NIGERIAN women joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2021 International Women’s Day. The event which falls on March 8, annually is set aside to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for both women and men to accelerate gender parity and improve conditions for women all over the world.
The global theme for this year’s celebration, ”Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’ is apt as the deadly virus has impacted women and girls in profound ways, amplifying the inequalities they face every day. It is fundamental that diverse women’s voices and experiences are central to national and global recovery plans.
However, a key contributor to a more equal COVID-19 world is increasing women’s access to leadership roles. Unfortunately, women still face significant cultural, socio-economic and political barriers to accessing leadership.
More so, as the world battles the dreaded virus, women are seen at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, either as health workers, care-givers, innovators, community organisers, among other vital roles.
Interestingly, woman leaders and women’s organisations have demonstrated their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively lead in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Today, there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all.
Majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts are headed by women. For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia have been widely recognised for the rapidity, decisiveness and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.
In spite of these contributions and achievements, women across the globe are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, deprivation, unemployment, poverty, etc.
To uphold women’s rights and fully leverage the potential of women’s leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, the perspectives of women and girls in all of their diversity must be integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in all spheres and at all stages of pandemic response and recovery.
Lending their voices on the theme, Anambra State Commissioner for Social Welfare, Women and Children Affairs, Ndidi Mezue noted that women cannot participate in leadership effectively without being empowered both economically, politically as well as socially. She maintained that they should keep reviewing those systems that hinder women from participating.
Speaking at a one day program organised by the Justice Development and Peace Caritas (JDPC), Onitsha, in collaboration with Christian Aid, held in Awka to mark the day, Lady Mezue, who was represented by the Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Women Affairs, Dr. Ernest Ebenebe stated that many women have been in politics, transforming the society for better ,calling for persistence, consistence and courage in quest to dismantle whatever barriers that hinder women from being at the fore front.
Director, Anambra State Library Board, Nkechi Udeze, who explained the importance of education as a major tool for empowering women and girls, stressed that good characters and education has the capability of opening closed doors as well as take educated ones to high positions in life.
Dr Udeze gave examples of women who achieved greatness in life in spite of challenges to include; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, Senator Stella Odua, Chimamanda Adichie, among others, saying that they reached such heights because they were educated.
Traditional Ruler Of Omasi, Ayamelum Council Area, Igwe Benjamin Okeji called for love among women, maintaining that time has gone when women are relinquished at the background and advised women to support, encourage and feel each other’s impact.
Director, Women Action Committee, Professor Mercy Anagbogu also said that women should come together, get united, have one voice and love one another. She noted that when this attributes are in place, women will move forward and take their rightful positions in the society.
While explaining the need for women to rise above the challenges that have held them down for decades, Mrs Onyeka Okey- Udegbunam of Hope Givers Initiative, cautioned women against being hindrance to one another, pointing out that they should stand up to the impediments of their success and take actions towards challenging their pedigree.