ing up the spa­ces. We need to work for it and also take up the spa­ces, while the men have to work to ac­com­mo­date that flex­i­bil­ity that these po­si­tions are not meant for only men.

It is also about the po­lit­i­cal par­ties them­selves. When you an­a­lyze most man­i­festoes and look at key po­si­tions, the only thing you see is “women leader”. I didn’t see in any man­i­festoes where we have “men leader”. Why is it so? Who says a woman can’t be the leader of the po­lit­i­cal party? There is the need, and this is where some of the de­ci­sions are be­ing made, when it comes to who will be put for­ward to con­test for a par­tic­u­lar po­si­tion.

When cer­tain strate­gic de­ci­sions are be­ing made, you see women head­ing en­ter­tain­ment or mo­bi­liza­tion com­mit­tee. I’m not say­ing women can’t dance or mo­bi­lize, but what are the men do­ing- think­ing strate­gi­cally, us­ing their brain, women too have the brains to think strate­gi­cally and move the coun­try for­ward. The re­al­ity is that if the women are not there, women is­sues can­not be ad­e­quately pre­sented. When women is­sues are not ad­e­quately pre­sented, they can­not be ag­gres­sively and ad­e­quately ad­dressed, and when they are not ad­dressed, the is­sues and prob­lems will con­tinue to per­sist, and the bet­ter so­ci­ety that we are ad­vo­cat­ing for may not hap­pen.

Mu­ni­rat Ogun­layi

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