Gender equality: NGO tackles barriers against gender inequality

A public health non-governmental organisation, Nigeria Health Watch (NHW), is bringing to the fore, the barrier that gender inequality continues to pose to the realisation of rights and access to opportunities for girls and women in Nigeria.

Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director, NHW, said this on Wednesday in Abuja, at the beginning of a two-day Future of Health Conference (FHC), convened by the organisation.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  reports that the 2021 FHC is the seventh edition of this annual conference convened by the NHW.

This year’s conference will focus on Gender Equality for Sustainable Development, with the theme “Breaking Glass Ceilings”.

Ihekweazu noted that the unequal status of women and girls in Nigeria is underlined by structural and systemic inequalities.

The NHW Managing Director added that gender equality is a vital issue for all Nigerians, and as such, solutions to ensure that all women and girls have access to the same opportunities available to men and boys have, must be prioritised. This, she said, requires an all-of-society approach.

“As we all know, Nigeria’s population is above 200 million, and by 2050 we will be the third most populous country in the world. So that is a very worrying statistic that needs to be addressed.

“Gender equality is one of those issues that has not received adequate attention, especially in a country like Nigeria,” she noted.

She also highlighted the health issues that Nigerian women face, noting the poor level of attention and resources to these. This, she said, can be associated with the inadequate number of women in leadership positions.

Ihekweazu said that globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation.

“Women remain unrepresented in leadership positions in finance, politics and governance. Women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader.

“At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. Nigeria is not left behind in the fight for gender equality,” she said.

She stressed that In 2006, Nigeria developed a National Gender Policy (NGP), designed to build a just society devoid of discrimination, harness the full potential of all social groups regardless of sex or circumstance, promote and protect the health, social, economic and political well-being of all citizens to achieve equitable rapid economic growth.

However, 15 years after its creation, the NGP has not been implemented, she said.

“Women and girls’ health and access to healthcare are of particular importance, because, in many societies, they are disadvantaged by discrimination rooted in sociocultural factors.

“For example, women and girls face increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Some of the sociocultural factors that prevent women and girls from accessing quality health services and attaining the best possible level of health include unequal power relationships between men and women.

“Structural barriers that limit access to educational opportunities and paid employment opportunities; an exclusive focus on women’s reproductive roles; and the experience of gender-based violence,” she explained.

The Managing Director noted that gender inequality and discrimination have put the health and well-being of women and girls in the country at risk.

Speaking on the annual event, she said that the FHC uses the conference, now on for the seventh year, to discuss health issues in Nigeria and push for policy action to ensure that Nigerians have equitable access to quality healthcare.

NAN reports that in the last six years, FHC conferences have focused on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Health and Technology, Business of Health, The Diaspora as Nigeria’s Brain Gain, Quality in healthcare, and Innovation: Improving health and scaling up healthcare access. (NAN)