Dr. Arese Carrington
I grew up in a household where the females outnumbered the males. Ours was not a patriarchal household and my father ensured that we all got outstanding education and that the girls were given the same opportunities as the boys. The male-female dichotomy continues to haunt not just Nigeria but Africa as a whole.
There is a new awaking in Africa. Some call it Africa Rising. I call it Africa Ahead, which to me symbolises not just Africa in the future but Africa becoming the leading continent in the world. That future for Africa lies not just with the men, but most importantly with the women. Nigeria must thus lead the change in stopping the education disparity, dehumanisation and control of women.
Nigeria and Africa’s future is dependent on not discarding the role of females in the society, nor their potential to contribute economically and politically. Nigerian women, if given the opportunity, are Weapons for Massive Development.
Rwanda has harnessed this opportunity. After the genocide, the women were at the forefront of the reconstruction and emotional healing of the nation. We refer to Nigeria and Africa using the female pronoun ‘she’ and adjective ‘Motherland’ and ‘Mother-Continent’ respectively. Yet, is it not a paradox that females are not generally given that equal and important recognition and opportunity they deserve? They are bedevilled with challenges.
Before I start on education I must say that my heart goes out to the Chibok girls and all other girls who have been kidnapped for the mere reason that they were trying to get an education. Girl education in Nigeria for several years has been stifled by cultural, religious and socio-economic reasons. Mothers have pushed hard to ensure their daughters are educated and are not married off too early.
Education, including female education, is essential for development, democratic and social change. It is a means to strengthen civil society and is the bedrock of innovation. If educating females does not become the norm, then as a nation, we may be missing out on the female Marie Curie, a physicist who discovered radium and polonium or Angela Merkel, a research scientist, who is now the German Chancellor.
When we talk about healthcare, we must realise that it is crucial that we invest in it. The wealth of a nation is dependent on the health of its citizens. The challenges of maternal mortality are daunting but they must be overcome. Women do not have to die from childbirth. The World Bank 2013 data gives Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio as 560 per 100,000 live births. This must be drastically reduced till every woman can safely give birth. In finance, we need more women to take a leading role and help ensure economic growth.
We need more access to finance for women in business. Women should be allowed to have their financial security without it being seen as a threat. Inheritance laws that specifically protect women are needed. In Nigeria, widows often have no rights. They are oppressed and usually treated poorly when they lose their husbands. Widows sometimes are burdened with an inheritance of ill will and accused of being responsible for the passing of their husbands.
Laws to protect women and children should be written so there is no ambiguity, thus they cannot be misinterpreted and
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