Will African countries ever develop? Will the continent ever experience the kind of developments attained in the Western world? When a child is born, the expectation of the parents is that the child will grow everyday and at a time reach maturity. Africa refuses to leave its infant stage even after many years of its birth. Why? It is simply because the only road to its development has either been abandoned or left not plied.The former World Bank president, James Wolfensohn once commented that “empowerment of women is the secret weapon of the development in Africa. The problem is you (men) beat them up. Gender violence has got to stop.” The implication of this is that the major cause of African underdevelopment is traceable to disrespect for, enslavement, oppression, and disempowerment of women. Africa therefore needs to address these issues without delay if the continent will ever attain maturity. Women, when their husbands are not beating them black and blue and subjecting them to a life of psychological trauma, are made victims of ritual killings. Out of every ten cases of ritual killings, women would be eight. The problem of restriction of movement is there for fear of sexual violence and abuse. In every hundred cases of human trafficking, women would constitute ninety percent. The International Centre for Migration Policy in Vienna conservatively estimated the number of people smuggled into European countries each year at 400,000 and the majority of them are girls. There are many mushroom hotels in Nigeria where several women are exploited sexually in exchange for stipends just because of the high level of poverty in the country. Implement to the letter the Sexual and Reproductive Rights based on International treaties and Conventions. Some of these Rights are Right to life, Right to be free from torture and ill treatment, Right to information and education, Right to equality and no discrimination of any sort, Right to choose whether or not to marry and whether or not to have children and many others. Sex education should be introduced to the school curriculum of all the African countries and pregnant girls should always be allowed back to school after delivery to continue their education, adoption should be promoted and men and women should be educated from time to time on sexual and other violence. The equal representation of women in politics and leadership is becoming more and more difficult because of the stereotypical attitudes towards the gender role of men and women, in the whole of Africa where we have 53 countries and 53 Heads of state, only one is a woman, the President of Liberia. In Nigeria where women make up 45% of the population, according to the last population census, we have never had a woman governor not to talk of having a woman president in the country. In the Senate and the House of Representatives, women are so few that it is like they are not there at all. Researches conducted into the trends of female enrolment and academic employment in Nigerian universities showed 29.9% of female enrolment as at 1998. It was recorded across the nation’s universities academic staff that an average of 13.7% was women at the senior level. It is even as low as 2.9% in some universities. As at the year 2002, only 4.6% of the academic staff of 23 universities was female professors. It was observed that eight (8) of those universities sampled had no female professor at all. As at 2007/08 in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, 17% of the academic staff are females with only 13 female professors out of 192 professors. Women are not given chance to contribute their quota to the development of the continent. They always constitute the minority in the midst of men where they will have little or no impact at all. On few occasions when women are given the opportunity to contribute to the development of Nigeria, they performed tremendously well. There is the example of Professor Dora Akunyili who headed the National Agency for Food and Drug Control (NAFDAC) for many years. It was during her tenure that Nigeria was able to tackle the menace of fake drugs. Also Dr Ngozi Okonjo Nweala, former Minister of Finance during President Obasanjo’s regime, Nigeria was able to settle most of her foreign debt burden during her tenure. Women is the heart of every nation, continent and even the world. In a situation where by the heart is not functioning well, it means the nation, or continent is diseased or dead. Little wonder Africa remains an imbecile child, a child that refuses to grow despite the age and the availability of abundant natural resources. African leaders need to retrace their steps to ply the only road to fulfilling the destiny of the continent. Poverty issue is to be addressed with all seriousness, the stereotypical attitude of gender roles of men and women must stop, women to be empowered, respected, and put in their appropriate place beside the men to work together for the development of the continent.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.Voices of Our Future Assignment: Op-eds