On the occasion of the 2023 International Women’s Day, the National Secretariat of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) celebrates Nigerian women for the invaluable roles they play in building homes, and by extension, the nation, in addition to their lofty contributions in both the public and private sectors of national life.
In line with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration, which is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, NAWOJ observes that from the earliest days of computing to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, women have made untold contributions to the digital world, while their accomplishments have been against all odds, in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated them.
NAWOJ also observes that a noticeable and persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential, while women’s underrepresentation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers remain a major barrier to their participation in technological design and governance. And, the pervasive threat of online gender-based violence, coupled with a lack of legal recourse, too often force women out of digital spaces.
A survey of women journalists from 125 countries found that 73 per cent of women had suffered online violence in the course of their work.
While the aim of the IWD 2023: #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about why equal opportunities are not enough, every society should consciously work towards achieving gender equity as true inclusion. NAWOJ believes that gender equity is about everyone thinking about it, knowing about it, valuing, embracing it and believing in it, unconditionally.
It could rightly be observed that over the years, Nigeria’s democracy, to a large extent, has been characterised by the exclusion of women in the processes. And, although women constitute the highest number of voters at polling units on election days, they are denied the opportunity to contribute to governance.
NAWOJ observes that the poor internal democracy and absence of strategic political agenda, on the part of Nigeria’s political parties, pose barriers that inhibit women from playing adequate role in national development. And, sadly, the exclusion of women in the democratic and governance processes owing to these barriers and inequalities that usually militate against women participation, contribute to shrink the political space for women to engage in politics and governance.
Therefore, as Nigerians go to the poll on Saturday to elect Governors and House of Assembly members, the need for gender equity and balancing in the political equation, readily comes to mind. It has become pertinent for Nigerians to work towards achieving equity and engendering inclusive governance by giving female candidates opportunities to serve by voting them into office. It is imperative that Nigerian women, who constitute about 47 per cent (39,598,645 million) of the 84,004.084 million registered voters nationwide, are adequately mainstreamed into governance structure for adequate representation and balancing of the affairs of governance.
NAWOJ urges all hands to be on deck for the social, economic, cultural, and political advancement of women. Everyone everywhere should play a part, challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion.
As we join the rest of the world to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day, NAWOJ calls on governments, activists and the private sector alike to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable to create a better future for women, girls, all humanity and life on Earth.
Finally, NAWOJ specifically calls for concerted efforts to eliminate persistent and pre-existing social barriers to gender equity, and that hinder women’s chances at qualitative education, political inclusion, healthcare, economic empowerment, rights to inheritance, more women’s participation in leadership, and an end to practices that are inimical to the advancement of women and girls in Nigeria, and all forms of sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls.