The role of women development in the push for the economic prosperity of countries, especially those in the third world cannot be over emphasised. Despite this glaring fact, that women have a central role to play if nations are to make a quantum leap, many developing countries haven’t been impressive when it comes to investing in women development.
Here in Nigeria, the history of Federal Government’s investment in women development can best be described as similar to the swing of the pendulum. For Nigeria, at the federal level, the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) which spearheads government’s gender based interventions has had its high and low seasons.
An agency with swinging fortunes was what the current Director-General/CEO of the NCWD, Mrs. Mary Ekpere-Eta inherited when she resumed work in April 2017. But a year after, majority of stakeholders would agree that Ekpere-Eta has replicated her success as a lawyer and investor in social entrepreneurship.
A fair analysis of the first year in the four-year tenure of the current helmswoman at the NCWD, based mandate of the centre, it is safe to say she has started well.
The mandate of the NCWD includes gender training and capacity building, research and documentation in addition to addressing the concerns of Nigerian women.
The NCWD is expected to attain its mission statement which is to promote gender equity and development through: research, databank creation, training and documentation, advocacy, as well as the mobilization of resources, through dynamic leadership, well trained, motivated and professional staff.
Simply put, Ekpere-Eta has in the last one year provided dynamic leadership, steering and motivating staff in planning and implementing programmes that have positively impacted on women from different parts of the country.
With four months into 2018, the NCWD has trained closed to 200 young women on highly sought skill-sets. In February, the centre training 50 women, including 30 visually impaired in ICT/Project Management.
In April, NCWD trained 140 female artisans on trade such as Plumbing and Piping, Masonry, AC Repairs, Generator Repairs, Refrigerator Repairs and Tilling.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the capacity building for female artisans, Ekpere-Eta said that the programme was structured to give the beneficiary a voice and confidence to cope in a competitive environment.
“The NCWD has designed this robust project to move women and young girls from traditional skills to meet the growing demands and provide skilled workforce for the Nigerian construction industries.
“The project is aimed at equipping the beneficiaries to break the stereotype around the ability of females to do well in non-traditional trades.
“The aim also is to empower them to install and maintain as well as to become agents of change in their respective communities,” she said.
Rewind to 2017 and a replay of interventions would show that the NCWD changed lives through trainings. To mention a few, the centre in May 2017 trained women and youths in ICT. Kids were trained during the long vacation on ICT. And the training of 50 female farmers in the use of ICT and GSM technology to increase their effectiveness and profits in December 2107, capped a year of high impact.
It’s important to add that the centre also supported states and federal lawmakers in training women at the state level, the trainings at its headquarters notwithstanding.
In the area of advocacy, the NCWD in the past year has sensitised women on the need to get registered to vote. The Director -General had in a statement called on women yet to register and girls who recently turned 18 to take out time to register and obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVCs).
Still on the advocacy front, the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari during the International Women’s Day Celebration on Thursday March 8, launched NCWD’s brochure on Nigerian Women’s Agenda For The Restructuring of Nigeria. Ekpere-Eta, went beyond stating women’s support for restructuring to producing a document that can be referred to by researchers.
NCWD D.G has performed remarkably well with providing a motherly, yet transparent and uncompromising leadership at the centre. She has introduced policies to ensure transparency, in line with the zero-tolerance- to- graft posture of the Buhari Administration.
Due to her starting out on an impressive note, a look back at one year in office equally presents an opportunity to call on Ekpere-Eta ready herself for even morework. And this is because the statistics on women in work places as employees and entrepreneurs, women in politics, data on girl-child education, all indicate that things are far from rosy for the female gender in Nigeria.
According the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), Secondary schools enrolment for boys and girls is on the increase. The proportion of girls enrolled in secondary school increased slightly from 45.3 percent in 2010 to 45.7 percent in 2015. However, enrolment into tertiary institutions across the country appeared male dominated on the average.
Also in the NBS report for 2015-2016, the national labour force participation rate of women and men in the ages 15-64 years was 74.7 percent. The proportion of men was 82.6 percent while women accounted for 78.4 percent. Like in 2013, men constituted the bulk of employment in federal and state MDAs. For the period, 2010-2015, on the average, 72.3 percent of senior positions in State Civil Service were occupied by men compared to 27.7 percent occupied by women.
The NBS report released in 2016, further shows that about half of the population of Nigeria are women with right to vote and hold public offices in almost all states of the federation. Nevertheless, women continued to be under-represented at the national, state and local government levels. At the national parliament in 2015, 94.3 percent of seats were occupied by men compared to 5.7 percent occupied by women.
At the state and local government levels, women seem not to appear in the power equation. However, men dominate the judiciary at the state level. Among high-ranking government administrators with decision making powers, women were equally under- represented.
Judging by the data above , it is advisable for Ekpere-Eta to view the compliments coming her way on her first year in office as a call to work even harder to improve the lot of women.
Bukola Kayode is a gender activist and public affairs analyst based in Abuja