It is time to start a rigorous data based conversation about the future of Nigerian girls and it is our collective responsibility to get women working again.
Nigerian women and girls consistently do worse in every indicator of human development than boys, even women and girls in countries with similar level of development as Nigeria. Maternal mortality, gender-based violence, low employment opportunities, low educational opportunities all combine to make life worse of for 80.2 million Nigerians. A recent report on the state of Nigeria’s women states that, of the 6 million annual entrants into the Nigerian formal labour market, only 200,000 women are able to find employment. The report further states that women in Nigeria have significantly worse life chances than men.
With facts like “Hausa girls are 35% are less likely to go to school than Yoruba boys,” and “60-79% of the rural work force is women but men are five times more likely to own land” it is clear that our country is worse of for women than it is for men and this is further exacerbated by facts.
Unfortunately all macro attempts to correct this uneconomic and immoral bias in the past have been major failures. The Nigerian Gender Policy was not successful and neither were all the international charters and conventions to eliminate discrimination that Nigeria has been party to. There is an urgent need to change strategies so that the current generation of women isn’t left behind and that future generations do not face the same glaring lack of opportunities as girls’ today face. In short, we need to get Nigerian girls running our world!
There are many micro and macro strategies out there. On a macro level, Rwanda requires that 35% of all parliamentary seats be women and the country has had incredible growth in the last decade. While an emphatic causal link cannot be made between women in leadership positions and economic growth, these two variables manage to record a positive correlation in most contexts. Other pundits peddle dubious and disingenuous claims that erotic capital is the hidden ingredient in getting women to succeed at work, never mind all the data that shows how wrong this sort of shortsighted and ridiculous strategy often is. It is imperative that old, hurtful and unhelpful ideas be struck from public discourse and those who peddle such for whatever reason be dissuaded from further hurting the miniscule progress that Nigeria has made in the gender equality frontier. We also need rather urgently, new proven ideas to get Nigerian women, if not running the world, to at least have equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
One of the best ways of empowering women is to give them economic opportunities through education and equal access to capital. As a country, we need different forms of micro credits available to women like M-Peapea, Nai-Nai and many others. We need to improve women’s access to land especially in the rural areas by engaging in the reform of the land use act. Even more importantly we need to protect the health and physical being of all Nigerian girls and women.
On an individual level, women already in the formal labor force need to be encouraged to pursue bigger and better opportunities at work. A recent report by Mckinsey and Company identified the five most important skills top women executives say were important to their success. These skills were a robust work ethic, results orientation, resilience, persistence in getting feedback, and team leadership.” The coworkers and bosses of the 200 women executives were surveyed and they stated, “These women tend to adapt to environments in which they operate and overcame extraordinary challenges through stamina and sheer grit.” These are the skills it takes to reach the top in companies such as MasterCard, Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola. This is what the data says and it is quite clear.
Investing in women and empowering women to invest in themselves is a sound economic and moral choice. It is time to start a rigorous data based conversation about the future of Nigerian girls and it is our collective responsibility to get women working again.