Full Interview with Josephine Agbonkese for Vanguard Allure

Twenty-five years after Beijing, the world takes stock. Where are we with gender equality?

The achievement of gender equality in Nigeria shall require a change in mindset and the prioritisation of gender impartiality. We must honestly and objectively reassess the socio-cultural, educational, health, political, economic and security structures that exist in our institutions to ensure the achievement of gender equality.

Whilst there are many laws which purport to ensure equality, Nigeria has failed to pass a Gender Equality Bill. You need only to access the media or interact on a professional and/or social level to realise the Beijing agenda highlighting the importance of addressing women’s rights amongst other pertinent issues such as poverty alleviation, education and skills acquisition, health, violence, discrimination, economic advancement, decision-making and the environment, though spoken of, are not the foremost topics for the government or the greater society. The truth is that it is only by prioritising these matters that we can address the looming matters of security and sustainable development.

I applaud the non-governmental organisations which have actively taken on the mantle of addressing the gender inequality prevalent in our society through advocacy for education, awareness and implementation.


How gender aware are the generation born after 1995?

The post-Beijing generation exudes greater awareness of gender equality and related matters because they have grown up with the knowledge of their rights and the desire to be participants in their life decisions. They are vocal and well-connected globally because of social media and ease of access to information. They aspire for change and recognition as viable citizens but the issues of religion, culture, violence, socio-economic limitation still resonate and, in many ways, persistently curtail the progress of achieving gender equality.


Would you agree that culture and tradition are stumbling blocks to attaining gender equality in Nigeria?

There are numerous factors limiting the progress of gender equality but the most poignant are culture and religion.

The belief that boys should be predominantly educated has led to the following appalling set of data for Nigeria: 5 Million Girls in Nigeria Out of School (UNESCO) and 23 Million Child Brides in Nigeria (UNICEF). Additionally, the escalating marriage rate of girls before age eighteen has resulted in adult women who lack the education or skills necessary for economic independence and to access proper healthcare.

Furthermore, the cultural and religious beliefs which render women less than men, subject them to violence and negate their human rights and value in society are holding the nation back from achieving gender equality. Additionally, the abject poverty of 124.2 million Nigerians (AFDB) leads to human trafficking, high child labour statistics and irregular migration which disproportionally affects girls and women more. According to NAPTIP, the average age of trafficked children is 15 years.


Moving forward, how can government be held accountable to respect international conventions to which they are signatories?

The citizens must demand accountability from the government. A culture of data gathering, transparency, implementation of projects and accurate reporting must be established. Corruption and impunity must be stridently addressed. Security agencies and the judicial system must operate to the fullest extent of the law without compromising their integrity. We must build a culture where gender equality and human rights are the modus operandi.


© Dr. Ama Onyerinma,
Founder & Executive Director
Live Abundantly!®