President Goodluck Jonathan Focused On Female Empowerment In Nigerian Gov’t

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is on a mission to promote female empowerment and leadership within his government. After meeting Malala Yousafzau in July 2014, he made a statement that he is committed to ending all discrimination against women and girls in his country.

It was a bold statement to make, a first of its kind from his mouth, considering the horrific kidnappings that have been happening in Nigeria at the hands of extremist group Boko Haram.

In a public statement on his Facebook page made on February 3rd, Goodluck Jonathan went into detail about his plan and why he believes it is important.

I have always been an advocate for women empowerment which is why I am proud of the record of the efforts our administration has made. We have appointed more female ministers than any other administration in the history of Nigeria,” he began.

“I also promoted gender equality by ordering the Nigerian Defence Academy to begin accepting female cadets and I have never regretted that decision as our women folk have gone on to win laurels in Nigeria and abroad. We are all products of womanhood. Never will our women be relegated in our national life. They must ever be visible and appreciated. When you empower women, you empower the family.”

“Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in the agricultural sector were 2 million farmers are contributing their quota to making Nigeria meet her national food security targets.”

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There has been a slow and steady increase in gender equality in Nigeria over the years.

The national ratio of girls to boys in secondary school increased from 79.9% in 2008 to 88% in 2012, according to the Nigeria 2013 Millennium Development Goals Report. The gov’t plans to ensure in 2o15 there are as many girls as boys in school.In 2012 the president appointed a woman, Aloma Maryam Mukhtar, as Chief Justice. In line with the 2006 National Gender Policy , which recommended that 35% of government posts be filled by women,  Jonathan’s government claims to have reached 33% in federal appointments at executive level by May 2013.

One area he has been silent on, and which he has been criticized about is the issue of underage marriage. The deeply patriarchal nature which still exists largely in Nigeria must be abolished entirely before the issue can be looked at with a different perspective.Early marriage, pregnancy and widespread poverty still prevent many girls from progressing from primary to secondary school, especially in the country’s north.

According to UNICEF, 39% of Nigerian women marry before they reach 18, and 19.6% marry by age 15. Marriage reduces the chances that a 15 to 19 year-old girl will go to school by up to 67%, according to the Population Council.

Having more women in key decision-making roles in government an other sectors of society is a crucial step forward, but empowerment has to start from an early age. Girls need the freedom to go to school and choose a career where they can contribute to the economy and set examples for future generations.

There have been a number of economic initiatives to empower women to become business owners in Nigeria. Access Bank pledged $30 million dollars toward a a facility that helps women become small business owners in the country.

UNESCO also announced an important initiative in early 2015. Their aim is to increase literacy skills amongst young Nigerian women in order to equip them financially in the future to accelerate national development. They plan is to equip 60,000 Nigerian women with these skills.

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UNESCO partnered with Proctor & Gamble (manufacturers of ‘Always’ women’s sanitary brand who are also committed to female empowerment closer to home) to donate $1 million to this important initiative.

“Education is the best investment for any nation, especially to encourage girls to go to school as staying in school is a fundamental factor for success. Education is key to individual opportunity, national growth and dignity of self-reliance,” said UNESCO Regional Director Professor Hassan Alidou in a statement.

This is the type of empowering news we need to hear coming from countries where women have traditionally been underrepresented in all forms of government, in society and have been oppressed in many ways, especially in regions where religion is closely tied in with national law.

But the burning question remains: does Goodluck Jonathan and his government have a plan to get back the nearly 300 kidnapped girls? Is this still a priority for him? We are all for his affirmative actions promoting women, but what about those whose freedoms have been stolen from them right under his nose?

Part of building up a powerful government means the ability to tackle terrorist groups who have no place or rule in a country. If Goodluck Jonathan plans on continuing his democratic stance on equality in Nigeria, it is imperative he doesn’t give up fighting for every single woman and girl in his country, and protect those in the future who may be susceptible to a terrorist group who have gotten away with murder, literally.

The cry to “Bring Back our Girls” has never been louder and more hopeful with the news of the president’s new focus. But now it’s time for action. The world is waiting on your next move, Mr. President.

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  1. Pingback: Outgoing Nigerian President Signs A Law Banning Female Genital Mutilation

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