Gender Equality is a Win for All

In almost every society of the world, gender inequality at various levels prevents women and girls from reaching their full potential. This is not only hinders the development of women and girls, it also prevents societies, especially in the developing world from reaching their full potential. 

"Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance."

- Kofi Anan

In Nigeria and most parts of the world girls are usually taught to cook, take care of the household and repeatedly told their roles end in the kitchen. There is also gender disparity in education; according to United Nations, about 10.5million children are out of school in Nigeria, out of which 6.3million are girls.

When Fatima was a little girl, she always had lots of questions in her mind, she didn’t quite agree with the social norms that propagates discrimination against women and girls. While she was 15, her parents told her that they will be marrying her off soon. She asked, “Why?” “Because it’s normal for you to get married at this age and everyone does it. She didn’t think that was a good enough reason and she bluntly refused. Her tenacity and determination surprised her parents. Other parents could have forced the girl into marriage, but her parents didn’t. Fatima went on to achieve her dreams of becoming a journalist, she eventually got married at 24.

"When the world invests in women and girls. Everybody wins"

UNICEF says there is gender equality when women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.”

Although there are existing policies on women and girls’ right in Nigeria such as National Gender Policy, published research show that these policies are not well translated into action most especially at community level. For women in many communities in Nigeria, access to basic health services and economic opportunities is still limited.

Gender equality is not strictly limited to creating advantages for women. "Gender equality" means simply that every human has access to the same benefits, which is why equality affects everyone.

Gender equality in key to the social development of any country. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, labour market and representation in governance and decision-making is not about outshining men or making them inferior. It is a social development towards creating a productive society and achieving sustainable development goals.

Today, Fatima supports her family, she is not dependent on her husband and everyone is happy. She is also a source of inspiration to so many other young women and girls. She is teaching women to ditch stereotypes and traditions that relegate women to the ground.

Unfortunately, the battle to end discrimination against women still goes on in many parts of the country because it is deeply rooted in cultures and traditions. To fight gender inequality in our society, it is important for civil society organizations to collaborate with the government and private sector to develop and implement policies that will empower girls, ensure elimination of harmful practices, close the gender gap, develop initiatives that improve wellbeing and promote support (such as Safe spaces) and invest more in girl’s education, invest in the health sector especially primary health care where most women resort to antenatal care.

Mary Adeoye

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