Female leaders handle countries’ economies better -Okigbo-Udebiuwa


The National President of the Soroptimist International of Nigeria, Mrs. Bona Okigbo-Udebiuwa, says the country’s economy will experience a dramatic change if women are given the opportunity to hold the reins of governance.
For Okigbo-Udebiuwa, having a female president will help Nigeria’s economy to become stable as it’s being experienced in other countries around the world where women have been at the helm of affairs.
“Yes, the time has come for Nigeria to allow a woman to emerge as the president. In countries around the world where women are the leaders, they have more stable economies,” she says.
Citing the example of her own legal profession, she argues that, although female lawyers are as many as their male counterparts, the number of female Senior Advocates of Nigeria is “appallingly low.”
She, however, expresses delight at the number of female judges and magistrates, saying it’s very encouraging.
On the rate at which Nigerian women have waded through in the male-dominated society, she says that many of them have made tremendous progress in spite of the traditional and cultural hurdles usually placed on their ways.
“Today, every profession has women in leading positions; in academics, we have female vice chancellors, professors and heads of departments; in journalism, editors and publishers; in various professions, we have female lawyers, judges, magistrates, accountants, surveyors, dentists, doctors, in the military, the police, customs and immigration; in banks, insurance companies, industries and commerce,” she says.
The solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Okigbo-Udebiuwa, is, however, of the opinion that the system must provide women a level playing field.
“Despite the increase in the number of career women in recent years, the fact remains that for most women, the choice still remains or has to be between family life and public life. If a woman p l a n s properly, she can combine both her job and home beautifully.
“I believe that it is easier for a married woman to become successful quicker than a single woman, because in many marriages the husband gives advice and both parties are able to plan ways to succeed. Two heads are better than one rings true when married couples cooperate,” she notes.
She explains that a woman can achieve her full potentials by working hard at whatever she is doing and remains focused on her desired goal.
“Soroptimists use their global voice, calling for better access to education and leadership for women and girls, with the focus of transforming the lives of women and girls, locally, nationally and globally, through education, empowerment and enabling opportunities across different spheres of human life,” she adds. Okigbo-Udebiuwa also decries the rise in the incidence of gender discrimination and sexual abuse, stressing that such social vices have nothing to do with love, flirting or compliments. She says her organisation’s objectives include assisting victims of sexual abuse to regain psychological stability through support, free of charge, while keeping the victim’s identity.
Okigbo-Udebiuwa also puts the statistics of girls and women around the world who have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting at approximately 130 million girls, with more than 3 million girls in Africa, annually, at risk of the practice.
She further bemoans a situation where over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, especially in South Asia (31.3 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).
“Violence and abuse characterise married life for many of these girls. Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife,” the lawyer says.
She also frowns on human trafficking, especially of the female gender, saying, “According to statistics, 80 per cent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Within countries, many more women and girls are trafficked, often for purposes of sexual exploitation or domestic servitude.”Quotation The Soroptomist president further notes that many survivors of sexual assault or rape have been attacked by a family member or an acquaintance, making it difficult for them to report to the authorities.
“In the aftermath of a sexual assault, everyone reacts differently such as shock and denial, fear and anxiety, feeling unable to talk about it, depression, guilt, insecurity, nightmares and flashbacks, mood swings, and fear of intimacy, among others,” she says.
Okigbo-Udebiuwa, therefore, urges the Federal Government and other concerned bodies to fast-track the enactment of the Bill sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu in 2013 in the National Assembly.
She says that the proposed act will make provision for what constitutes sexual offences, its definition, prevention and protection of all persons from harmful and unlawful sexual acts.
Reeling out the successes already recorded by the NGO in Nigeria, Okigbo-Udebiuwa says, “It has two nursery and primary schools for the children of low income families in the areas where the schools are located. The Braille Centre for the blind is located at the University of Lagos; the donation of mammogram machines to the University Teaching Hospital; construction of boreholes; the adoption of schools for the handicapped; donations to orphanages and old people’s homes and the Soroptimists scholarships that many girls have received over the years.”
She, however, acknowledges the supportive role her husband has been playing in the organisation.
On a lighter mood, Okigbo-Udebiuwa’s fashion style is African.
She says although the black formal wear tends to be her usual outfit, due to her legal profession, she is more at home with native Nigerian prints for the other days.
Okigbo-Udebiuwa adds that she personally designs and sows her native dresses, being a hobby she engages in whenever she has the opportunity.
She also says she retires to watching inspiring television programmes with her family after their daily activities.