157th Inaugural: Okeke Lists Measures To Close Gender Inequity In Nigeria

Professor Elizabeth Okeke of the Department of Educational Foundations in the Faculty of Education has called for the establishment of a gender office in every institution to enlighten the public on the need for gender equity in Nigeria. Such a deliberate move, according to Professor Okeke, was long overdue to back up the sustained agitation by feminists for women to be fully integrated into every facet of national development. She submitted that a country in which one gender suppressed the other would neither know peace nor witness accelerated development.

Delivering the 157th Inaugural Lecture entitled, Education and Society: Overcoming the Gender Divide in the Nigerian Setting, at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium last Thursday, Professor Okeke called for urgent review of existing customary laws, aggressive reorientation, targeted empowerment programmes and institutional reforms as some of the ways of curbing gender inequity that result in negative consequence for society.

“In recognition of the need to incorporate everyone into development programmes, the government should press further to establish a Gender Office in every established operating institution. All existing customary laws that operate against the constitutional provisions on the maintenance of gender equality, including those related to violence against women and marital rape should be revisited immediately,” the 157th Inaugural Lecturer submitted.

Professor Okeke identified a number of factors that promote gender bias in Nigeria to include weak legislative and constitutional frameworks, in-built societal ideologies, inadequate implementation of national gender policies, discriminatory cultural traditions, religion, illiteracy, parental preference and the outdated colonial system of education still in operation in Nigeria.

The Professor of Sociology of Education listed near total male domination of economic engagements, violence against women, low female participation in political activities, and other related socio-cultural factors as major indicators of gender divide in Nigeria. She explained that a combination of social, cultural, religious and political elements contributed to further under-exploit, under-develop and under-utilise the full potentials of women in the country.

“The country's prevailing social arrangements and some obnoxious cultural practices that still promote male supremacy and decision-making on critical issues, especially as they affect women, still pose serious challenges to societal progress, with regard to full identification and development of the full potentials of women. For instance, the men still lead in many, if not all clans and communities, without regard to the importance of unlimited assistance and pieces of advice given to them by their female counterparts,” Professor Okeke lamented.

Decrying the current trends of women representation in the political space, Professor Okeke disclosed that out of 469 legislative positions in the country, male legislators occupied 93.8 per cent, while female legislators accounted for only 6.18 percent. She warned that such a glaring disparity in the distribution of political power would not result in harnessing all available human resources to achieve accelerated national development. The 157th Inaugural Lecturer also bemoaned the few slots allocated to women with respect to the deputy governorship position in Nigeria. Professor Okeke further lamented that only six states currently allocated such an important political office to women without clearly defined statutory roles.

“For instance, the percentage of women currently occupying deputy governorship seats in Nigeria is only 16.7 percent. The six states are: Osun, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Enugu. All these states are in Southern Nigeria,” she said, pointing out under the current dispensation, no woman occupied the office of deputy governor in the entire 19 states of Northern Nigeria.

On how to correct the observed gender divide and restore balance, the 157th Inaugural Lecturer recommended aggressive gender education to enlighten the public. She described gender education as “essential aspects of the curriculum contents that equip males and females with the knowledge of their body constituents that necessitated their being differentiated as masculine and feminine, resulting to their role differentiation and assignment, all of which continue to affect their self-concepts, social relationships, choices and priorities, amongst other things.”

Professor Okeke submitted that with gender education, women would be bold enough to develop self-control, care for their health, defend and safeguard themselves in the company of men without much dependence. She added that proper knowledge of gender education would expose men and women to sexuality education that would bring about mutual respect for one another.

Citing one authority, the Inaugural Lecturer stated that “sexuality education aims to develop and strengthen the ability of children and young people to make conscious, satisfying, healthy and respectful choices regarding relationships, sexuality and emotional and physical health.”

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, described the lecture as one of the most radical presentations ever made in the University. “While we are in sympathy with the women as they battle the men for equality, I must hasten to add that women are their own worst enemies when it comes to positioning themselves for privileges. I can boldly say that the competition amongst women is more contentious than that between them and men.

“Our intake over the years seems to favour the female students more as they are always on the increase. So, the demographics which the Inaugural Lecturer showed us as against the womenfolk are changing rapidly in their favour,” the Vice Chancellor said. He commended Professor Okeke on her presentation, hoping that relevant government agencies would implement some of her recommendations.

He announced that Professor Andrew Obafemi of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management in the Faculty of Social Sciences, will deliver the 158th Inaugural Lecture entitled, Transiting Unhabitable Habitats to Sustainable Smart Urbans: The Place of Geospatial Mapping and Technologies on Thursday, May 30, 2019.


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