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Developing countries thrive on gender equality – Obiaga-Marshall



Developing countries thrive on gender equality – Obiaga-Marshall

Scotland-based Nigerian female engineer and gender equality activist, Anuli Obiaga-Marshall, in this interview talks about gender inequality, educating the girl-child and the issue of rising cases of domestic violence, writes TIMOTHY ODUTOLU



According to a recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 34% of women say men are justified in domestic violence cases, what is your reaction to this?
Domestic violence is wrong. Whether a man against a woman or a woman against a man does it, it is wrong on no account, there is just no excuse for it. I can understand some women may say it is right and this come from nurture/ background. Why I say ‘nurture’ is because many women are brought up in homes where domestic violence is common. Perhaps, it is acceptable in their families and communities by extension. People do not talk about it. Anyhow, you dare to speak about it leads to a total hush. So, in a way, it is kind of accepted. That passes on to the next generation, battling the bias and stereotypical expectation.

Why do women prefer to stay in abusive relationships?

It is a complex question. Some of it is psychological. For me, what I believe, the biggest driver especially in developing countries is equality. A woman who is not able to provide for herself will find it difficult to walk out of a marriage that the man is the sole breadwinner. Left to be on her own, she wouldn’t know to cope or survive.

If she goes out to the society, she probably has not been educated. She has not had any opportunities. If she works, how is she going to survive? So, what is driving it, is the survival mentality. Most people stay, some even accept for their children to be abused by their spouses and other people in their families.

So for this reason, it is inequality that drives it. The sooner we get rid of inequality, the quicker we see that people are no longer tolerating this kind of treatment and then that’s how over time it will be driven out of the society and then normalcy will be non-acceptance of abuse of any child against anybody regardless of sex.

A report has it that 200 million men world over have more access than women to the internet. How do you think this gap could be bridged?

I think it’s all part of the story on agitation for gender equality. In many parts of the world, there is more preference or value placed on men. In many places round the world, if there is any moment at all, they would rather use it to provide for the need of the boy-child, whether it is for education or other physical needs. The only way to correct this is to strive against it. We need to have more conversations about it.

We need to make people aware. We need to say to them, “why do you say the boy-child has more value than the girl-child?” Things have changed, the world has moved on. We all know that intellect is connected to the brain rather than any other parts of the body. It’s actually detrimental for a family to prevent girls from getting educated and provide them with certain technology skill. The solution to this is very clear. It is education, creating awareness and just helping people to see why the current thinking is wrong.

Men have dominated the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields because, usually, when we go somewhere and we are usually in the minority. It is very difficult for the minority to get integrated into the majority.
There are many challenges and it is very difficult to surmount the obstacles. So, I think this is one of the main reason that discourages many girls from studying ICT or STEM. When you look into the industry, you just see men.

That could be a discouragement plenty girls. That is where we are at the moment. The thing is, how can we change that? How can we get equal representation? How can we get the best and brightest minds of females? There are many bright and talented females out there. One of the effects of neglecting the female gender’s ability on the economy is that we are losing out on competitiveness.

We are not going to go as far as we can without tapping into all the needs across the population because only a subset of individuals is creating the technological solutions for the entire success of the whole nation. It is very important for females to also come into STEM and ICT.

Going by your analysis, how do you suggest we move from where we are and where we should be?

We need to educate the girls, create awareness and tell them it is possible. The man has one head, you have one head and that is what it takes. It doesn’t have anything to do with your reproductive capability or sexual organ.
The intelligence is here (pointing to the head). We need to start challenging and encouraging our girls to participate.

We need to help girls to break those stereotypes. That is what we need to get our girls into. Our educational institutions need to start thinking about “how can we show them what to offer?” Tell them that if you don’t have a career in ICT or STEM, then how can we achieve the state of independence because these jobs pay better. The educational institutions also need to help chide stereotypes because if you have a head, you are good enough.

The industries also have a part to play. There is a disconnect between the current curriculum and what industry wants. Therefore, if the industry is not getting the right thing, they need to go to the school and say, “we need to change the curriculum.” They also have to ask for increased participation of girls. Both genders should work together for the right solutions and for the whole population, not for a subset of the population.

The industry has to create the right environment for people to thrive irrespective of the gender. For the females, do not think, “Why should I?” Think “Why not?”

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