The Challenges Facing the Implementation of National Gender Policy in Nigeria

Author:Eme, Okechukwu Innocent
SUMMARY

Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria came up with a new National Gender Policy that seeks to address the inequality existing between men and women in various segments of society. This paper has a two fold task of showing the correlation between gender bias in a gendered society and the relative presence of individuals defined in gender term in the arena of public policy in addition to... (see full summary)

 
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Introduction

The 1995 Beijing conference held a lot of promises for women especially those from developing societies. The Declaration and platform for Action inaugurated at the event had stipulated that every country makes legislations and policies on issues affecting women in twelve (12) critical areas of concern for women and girls across the globe, especially in poverty, power sharing, education, health and human rights. But fifteen (15) years after the historic declaration, not much has changed for women in Nigeria. This was the opinion of some women as they mark this year's International Women's Day, IWD. This is because among the comity of nations, Nigeria has some peculiar problems such as early marriage and attendant Vesco Vaginal Fistula, VVF, and other health problems. With a maternal mortality ratio between 704 and 1000 per 100,000 births, Nigeria continues to have one of the highest levels of maternal mortality in the world (see NGP, 2008:45).

This exceptionally high scourge is, in the context of our wealth and high profile in Africa and global affairs, a national calamity and disgrace. In addition, there is concern over the wide disparities between male and female citizens and economic opportunities and in political participation.

In some part of Nigeria, young girls are routinely pull out of school and married off regardless of their consent, usually to men their father's age or older. In others, boys are counseled to engage in apprenticeship tutelage in various commercial activities to enable them become future tycoons, while the girls who are denied this opportunity are encouraged to go to school in order to enhance their "market Value" in marriage. Besides, at the National, State and Local government councils, and boards of parastatals, and the armed forces where they are women at all, they are outnumbered and out powered as well. More often than not, such female appointees or elected officials are confined to "soft ministries" or "committees" such as social welfare, education and health. They are hardly placed in core sectors of the economy.

This situation is also replicated decision-making levels. They are grossly under represented at all levels of decision-making in Nigeria society where they are either completely absent, such as in the Armed forces or have token representations at the federal, state and local government executive councils.

In addition to the above problems, now identified presumably for rapid resolution, one which overshadows them all but receives little attention is women's image in our society. In the main, women are cast in stereo-typical roles of the nurturant-sucourant wife/mother and increasingly, as decorative objects which like flowers are to be seen and not heard. This latter imagery is popularized, especially by the media and businesses.

In a bid to pursue its international and local obligation of ensuring the realization of gender equality (Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals), the Nigerian government replaced its women policy with a Gender policy in 2006. The policy seeks among other things to (as a matter of priority) promote the evolvement of an enabling policy environment within all government ministries and agencies that have one role or the other to play in the successful implementation of the different aspects of the policy. In order to ensure that the newly developed gender policy is properly implemented, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development developed a Strategic Development Result Framework for the purpose of assessing the level of preparedness of the government ministries, parastatals/commissions and other stakeholders relevant and key to the proper implementation of the policy. This paper seeks to examine the policy and assess the challenges facing its implementation in the affected areas.

Clarification of concepts

Gender

The term "gender" is used in the social sciences analysis to look at roles and activities of men and women. In most societies men have certain roles and responsibilities while women have other roles and responsibilities. Often, the biological differences between women and men are used to explain these different roles. For example, men's physical strength is seen as making them more suited for doing jobs such as construction work, while women's qualities are supposed to make them more suited for jobs that involve detail and patience, like sewing.

However, social scientists have observed that the roles for both sexes can be quite different and challenging in different societies, irrespective of the biological dictates. For example, in India, women are labourers in the construction industry, and in Ghana, men have traditionally been involved in Kente cloth weaving. It can also be noted that carrying heavy loads of fire wood and water, do not mention children, uses women's physical strength, while working on complicated electronics problems can involve much patience and attention to detail on the part of men.

Such theses suggest that biological differences do not necessarily determine what men and women can do or should do. Rather, these roles are often socially defined, and shaped by traditions and beliefs of a particular culture. Whereas some believe that the concept of gender is another way of referring to someone's biological sex, others use it as referring to issues or projects where only females are involved while others perceive gender as the most fundamental organizing principles in societies and see it as a social construct based on power balance between males and females (IPPE, 1995).

WHAT IS GENDER?

According to Enole (1993:336) gender refers to the meaning we assign to being a woman or being a woman or being a man. This act politicizes gender. Kevanve (nd'l) refers to it as the constellation of rules and identities that prescribes and proscribes behaviour for persons, in their social roles as men and women. These roles identities may be deliberate or unintended, explicit or implicit, conscious or unconscious. All societies of the world are gendered

The concept is currently applied to a wide range of socio-cultural phenomena on men and women or boys or girls. In more specific terms, genders is now widely used to designated the "culturally defined, socially formed identities of men and women that are highly variable across cultures and are continually subject to change" (FAWE and UNESCO, 1997:10). This implies that the term gender denotes the "different and...

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