By ISAAC OLUSESI
Nigerian women have always shortchanged themselves as some women sacrifice self-respect and dignity for selfish gains in money, power, and other ignoble motives. The attitude, at variance with the spirit of International Women’s Day, does not advance the development cause that women strive for. And that was the grief of women in the South-West Nigeria at a two-day conference penultimate Tuesday, on the theme: “Virtuous Woman: Pushing for Greater Development.”
The carriage of the regional confab, held in Osogbo, the capital of the State of Osun had its glitz, style, glamour and pizzazz; but had no usual accoutrements of power sleek, siren-blaring escort vehicles, among other indices of political power in this part of the globe. The business of the conference was rather too serious -the total re-engineering of women picked its way through the maze of practical submissions at the confab that conceded the total woman to be the most efficient primary catalyst for family peace, communal serenity and national development.
There was no ambiguity about what a contemporary woman should be, and the consensus was clear on the fundamentals of a woman role in nation-building. At the flag-off of the conference, wife of the Vice-President of Nigeria, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo charged women to re-dedicate themselves to eradicating those social vices that seem to drive violence. She urged, women to “ensure that their children are not just trained to possess academic certificates but these children must become complete human beings, imbued with sufficient traditional and moral values to help build a virile Nigeria.”
While, the host State Governor Rauf Aregbesola asked the women to impart in their children the virtues of anti-corruption, orderliness and peace, he said corruption spreads poverty and hardship in a nation; orderliness brings about significant development; and peace inhibits chaos and war. The triad of anti-corruption, orderliness and peace harbinger growth and development for greater productivity and greater income. He professed, “Mothers must instill in their children the sense of performing their civic responsibility, to defend the country when the need arises, pay their taxes, be politically active, and most importantly, sow seed of peace.”
Somehow, neither Osinbajo nor Osun Governor dived into the familiar paradox of women, thrown up by circumstances of the re-crafting of development for women running through the mills of the revolution of rising multiple expectations that preceded the discussions, with the re-learning of the Beijing conference on women’s rights and development and such other global intervention perspectives on development, nations’ internal institutional adjustment and re-orientation of the cultures and traditions of the respective nations as they affect women and their children at the sequential levels of policy, politics and governance.
However, Mrs. Sherifat Aregbesola, chairperson, Osun Officials’ Wives Association (OSUNOWA), the confab organisers, practically dived so much into depth of the paradox of women as she gave holistic key consideration to the development of women to mean enlarged frontiers of human development. Women development, she posited, is human development. At the conference, she enthused, “development of women embraces skill acquisitions and training for economic empowerment; and creation of awareness and intervention in critical health-related issues, civic and development policy advocacy among others.” Her submission integrated the specific situations of poor women, rural women, prostitute-women, single mother, widow and so on, targeting ameliorative reasons to improve the women’s conditions.
Meaning that, Mrs. Aregbesola, the standard bearer and crusader of women development in the South-West region did ample justice to her gender’s desire for mainstreaming in both public and private sectors to impart skills in women and change their attitudes for development, in the global perspective to radically overhaul the conditions of women and children for development. What particularly irked Mrs. Aregbesola is glossary of the conditions of evidential humiliation and damning denigration of her sex that interestingly constitutes 50 per cent of the Nigerian population, performing nearly 60 per cent of working hours, but regrettably receive just 10 per cent of the nation’s income and own less than 1 per cent of its property.
Osun first lady is pricked that the deprivation and frustration of her gender centre around girl children’s premature marriage, teenage pregnancy, genital mutilation, street hawking, truncated education and sexual molestation in higher schools; premature death sequel to rape, sexual perversion and rage; trafficking in women and girls; the ‘Home Alone’ children, abandoned at home by ambitious parents, ruthlessly pursuing their careers; and women-girls mass suicides from forensic social-communal-religious conflicts.
It is also disheartening deep inside Mrs. Aregbesola that her gender painful conditions, brutal and bestial would include prostitution, abortion, face disfigurement by tribal marks, dehumanising widowhood rites, inheritance rights, excessive household chores, sex role imposed by nature, division of labour prescribed by incendiary cultures, prevalence of sexual perverts-drug addicts, juvenile delinquents-marauders in the society, and diverse forms of abuse, battering and discrimination against women ostensibly by society, largely male-dominated and dependent on gender insensitive, obnoxious cultures and difficult traditions.
Taken as a whole, the women confab does not have to translate into the reverse order against men. Rather, the objective was to promote such global development opportunities for women to pursue their legitimate dreams and afford the society maximum benefits. The Osogbo women discussion platform bore a wave of overhang global concerns for women development; and the conference imprints could be gauged by its salutary effect on the South-West total eco-political system in terms of effective social, political, economic and moral consciousness in women; improved literacy chart for women; collapsed walls of bickering and controversy around women development; and identified assessed and prioritised women issues and needs for full integration into development policy, politics and process of government, more than ever before. The conference practically boosted the effectiveness and corporate identity of its organisers, a proof of their sensitivity and responsibility.
The confab that generated noticeable enthusiasm across Osun and fostered the credibility of the chief organiser, Mrs. Aregbesola, had women from across South-West region of Nigeria, radiant, cheerful in attendance and in style, beauty and passion for the confab project. Mrs. Osinbajo, a reserved, bright, beautiful and lush-dark complexion woman, not spoilt by artificial enhancers that exuded her simplicity and grace led the women including wives of State governors who were also dressed decently in African and transcontinental prints, designed in simple styles and obsessed with jewelry and make-up that screamed opulence and elegance. They carried stunning silhouette that made everything they wore sit well on their frame.