Empowering women essential for Nigeria ― Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has expressed his belief that ensuring the education of women and empowering them is an existential issue for Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

He stated this Monday in a keynote address at a webinar organized by Women In Africa (WIA) in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day.

Speaking on the theme of the 2021 celebrations “Choose to challenge,” Osinbajo said to hold women down means holding their societies down.

A statement issued by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, in Abuja quoted the Vice President as saying: “A child of a mother who can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5. Each additional school year increases a woman earning by 20%, 2/3 less maternal deaths if mothers finish primary school.

“If we hold down half of the productive segment of our nation on account of culture or other frankly outdated considerations, we are much poorer and much more deprived as a whole. We do ourselves a favour by ensuring social and legal equality of women,” he added.

Speaking on correcting stereotypes against women in Africa and other developing societies, the Vice President said that “for many generations, women have fought these manifestations of gender inequality. Over time the struggle has been refined to the level of a right to gender equality.”

According to the statement, Osinbajo explained that “the notion that women and men should have the same legal, social and political rights is the public law basis for Feminism. But something has changed in the past few years.”

Highlighting the gains of improving women participation in governance and other aspects of society, the Vice President said “women are now saying that the fight for gender equality is not for women and girls alone, it is also a fight for all fair-minded and just men who believe that men and women must have equal rights.”

Describing the reinvigorated campaign for gender equality as the greatest leap of development in contemporary history, Prof. Osinbajo said “the campaign is much more important in shaping the future. Men are now being challenged to stand shoulder to shoulder with women in the struggle for gender equality.”

The Vice President added: “They are learning that insisting on equal rights for women is an imperative of justice and fairness, an entitlement, a debt owed to women and girls not a gift.”

He advocated for a change in laws, mindsets and conventions, noting that it is the basis of the theme of the celebration.

Osinbajo stated further: “But I would like to suggest that the most effective challenge that can be mounted is the education of girls.

“There is no question that this is the single most potent game-changer in this story. Not only does it provide options for economic empowerment for women, but it also ensures that their own children will be educated, that they will not be married off too early with the attendant health and population implications.”

The Vice President added that the idea of empowering and ensuring the education of women is receiving support at the highest level of governance in Nigeria, citing a strong call from Mr President to governors in 2019 as a worthy example.

Osinbajo said: “the President underscored this point while speaking to governors at the (second term) inauguration of the NEC on June 20, 2019, when he reminded them that they have the responsibility for primary and secondary education and for ensuring that primary education Is free and compulsory. Citing the relevant laws he said Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.”

He added that the Buhari administration has in most of its programmes given priority to women and other vulnerable groups in the society.

Speaking on the programmes that lean towards women, he said the Social Investment Programme focuses on giving women more equal opportunities.

He pointed out: “Of the 500,000 beneficiaries of the Npower graduate employment scheme, over 45% of beneficiaries are female. For Conditional Cash Transfers, 96% of beneficiaries are women.

“This programme, in particular, has demonstrated the resilience and focus of the women who have been receiving the N5,000 monthly stipend. How they have continued to invest in their communities and grow their money. As of December 2020, they had formed almost 35,000 savings groups in 27 states.”

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