Most times, the Nigerian woman is denied her right to womanhood and her dignity but nature made it that a woman holds the highest office in the nature and nurture of man though this is often negated by those men who think women are subservience to them. Women, just like men are created by God in His own image and likeness. That is to say, that they too are endowed with wisdom and knowledge, which men claim to be exclusively theirs. It is for this reason that men, have dominated the world at times, by force thereby, excluding women from nation building and development. Can these men really be afraid? And out of fear cling to power as if it is their prerogative and women have no say or place in it.
Well, once a women is sold out in an early marriage, hers is ended as she is left with no other option but to bear children and take care of the home which most times is left ungovernable for her by her fellow women in the likes of her mother in-law and sisters in-law more so, if she fails to bear the desired children. That notwithstanding, when a woman has the opportunity to perform other tasks, she performs them excellently. Existing literatures suggest that even the less educated African woman is more pushy than her more educated counterpart who clings to her husband when it comes to taking charge of situations.
WOMEN AS SEEN BY OTHERS:
It is rather unfortunate that in spite of the tremendous roles played by women in the development of the nation, some people still believe that they are better seen than heard. However, the popular saying that “what a man can do a woman can do better” remains a reality and for this singular fact, the male faction are afraid of defeat hence their struggle for dominance. The little chances given to women so far, has proven them to be made of sterner stuff than their male counterparts. Women have always been able to manage their families at times, without the help of their husbands who still see them as weaker sex but the fact still remains that if you train a woman, you train a nation and this saying goes a long way to show the importance and relevance of women in the society. Because the woman is regarded the home maker, whenever the home is stable the credit goes to the woman who supervises the day to day running of the home by taking care of the children from birth to adulthood while still doing other house chores. It becomes imperative therefore, that the woman helps mould the character of the children as they grow.
The husband is not left out of this as the good and cheerful disposition of the man in public or office is attributed to the peace and tranquility he enjoys at home as a result of the woman’s care and love. Sometimes, when the home front is not so rosy, the woman is also, blamed since it is believed that the place of the woman is in the home as a facilitator of domestic activities or as an agent of procreation and for this, it was equally believed that the woman cannot make any meaningful contribution to the growth or development of the community and as such, the development of the country will be much too big for her. Nigeria like in most other African nations, culture and tradition relegated the woman to the background, only recognizing her as a second class citizen who can neither positively impact nor contribute to the growth of the nation and as such, the women is usually not recognize as a member of a family because from her father’s house, she goes to her husband’s where she is equally not seen as a member of either.
Most times in this case, the woman is disinherited as a daughter and as a wife. She has no legal claim to her father’s or husband’s property; at times, she’s deprived her right to vote and be voted for hence the limited number of women in elective positions. The woman bears the brunt when her husband dies especially if he is wealthy, she definitely killed to take possession of his money therefore, must be made to drink the water used in washing the corpse to prove her innocence. If the man dies, the woman is made to shave her hair and wear sack cloth for a designated number of months while the man does whatever it is he wants when the woman dies. The list of oppression faced by the womenfolk is unending but the fact remains that though the woman is always seen as the weaker sex, they are in actual fact, the stronger of the two genders but dominated by culture and tradition.
In fact scholars are of the opinion that women share, by virtue of being women, a set of common experiences. These experiences though not derived from biological facts are their common experiences of oppression which come in different forms. In most communities in Nigeria, it is an abomination for a woman to want to take part in discussions on policies about community development. Her place is usually the kitchen so can only be seen and never heard. Most times, she is given limited opportunity educationally and otherwise and usually sold out in marriage at early age, though this is no longer the case as most of them nowadays are given equal educational opportunity as their male siblings.
WOMEN AS DEVELOPMENT AGENTS:
Culture and Tradition may be seen as the major causes of the injustices meted out to women but we seem to forget that we are the medium and outcome of what we call tradition. This is because of the fact that though tradition shapes us, we are actually the ones who make tradition. Women though treated roughly by this so called culture and tradition, still remain the light of any nation as those that have not given women their rightful positions in politics and otherwise, still have a long way to go as they have not attained their desired heights. While those nations that have recognized the importance of women and given them the opportunity to function, have attained their full potentials.
Countries such as USA and Britain are good examples of this. Women with their doggedness and desire for perfection, will always work to achieve their set goals if given the opportunity, not minding whose ox is gored while their male counterpart will work to gratify self and whoever assisted in putting in the office at the detriment of the masses. Women at the detriment of themselves and their families will work to ensure the safety of the nation she is given the opportunity to serve. Dora Akunyili is a good example, when she was the DG NAFDAC who even at the expense of her own life, was still fighting sub standard drugs unlike her successor (male) who backed down after a few threats to his life. The scriptures say, when the righteous are in power the people rejoice this is the case with women for whenever a woman is in power, there are great positive changes which in turn, makes the people better for it.
NIGERIAN WOMEN WHO CONTRIBUTED TO NATION BUILDING:
With the 1995 World Women Congress in Beijing, China, a new story began for women as opportunity was given to women especially in the area of education, and today in Nigeria, thirty five percent is claimed to be allotted to women in political and public offices though this is yet to be confirmed. However, the relevance and necessity of the active participation of women in nation building have always been proven as those who had the opportunity of proving themselves did so gallantly. The contributions of women such as Prof (Mrs.) Grace Alele Williams, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN); Prof (Mrs.) Bolanle Awe of the University of Ibadan (UI); the late Mrs. Jadesola Akande, former Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU) and those of our own Prof Chinyere Okunna and Prof Azuka Omenugha, of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka (UNIZIK) have turned the wheel of education in Nigeria. Their contributions have to a large extent, proved the capability, reliability, integrity and dignity of women in nation building.
Women, such as Chief (Mrs.) Folake Sholanke, the first woman Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN); Chief (Mrs.) Mariam Aloma Mukhtar the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria have shown themselves worthy of the title and a host of other Nigerian women legal luminaries who have contributed immensely to the protection of human and women rights and these contributions have assisted in ensuring justice for the common man. On the political scene, a lot of women such as the late Chief (Mrs.) Margret Ekpo, the late Adama Nwapa, Alhaja Sawaba Gambo, Leila Dongoyaro, Serah Jubril, Titi Ajanaku, Remi Adikwu-Bakere and a whole lot of others effectively challenged their male counterparts in politics and achieved a lot because it is based on their efforts that the new crop of women politicians presently in the National and State Houses of Assembly came into being. Most of the women who got appointed into political offices also proved their mettle and have continued to be sought after irrespective of the party in power.
Women such as Chief (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Nenadi Usman, Arunma Otteh, Prof Dora Akunyili. These women, though in a male dominated regime, showcased their expertise as managers and were able to distinguish themselves thereby, contributing to the growth of the economy as their contributions were able to bring financial prudence, accountability and due process to public service; no wonder these women were respected and revered outside the shores of the nation and sometimes, regarded as ambassadors of the country. Some Nigerian women also contributed in showcasing the country to the outside world through their different works of art. The women include: Chief (Mrs.) Kuforiji Olubi, Chief (Mrs.) Olakurin, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, Mabel Segun and Chimamanda Adichie among others who in their various capacities assisted in the development of the country.
There are lots and lots of Nigerian women who in one way or the other contributed to the growth of the country in many ways; showing that women are neither lacking in vision nor leadership qualities but only have not been given the opportunity to showcase their capabilities in taking the country to greater heights. Changes can still happen in the political terrain of the nation, if our women are given equal opportunities as their male counterparts. If women are given more responsibilities in governance and other areas, changes can be achieved in all aspects of the Nigerian economy. If the thirty five percent female representation is religiously upheld, many women of integrity who will transform the country politically, economically and socially will be discovered to help fine tune the wheel of governance in Nigeria. The country may have remained in the doldrums of underdevelopment for the mere fact that our women have not been given the opportunity to help mould the fate of the nation.
From the foregoing, it will be deduced that Nigerian women have proved their ability to take the country to the next level in both political and economic spheres. We are yet to be there since we still have so much to do before we can beat our chests with pride. The Nigerian woman is yet to be encouraged to participate more in the affairs of the nation. This should be done to enable her contribute her quota to the development of the country at all levels. She should be encouraged to show concern and commitment to the development the nation, as well as, offer themselves for service to their fatherland. The issue of gender equality should be regarded as the priority of the country so as to give Nigerian women equal opportunities to compete with their male counterparts in a more conducive environment.
Our women should come together and fight as one for their rights so as to occupy positions of authority in the affairs of the country. They must continue to struggle to achieve their aim and not succumb to the weaker sex syndrome. Women leaders must be focused and they must be women of impeccable character who will be able to lead and perform creditably when given the opportunity. NGOs should be better organized to be able to mobilize for positive actions in every aspect of nation building. Government at all levels should be more disposed to assisting the women of the country in their struggle for emancipation and equality if their activities are in consonance with the norms and policies of the country. These and lots more will assist in ensuring that the set goals of our great nation be achieved if unity of purpose, determination, solidarity and patriotism become our watchwords.