No nation ever develops until it puts in place a proper female empowerment policy which goes beyond platitudes and token gestures

By Ayo Akinfe

(1) Today, I have decided to write about the women’s movement because November 7 is a historic day in the fight for gender equality. It was on this day in 1916 that Jeannette Rankin from Montana was elected to US Congress as its first ever woman Representative

(2) If you want to know how far we have come with the gender equality matter, do you know that also on this day in November 17 1800, the French government passed a law making it illegal for women in Paris to wear trousers without a police permit? Believe it or not but this Jurassic law was not annulled until 2013

(3) I have repeatedly pointed out that Nigeria’s primary problem is that we are not productive enough. Simply put, we will never get off our knees economically until our output increases. Now, when about 50% of our population is female, it is crystal clear that until unless we address this gender matter, we will effectively be working with one hand tied behind our backs

(4) Forget all these platitudes and cosmetic changes, what we need is real empowerment. The last time Nigeria did anything radical in this regard was when the Gowon administration passed a decree instructing that every state in the federation would have one federal government college and one federal government girls college. It was an unprecedented step aimed at eliminating illiteracy among girls

(5) Our gross domestic product (GDP) is a mere $400bn for about 200bn people. This is wholly inadequate. Brazil is the country with a population almost similar to ours. It has a GDP of $2.26trn, so as you can see, until we catch up, we are whistling in the wind

(6) If you look at all the other developing nations in the same socio-economic bracket as us such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, etc, you will notice that their economic activity is very female-based. Many of these countries even have wholly female factories

(7) World War Two was arguably the greatest thing ever that happened for gender equality as it led to the widespread engagement of women in the production process. Because men went to the battle front, the factories, railways, public services, etc had to be manned by women. Europe and America have never been the same since and we need to catch up

(8) For me, however, the jewel in the crown was the Soviet Union. During World War Two, the Red Army had about 1m female soldiers and they were not just serving tea and dressing wounds. They were tank crews, signal women and some of the toughest combatants the Nazis ever faced. This was repeated across all industries in the Soviet Union

(9) If we are serious about socio-economic development in Nigeria, we have to get away from this nonsensical notion that female empowerment is about the freedom to carry handbags. I have challenged many of our old girls alumni associations in the past for their failure to take up the issue of the Nigerian girl child. For too many of them, their associations just exist to wine, dine and show off their Gucci and Lui Vitton designer handbags. I put it to them again that our old girls alumni associations have failed the Nigerian girl child and it is time they started living up to their callings and responsibilities

(10) According to Unicef, Nigeria has the third highest absolute number of child brides in the world with a staggering figure of 3.53m. Child marriage is most common in the northwest and northeast, where 68% and 57% of women aged between 20 and 49 were married before their 18th birthday. I am now throwing down the gauntlet to all our female bodies - Do something about this!