Vivianne Ihekweazu, managing director of the Nigeria Health Watch has said Nigeria may not address the multiple challenges facing women and girls in the country or improve economic growth until more women are represented in governance.
Ihekweazu, bemoaned the current percentage of women participating in governance, noting that up to 90 percent of people who occupy key leadership positions in Nigeria are men.
She said this at the maiden edition of the #HealthMeetsArt Gala with the theme ‘Celebrating Womanhood’, organised by the Nigeria Health Watch in Abuja.
According to Ihekweazu, the Nigerian woman or girl is faced with many challenges such as maternal mortality, gender based violence, among others; which can best be addressed if women are part of governance so that they can take decisions on the issues that affect them.
“If we are not sitting on the decision making table, how much of our experiences are being shared, how much of the issues we face are being addressed? Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of death among women in Nigeria; over 23 percent of global deaths of women are in Nigeria. Nigeria accounts for one of the largest shares of maternal mortality globally and this should worry us”, Ihekwazu said.
“If we have more women in policy making positions, we are sure that a lot of these things that directly affect their lives will be addressed. We are all striving for gender equality in Nigeria, where women have the opportunity to achieve their potentials,” she added.
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The MD further stressed that women’s participation is crucial to economic recovery and in building back from the COVID-19 pandemic while noting that women make up half of the population in Nigeria.
“Women participation is crucial to economic recovery because women constitute half of the country’s population. Facilitating and promoting women participation is needed in core areas. If we are committed to empowering women, it has to be a strategic decision, with full participation of the private sector,” she said.
Ihekweazu further informed that the essence of the “Celebrating Womanhood Art Gala” was to create awareness and highlight some of the challenges that women and the girl-child face through a storytelling event.
“Today, we are working with the female association of artists in Nigeria and the Nigeria Gallery of Arts to create artistic work that really speaks to issues and not just to celebrate women but to highlight their strength and challenges facing them in our society,” Ihekweazu further said.
“The focus is to use the artistic work to highlight the travails and challenges of womanhood. We want to see a Nigeria where every woman has equal opportunity to participate in the affairs of the country,” she further said.
Also speaking, Zainab Bagudu, Wife of the Kebbi State Governor also sought the inclusion of more women in governance and stressed the need to prioritize the education of the girl-child.
“I am glad that they have chosen this time to celebrate womanhood and to combine the two to tell the story of the various challenges facing women in Nigeria. Indeed, there are a lot of health challenges women face, which varies from education to funding and to culture,” she said.
Bagudu said the pandemic has brought all the issues that exist in Nigeria’s health system and how they can be tackled efficiently.