Nigerian women constitute an oft-ignored demography, especially when it comes to the formulation and enactment of policies which are specifically targeted at improving the quality of life. We have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and there are many other societal issues which affect women severely but are either not being addressed at all, or aren’t given the level of commitment required to solve them.
It is no longer news that poverty in Nigeria is endemic; however, not enough people are aware of or acknowledge the fact that poverty hits women harder, as we are often the ones at an economic disadvantage due to perceived gender roles and acts of discrimination which set many women up for a difficult life. As bleak as the situation seems for the average Nigerian woman, there are certain states which have made considerable progress towards correcting these many ills and providing better opportunities for women and girls by making deliberate efforts to tackle challenges which are peculiar to us.
Life is the most important of all; no policies – no matter how well-intentioned – can be of any real impact to women if efforts are not made to improve healthcare, which has a direct impact on everything else. If maternal mortality, for instance, is not urgently addressed and reduced to the barest minimum, the number of women with potential to engage in economic activities will continue to decrease. Therefore, for women to be productive – both at home and in business – they have to be healthy, and this is one area where many APC states have made considerable progress.
Lagos, for instance, took a hands-on approach to maternal mortality with the establishment of well-equipped mother and child centres across the state. This improved accessibility to healthcare for pregnant women and infants, and the eight years of the Fashola administration saw a drastic reduction in the maternal mortality rate. Going a step further, that government also established skill acquisition centres specifically for women, with varying degrees of knowledge for different skills so that level of education would not be a barrier to learning how to make a living.
In a similar vein, Ekiti – during Fayemi’s administration – had the lowest maternal mortality rate in the country. Then, the state partnered with international agencies to execute a healthcare programme which reached women at the grassroots. This yielded brilliant results, and the state went even further with the Equal Opportunity Bill, which was the first of its kind in the country. This bill prohibited discrimination of any kind against any one, and by extension protected widows, the disabled, and all other groups of people who are often on the receiving end of prejudice.
Thankfully, to the women of Kogi state, the above listed will strike a chord. This is because, once, the state had a governor who invested considerable resources in maternal care and providing workable solutions to women’s challenges. Trading in the state was “modernised” with the provision of buildings for women who sold wares by the roadside to conduct business from, thereby also reducing the spate of accidents and making earning a living a pleasant experience, as opposed to a hazardous one.
Women are also the mothers of the society; the crippling effects of the non-payment of salaries in Kogi state affect us as equally as the unemployment situation. Those of us who are civil servants are either being denied their salaries or paid ridiculous percentages, and our siblings cannot find jobs; as a combined result of these and the poor state of infrastructure, our businesses are suffering.
On education, APC states have also taken deliberate steps to close the gap between boys and girls regarding school enrolment. Kano, for instance, established girls’ schools in order to encourage more girls to go to school and Prince Abubakar Audu also made considerable efforts towards this during his previous tenure.
Women have always played a key role in changing society and once more, the brave women of Kogi state must rise to the occasion and come together to save our home by voting for the APC candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu. The choice of Audu as governor is predicated on both his antecedents and the giant strides taken regarding women development in other APC states.
Kogi cannot afford to be left out any longer; we cannot continue to look on as others develop and lamenting our woes will not fix the situation. We all have to maintain the tradition of Nigerian women turning out en masse during elections, and use our PVCs to usher in a new era of change and development.
Maryam Isah is a member of the Kogi state chapter of the APC-Young Women Forum (APC-YWF).
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