Sunday, February 8, 2015

Paper Presented at the 2nd Quarterly Conference of the Emerging African Leaders Academy: 7th February,2015

Good Afternoon The organizers of the 2nd Quarterly Emerging African Leaders Conference, Fellow Non Governmental Organizations Initiators, Participants, Gentlemen of the Press.
It gives me great pleasure to be present at this year’s Emerging Africa’s Leadership Conference. I must appreciate the organizers for working so hard to put this together. This afternoon, I would be speaking on Women Empowerment and Leadership which I have termed “The Empowerment and Leadership Position of Women in the Grassroots of Edo State: The Gender Implication.” It is with great joy in my heart that I share my recent experience with everyone here present of a 3 – Day Groundbreaking Event which my Organization Society to Heighten Awareness of Women and Children Abuse (SOTHAWACA) in conjunction with the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism #Reportwomen #thevoicesofwomenintheruralcommunitiesmustbeheard project
in 5 Local Governmet Areas of Edo State (Oredo: Benin-City, Egor, Esan Central: Iruekpen, Owan East: Afuze and Okpokhumi-Emai and Etsako Central: Auchi). Basically the project was aimed at “Promoting Women’s Empowerment, Political Leadership and Governance in Edo State.” The objective of the program was aimed at addressing the issues that concern women in the grassroots communities, elected women representatives in politics especially the participation of women in the decision making process both in the homes and at work and all women including those with disabilities. We sought to inquire whether enough awareness had been created for them at the grassroots level. We delved into such issues concerning gender equality e.g. livelihood, housing, health, education, sanitation and developmental infrastructure. We also touched such sensitive issues like trafficking in women, commercial sex workers including child prostitution, rape and defilement of children and sexual harassment at the workplace.
The truth of the matter is that so many of us in this room do have great interest in our families who still reside in the grassroots. One question I always ask is “how many of us here present will truly go back to be a part of it all to make it what you would so desire? As I seek to make my presentation, I would like to leave you all with this question. My experience in the Non Governmental Organization world that operates from the grassroots, my dealings with the locals has taught me that you cannot seat on the fence if you truly want any form of development to occur in our rural communities. One thing we must all strive to do is to promise ourselves that rural communities are great and that for such magnitude of greatness to be achieved, a task must be put in place for it to be done.  And it requires our individual and collective commitment to action. Since the era of the 1995 Beijing conference, Nigeria’s participation on issues related to the empowerment and leadership position of women has been on the front burner at many conferences both nationally and internationally. This goes to show the level of seriousness the dilemma women suffer with special reference to the promotion of their rights to equal participation and representation in key decision-making at all levels particularly in our rural communities. In dealing with this we must look at how to improve on the development of the community and how best to introduce growth in order to expand or improve on the standards of living of our rural women in some way. For us to be able to determine in which way we can view development in relationship to empowerment and leadership, we can leverage on the theme of this conference which refers to Leadership and Global Opportunities. Women Development can therefore be seen from the perspective of the act or process of causing to grow the adult female person so that she would be empowered in order for her to achieve leadership and have access to global opportunities.
For us to successfully understand development, empowerment and leadership, we need to take into cognizance certain parameters as our yardstick to guide us through. The UN Millennium Goals has been set to be achieved by 2015 for all developing countries of which Nigeria is a signatory to. These goals therefore give us a context within which we can position development. The Goals cover six (6) main areas:
1. Extreme Poverty Eradication
2. Education
3. Gender Equality and Women Empowerment
4. Health Care
5. Environment Sustainability
6. Global Partnership for Development
It is worth noting that 7 out of the prescribed UN goals focus on Global Partnership for any form of development to be achievable. In this regard, we must from now on start to seek avenues on how best to attain a much wider platform or framework to help us while we think of ways to channel our needs. By so doing hopefully, we can come together as a unifying force to galvanize to action.
A Women Development Framework in Perspective
Family Unit
- Commitment to Family name/prestige/integrity
- Child – Parent relationship (Freedom of Expression)
- Discipline in the home
- Attitude to Women, Male Child, Elderly, Youth, Disabled, Dead, Extended Family Pressures
- Reward and Sanction systems - Role Modeling  
 Individual Role
 - Personal Vision
 - Mindsets
 - Approach to Life
- Lifestyle
 - Belief
 - Character
- Commitment
- Response to Peer Pressure
Religious Unit (Traditional African and Modern Religion)
- Belief Systems
- Values Instruction
- Reward Systems - Fear Levels
- Understanding of and Attitude to Consequences of Behavior
- Attitude to Sex
- Role Modeling
Educational Institutions
- Stack Illiterates
Environmental/Public Influences
-Cultural Attitudes 
-Attitude to Women, Male Child, Elderly, Youth, Disabled, Dead, Extended Family Pressures, Wealth
 - Entrepreneurship
- Can Do Attitude
- Reading Culture
- Peer Group Influences (Cults etc)
- Reward and Sanction system
- Information in Public domain o TV, Radio, Print
- Other Environmental Influences
Government Support – Federal, State and LG - (Taxation )
- Federal, State and LG - Youth policy
- Social infrastructure
- Education – Primary. Secondary, Vocational and Tertiary Inc Libraries, Information Centers
 - Health
 - Urban and Rural Planning
- Security
- Financial Systems
- Credit Financing etc
- Overall Economic Growth (Jobs, Wealth creation etc)
