Nigeria’s underdevelopment has been traced to the non-inclusion of women in the governance structure of the country.
Executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center made the observation at the one-day Community Leaders training on Gender and Social Inclusiveness organized by her organization at Aldgate Hotel, Port Harcourt on Wednesday July 12.
Emem noted that women account for more than 70per cent of those living in poverty and two/third (2/3) of the adult illiterate population, a picture that hinders development.
According to her, gender bias tied to deep-rooted patriarchy is keeping women and the country behind as it is not creating space for women at both local and national levels, to positively contribute their quota to nation-building.
The gender equity advocate harped on the need to address practical gender needs with immediate actions that will enable women and girls perform gender roles.
She identified strategic gender need areas needing changes as, “power relations, women in decision making, traditional leadership, political office inclusion, control over resources including land, access to economic opportunities, etc.”
According to her, democracy should promote social inclusion since it provides for diversity but this is clearly not happening yet in the country as vulnerable groups are evidently not playing noticeable roles in governance nor feeling the impact of government.
Emem explained attributes of social inclusion as: experience of a sense of belonging, feeling accepted for who you are within their community, having valued roles in the community, actively participating in the community, being involved in activities based on their personal preferences and having social relationship with others with whom they choose to promote friendship.
She called for lever policies as support actions by government and community leaders to address the social exclusion of the vulnerable including “creating a welcome environment for inclusion and the habits that create it, finding out what options people want and how they want to get involved,” as well as exploring partnerships for better engagement.
Participants drawn from the leadership of Community Development Committees, CDCs in Rivers, Delta and Imo states, spoke on the state of gender and social inclusion in their varied communities identified existing gaps even as slight slow positive changes have been recorded in the area of gender inclusiveness.
They pledged to be embrace gender and social inclusion through conscious meaningful actions in their operations.
They commended Oxfam, Nigeria for sponsoring the training which has exposed them to gaps in their leadership approach.
One of the community leaders, Ezekiel Ezekiel from Ahoada West called for adult education programmes for women especially those in the rural communities to help raise their awareness and improve opportunities to engage in governance.