Accelerating Change For Gender Equality

The International Women’s day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women all around the world while also raising awareness on the status of women. In Nigeria today, women and girls still face limited access to employment, education, participation in governance, and access to essential and basic health services.

For over 12 years, we, at HACEY, have dedicated resources and efforts towards promoting the health, empowerment and rights of women and girls in underserved communities in Nigeria. Our work with young out-of-school girls has transformed the lives of people like Rasheeda, who had to drop out of secondary school because she got pregnant and had a baby. Through our Back on Track program, she had vocational training which enabled her to earn and take care of her baby and also learn about family planning.

We have remained committed to advocating for policy and taking action for educating, empowering women and girls in disadvantaged communities on safe and accurate information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices and vocational and digital training to young girls. We have also helped young women and girls acquire leadership skills through safe spaces where they can express themselves freely on sensitive issues like Sexual and Reproductive Health in a safe and non-judgemental environment.

Over the years, through programs and campaigns, we have worked to facilitate systems and promote policies for advocating and building the capacity of emerging young leaders to close the gender inequality gap and reach millions of girls with sustainable solutions. With our ForMeWithMe campaign, which cuts through our projects focused on girls’ rights and empowerment, we aim to reach one million girls by 2022, providing solutions through innovative interventions.

While we have seen a remarkable increase in the status of women, much work remains. Our current system does not work for women and the girl child. According to the World Bank 2018, Nigeria ranks at 118 out of 134 countries in the gender equality index. There is still a vast gap in literacy rates between young men (70.9%) and women (59.3%) in Nigeria.

Child marriage remains a colossal concern in Nigeria, with 44% of girls married off before their 18th birthday. Young girls are also more likely to be out of school than boys. Unemployment remains highest amongst women, especially young women.

If we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 of Gender Equality, we all have to push for the inclusion of women and girls and ensure full and active participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life. Ensuring equal opportunities for women and girls has a positive impact on society as a whole. It is vital to ensure everyone has access to health, financial, political and economic opportunities to build sustainable communities. We need to collectively bridge the gap of inequality in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities, end gender stereotypes and discrimination, and build a generation of equality.

On this International Women’s Day, I call on individuals, communities, governments, private sector and all stakeholders to take action to accelerate systemic change to catalyze gender equality.

Happy International Women’s day.

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