- Leadership by Example
Partnership for Development
- Community Partnerships
- Grassroots “Friends”
 - Intra Nigeria Partnership
- Global Partnership
All the above factors make up the Mind, Body, Character, Qualitative and Sustainable Livelihood, Responsible Adulthood of a Woman’s Development.
From all that has been said, we can see that the whole context of this framework is to represent an all inclusive approach to Development which recognizes all of the various components that contribute to development. As can be seen from the highlighted words just a few of these issues are addressed by the UN Millennium Goals. The message is simple, the development of our people is in our hands and it’s a total and not selective approach to development! With this general overview, a clear understanding of the context of empowerment and leadership position of our women in the grassroots cannot be overemphasized. In all the Local Government Areas we visited and worked in, it is important to note that the primary base on the continued entrenchment and perpetuation of our traditional cultures as characteristics of all the various stereotypes of women who permeate so many ethnic groups in the Nation using Edo State as my focal points.  Furthermore, one can say that many women have suffered and are still suffering varied traumatic experiences arising from this categorization which now has manifested itself in gender discrimination and inequality that has far more reaching implications for the empowerment and leadership positions of rural women in our rural communities.  The bedrock and corn stone of any society from which any known individual develops his/her self-concept the acquisition of a generally and socially acceptable norm which is of immense benefits to our survival is the family institution. It is an undisputed fact that women play a major role in our communities on a daily basis. Such roles can never be overemphasized when she is performing her duties as a wife and mother. She is often regarded as the mother of all living. These days mother of the nation. By nature, women have been programmed to reproduce and care for her home especially her children. For this singular reason, we can say most correctly that the role and position of a woman in any family can be characterized as expressive in the sense that they provide warmth, security and emotional support to her immediate and extended family. Essentially and effectively, her role in the socialization of young children cannot be ignored. As a mother, she contributes to the stabilization of all adult personalities not forgetting the fact that her husband is inclusive. Simply put, the instrumental roles of the men and the expressive roles of women complement each other. In lay-man’s language, they are like button and button-hole. They lock together to promote family unity and solidarity. Not forgetting that there is a genetically based predisposition that forms a close emotional bond between a mother and that child which is very critical to the overall well-being / development of the child. It is the painstaking efforts of the mother who ensures this close emotional bond is obtained otherwise the child would be unable to establish a successful relationship later in life.  This fact goes to justify the position that the learning processes of a child early in life, lies squarely on the shoulders of the mother. This is why in Edo State like in other rural communities, a child’s character whether positive or negative is always attributed to the home training. We discovered that members of the community are differentiated merely by their roles which are ranked hierarchically. What this simply means is that acts are classified either as superior or inferior. It is a common known fact that the community delineates what a man can “DO” and what a woman can “DO” noting that rewards are accrued to them respectively in terms of power, wealth and prestige. Like any other community in the Nation, the primary responsibility of the woman is centered on childcare and domestic work, while the men have the responsibility for the provision of the family livelihood. Lately these responsibilities have experienced slight alterations in that the prevailing division of labor between the sexes has led to the men and women assuming unequal positions in terms of power, wealth and prestige. In all, it is evident that the concept of gender as a socially created phenomenon attributes differing social roles and identities to men and women. Worth noting is the fact that Gender has become a factor in structuring the types of opportunities and life chance individuals and groups face, and strongly influences the roles they play within any given social institution.
I would conclude my paper by examining the changes women’s status has undergone in the light of the current socio-economic and political development in both Local Government Areas. It is quite discouraging and dissatisfying to state that there has been a sharp decrease in the number of women in active politics. As a result of this, women are not given any opportunity to play assertive roles in the process of local. Elected women representatives are just insufficient; women are used as mouthpieces of their male relatives and the empowerment of women has continued to remain at a very low percentage with each passing election. We know that there is the 35% Affirmative representation that has been put in place but it is not visible in the rural communities. The need to start preparing women who are bound to become future leaders of their rural communities is now. We need to begin to implement programs that would foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. It is sad to note that these women in the grassroots are not appreciated in all the various local governments areas visited. Great strides need to be made towards the promotion of gender equality. The social transformation is yet to be noticed in all our rural communities. The voices of our women in the rural communities need to be heard. All of us irrespective of our social strata must aim at ensuring that the involvement of women in the decision making process increases steadily. It is only after that, that we can pride ourselves in saying that Yes, we a success story.
Come with me from today and let’s all WORK OUR WALK.
Thank you all for listening and God bless you.

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