Increasing Possibility of a ‘He for She’ Movement in Nigeria
On Thursday 27th November 2014, about 40 male opinion leaders drawn from various states in Nigeria were brought together by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD). The event was supported by Voices for Change (V4C) and the discussion was premised on the outcome of the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that was held in New York in March 2014.
Speaking at the event as the Keynote speaker, Prof Chidi Odinkalu (Chair, National Human Rights Commission) charged male opinion leaders to promote gender equality. He concluded his powerful speech by saying:
‘For too long, many women have been arguing this case. They have done a formidable job. For the most part, however, the decision making hoops are still controlled by powerful men. It makes sense to enlist the partnership of men in ringing about the ends sought by the advocates of a more empowered woman. Let me be clear: Far from being a threat to any of us, a more equal country for men and women is a great benefit for both sexes because it improves productivity, quality of life, dignity and life expectancy for all. That is why this goal of gender empowerment is a great idea: we don’t do it for any other reason than that we do it for ourselves’.
At the end of the event, the Male Gender Champions resolved to act as follows:
1. Form a Network of Male Gender Champions in Nigeria, which will:
a. Be flexible and use existing structures within Federal and State Ministries of Women Affairs, local government and other spaces to give voice to women’s aspiration.
b. Collaborate with grassroot gatekeepers to promote behavioral change and work towards gender empowerment.
c. Work through social media including a virtual ICT platform for e – learning.
d. Form a peer to peer support group for male gender champions.
e. Develop adult friendly communication tools for its advocacy.
2. Lead advocacy on matters affecting women’s personhood key amongst which are:
a. Extension of compulsory free education up to the secondary school level and incentives for families who send girls to schools.
b. Extension of maternity leave from 3 to 6 months including paternity leave.
c. Sensitizing Media houses to create gender programs and gender pages, which affirm women rather than reinforce stereotypes.
d. Encouraging development of gender policies within organisations where male champions have influence.
e. Leading the struggle for the realization of 50:50 affirmative action in all public spheres including laws that affirm women’s citizenship.
f. Leading the use of gender responsive language that affirm women.
g. Sensitizing gatekeepers to encourage men and boys to choose deliberately to act in positive ways that sow respect for women’s human rights.
h. To lead by example in the family and community by treating women and men, boys and girls, equally.