Global best practices on gender balancing and equality have made it necessary to review some cultural and traditional conventions that impede women’s progress in the country. While some advocate outright elimination of these harmful customs, others have called for their evaluation with a view to retaining the beneficial way of life, reports TAIWO JIMOH
The differences in women’s and men’s access to resources, status and well-being, which usually favour men and are often institutionalised through law, justice and social norms, have always hindered societal growth and development. Beyond recognition that gender stereotyping is an obstacle to women’s rights to meaningful progress in implementing human rights obligations to address harmful stereotypes and wrongful stereotyping will require everyone to lend their voices to the need for gender equality.
It is against this background that Roseline Adewuyi, a social educator and gender advocate seeks to lend her voice to the voices of many that are seeking gender equality for an equitable society. She noted that her advocacy focuses on breaking stereotypes and unlearning indoctrination that takes the form of ingrained societal norms that are regressive to women.
“I am zealous about teaching young girls and empowering women to reject long-standing social norms, constructs, and stereotypes that have impeded their advancement by demonstrating to them that they are unconstrained by societal expectations and can achieve everything they set their minds to. I advise them to reject societal norms and pursue their own passions and purposes in order to become the best versions of who they want to be.
I am therefore vehemently opposed to cultural and traditional conventions that impede women’s progress. Some of these cultural practices, in my opinion, must be eliminated by society, while others should be evaluated, and some retained. I am also unrepentantly particular about re-imaging women in our society and orienting a woman that she belongs in the society.” On how she is coping on feminism journey which seems like a men’s world Adewuyi said: “I must say, quite frankly, that I don’t believe that in 2022 we can say that it’s a man’s world because things have gotten better. We are not where we were a few centuries ago. More women go to school, are C-level executives, techies, and participate in sports and even politics. I would say that I have been doing my best to stay afloat because it is still not easy.
“Advocacy as a young woman can be draining especially when it concerns something as delicate as gender matters. People get sensitive about issues like this. So, I am often misconstrued and misquoted but the support from fellow women and male allies has been a balm to me. Whenever I am discouraged because of how deep patriarchy has eaten deep into society, their words cheer me on. So, I can safely say that it has not been a bad experience at all.” Adewuyi noted that her beliefs in feminism stem from the fact that humanity is one race. “Just like we don’t expect people to be discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, skin colour, or hair colour, I don’t think people should be seen as less because they are not the ‘preferred’ gender. We are all equal and uniquely different and should complement each other and play to each other’s strengths.” She noted that religion and culture play a big role in ensuring that women are made to take the backstage in this dispensation “Traditionally, men and women are raised to see women in a certain way. Those who don’t get a proper re-orientation will always see females who want to be in the limelight as rebels. Thus, they will do their best to make sure women take the backstage. They may go as far as discouraging women from taking the stage because they believe that this is our culture. So, they perpetuate unfair practices and relegate women to the background. You even see them denying young girls the opportunity to get top-level executive roles. Rather, they will emphasise or encourage women to take supportive, caregiving, housekeeping, and hostess roles even in public because it is what is expected of them,” she said.
On education, she said placing priority on male education over females is an archaic belief that is totally unnecessary. “Education and leadership are my core competencies in advocacy; we can banish this mindset by educating people in our communities by organising programmes. We can create awareness for the people in our communities. “In my capacity to educate and empower the girl child in the society, I organise training, seminars, workshops, and other educational projects. My primary target audience is secondary school girls as they have a somewhat pristine mind, untarnished by societal dictates.
I want them to grow out of the stifling spaces boxing them in, preventing them from spreading their wings and taking to the sky, where they can only soar to the ends of time. So long as one girl child benefits from an activity at a time, I rest assured that the results will become infectious in no time, that reaching to the ends of the world, to unchartered corners of this nation, will become a facile achievement. One girl at a time. That is the goal and I also own a blog whereby I write on topical issues affecting young girls and women whereby recommendations are made based on the problems raised.” Project Adewuyi said she is currently working on a project called ENGENDERS (Ending Gender Stereotypes in schools). It is disheartening that sometimes, educational institutions that ought to be hallmarks and beacons of enlightenment fuel gender inequality and gender norms. It is, however, pivotal to have a revamp of the system that fosters inequality by unlearning gender stereotypes, and ensuring that educators play a major role in its transformation.
“Many people have reasons to relegate women or not give them what is due to them. It doesn’t matter how hard these women work, these people are hell-bent on giving excuses. So, it’s not usually about the women but about those who don’t want them to shine. That’s why I encourage women to shatter glass ceilings and become all they’re meant to be.” On how human rights are being handled in Nigeria and Africa as a whole she said it can be a lot better. “Till now, many people are afraid of speaking their minds and going against various forms of oppression that have been institutionalised. It should not be so.
Since we are in a democracy, then, we should not be afraid to speak out and disagree. “I believe that by providing a safe space for citizens to express their political, religious, and personal beliefs freely, the government can respect human rights. Respecting these rights will include, preserving our rights to vote, protest, and choose differently from the choice the government prefers. By doing these things honestly and without bias, the government will respect the human rights of the people.” she concluded.