The Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet), and Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI) have advocated support for women in leadership amidst Covid-19, highlighting the need for gender-inclusive policies in Nigeria.
This call was made at a stakeholders’ dialogue organized in commemoration of the 2021 International Women’s Day on Thursday, 18 March 2021, at the Benue Centre for Enterprise Development & Innovation (BENCEDI) Auditorium in Makurdi, Benue State capital, Nigeria.
The stakeholders dialogue convened participants from various civil society organisations, the media, health practitioners, students of tertiary institutions, and representatives of ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of the Benue State Government.
The Executive Director of GERI, Ms. Elizabeth Jeiyol, who represented CSDevNet gave a broad explication of the purpose of the International Women’s Day and stakeholders’ dialogue.
“International women’s day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality”.
“The stakeholders dialogue’s theme is in line with this year’s theme for the International Women’s Day, “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.
Elizabeth called on women to always support other women and reiterated the need for collective action, involving men, to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality for a more equal, more inclusive and more sustainable future.
Engr. Dondo Ahire, the Benue State Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, gave accolade to the organizers for conducting the stakeholders’ dialogue.
He stated that women are the key pillars to the growth of nations and should be celebrated and involved in decision-making processes.
Mrs. Annas Anzan, who represented Mrs. Tabitha Igirgi the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, also appreciated the organizers for recognizing the need to celebrate women and commended the men for participating in a collective dialogue for equality in the society.
Mrs. Beatrice Shomkegh, a development expert, emphasized on the need to address the glaring issues bordering on social norms, stereotypes and socioeconomic structures that are still hindering the attainment of women in leadership position, especially in our socio-political context.
She said questions around notions that exacerbate bias against women need to be addressed and there is a need for the inclusion of women and girls in the post-COVID-19 recovery processes.
Mr. Tine Agernor, the Programme Manager of Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF) spoke on “the role of men in facilitating the inclusion of women in leadership and decision making”.
He addressed key issues around patriarchy, religion, culture, common humanity, positive masculinity, harmful gender norms, and breaking the culture of silence, which are key determinants exacerbating or de-escalating bias in the society.
Tine urged every participant to start applying certain principles of equality at their own spaces and advised them against “allowing genitals to determine equality in the society”, as women are more than capable of doing the things human beings are socialized into believing they are gendered.
The stakeholders’ event, amongst speeches and presentations, also highlighted story-telling and life experience sharing of the participants.
During this session, a woman who was a former contestant for the Ado Constituency of the Benue House of Assembly took participants through her journey through the muddy waters of politics when she contested for the state legislative seat.
She gave a narrative of how even her spouse was against her ambition and other women as well, who instead of supporting her, were against her.
“The attitude of women not supporting women is one of the key loopholes that the society leverages on to deny women of their rights”.
Mrs. Hannah Ikyernum, the 1st Vice Chairperson (North-Central) of the Women’s Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria (WOWICAN) gave a contradicting narrative of how her spouse inspired her to become what she is today.
She called on the men present to emulate and learn from her husband exemplary character that molded her into becoming the woman she has is today.
Several participants shared experiences on the challenges of inequality and how they have continued to scale through these challenges.