New Telegraph

Africa’s Voice Against Gender Disparity In Education, Others

CAMPAIGN As a campaign launched by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) against gender disparity restricting women and girls to attain their full potential in education takes the centre stage in Africa, Nigeria has taken a bold step to promote equality, and dismantle such barriers. REGINA OTOKPA writes

…as FG launches #WeAreEqual campaign to bridge gap

  • This is another opportunity for dropouts to complete high school, others –Tinubu
  • No country can prosper if half of its population is held back – OAFLAD

Against the backdrop of gender disparity and problems of high rate of women and girls dropping out of school in Africa, a new initiative and campaign have been launched to address and mitigate the challenges.

The continental campaign, tagged: “#WeAreEqual” and spearheaded by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), is to dismantle all walls and barriers restricting girls and women in Africa from attaining their full potential, particularly in education.

Part of the major objectives of the campaign officially launched for African countries on June 17, 2023 by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development is to address the barriers holding women and girls in Africa back with a view to closing the gender gap in four critical areas.

These four thematic areas are – prioritising women’s health, ensuring access to education for girls, promoting women’s economic empowerment, and taking a stand against gender-based violence.

Initiative

Following the official launch of the campaign in Africa, all First Ladies in African countries were directed or mandated to domesticate the initiative in their respective countries. Thus, the organisation gave first ladies till July 2024 to hold relaunch sessions of the campaign across countries in Africa.

Under their briefs, they were mandated to critically look at the priorities of their countries for which they are to select one of the pillars to implement the advancement of gender equity and close the gender gap in education and other spheres hamstring girls’ education and women development in each of the countries.

Part of the first ladies’ mandates is to mobilise communities and policymakers to support the campaign, and consciously they are also to develop projects in their countries to be anchored on the campaign pillars after launching the campaign initiative in their respective countries in July.

The campaign, according to OAFLAD, is designed to address the various forms of discrimination targeted against women and girls in Africa, as the continent strives to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets, as well as the African Union Strategy for Gender Equity and Women’s Empowerment. Besides, the year-long campaign is expected to leverage on international and regional days and milestones in disseminating strategic advocacy messages on gender equality with the aim of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.

Speaking on the continental campaign, the Executive Secretary of Organisation of African First Ladies for Development, Dr Nardos Berhanu, however, wondered that despite the progress made in closing the education and gender gaps in Africa, there are still existing certain challenges confronting the realisation of 100 per cent wholesome gender equality in Africa.

Campaign, to a large extent, would primarily address the gender disparities in education…

This is as she explained that no country could prosper if half of its population is held back, saying: “Cognizant of this fact, African First Ladies decided to embark on a continent-wide unifying campaign to inject urgency into the movement for gender equity.”

Launching

Meanwhile, riding on this mandate and to key into the campaign’s framework, the Nigerian First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, few weeks ago took steps to domesticate the campaign with the launching of the #WeAreEqual Campaign in Nigeria with focus mainly on education.

The campaign theme is: “Education as a Powerful Tool for Change: No Girl Left Behind.” While launching the campaign in Nigeria, the President, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said the “campaign, to a large extent, would primarily address the gender disparities in education, ensure that both boys and girls have unfettered access to qualitative education, and to complete their education, thereby tackling the rate of dropouts in our schools.”

Tinubu, who underscored the importance of an educated and empowered girl-child, restated his administration’s commitment and determination in ensuring that no child, whether boy or girl, was left out of school in Nigeria. Addressing an audience of first ladies across Africa countries, top government officials, and members of the diplomatic corps, the President highlighted the critical role of education in fostering gender equity and in providing equal opportunities for all.

The President, who lauded the initiatives as being undertaken in all African nations to empower women and girls, however, sought the support of the African First Ladies in achieving his goal of creating inclusive education opportunities for all children, particularly the girls.

He stated: “I salute the commitment and dedication of the African First Ladies, as members of OAFLAD in advancing gender equality and narrowing the gender gap in opportunities and appointments across the African continent.

“This campaign, spearheaded by Your Excellencies, holds significant importance for us in Africa. I, therefore, congratulate you all. I particularly congratulate my dear wife and the First Lady of Nigeria, Oluremi Tinubu, who has chosen education as a primary tool to champion this campaign nationwide.”

Alternative schools

Meanwhile, to kick-off the campaign and ensure effective implementation of the initiative in the country, the Federal Government has reintroduced the Alternative High School for Girls in Nigeria. The alternative school for girls is a programme whose aim and purpose is to offer a second chance opportunity for young girls who have dropped out of school to pursue their education and contribute meaningfully to national development.

Tinubu, who lauded the reintroduction of the Alternative High School for Girls initiative, however, added that education was a cornerstone for national progress and prosperity, calling for concerted efforts on the part of stakeholders and policymakers to eliminate structural inequalities that hinder women’s advancement and disparity in education system.

Therefore, the President stressed the need for policies that promote education, women’s rights, and economic empowerment, saying: “It is noteworthy that the launch of this laudable #WeAreEqual” campaign in Nigeria came with the reintroduction of the Alternative High School for Girls by the First Lady.”

He stated: “This initiative offers a second chance to young girls, who have dropped out of school to further their education and fulfill their dreams and aspirations, as well as to become very important contributors to the overall development of our nation. “I am happy to note that the foundation stone of one of the schools was recently laid in Osun State, in Western Nigeria, by the First Lady.

More of the schools are underway across the country, which is being supported by state governments and the federal government through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), as well as other development partners.” The President, however, warned that experience has shown that the dangers of not educating, empowering girls includes, among others, unwanted teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, human trafficking, and drug addictions.

“We must work together to promote laws and policies that protect and promote women’s rights, invest in girls’ education and skills development, and create economic opportunities that are accessible to all,” he stressed. Mrs Remi Tinubu, while explaining her choice for education out of the four pillars for the campaign, noted that an educated girl has an opportunity of reaching her full potential in life.

She quickly added that despite the choice of education, the other three pillars of health, gender-based violence and economic empowerment would not be neglected in the campaign. She stated that many of the pillars were already being championed under the scope of the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI), led by her office to complement the efforts of the administration of President Bola Tinubu.

According to her, the construction and inauguration of the new Alternative High School for Girls at Osogbo, Osun State capital in April, this year, was part of activities for the launching of the #WeAreEqual campaign in Nigeria. The Alternative High School for Girls, she reiterated, would soon be established or constructed in other parts of the country in order to avail girls that dropped out of school have another opportunity to acquire or complete their secondary school education.

She said: “My motivation for the establishment of this school as an educationist is the desire to see young girls and women, who dropped out of school due to several challenges to have another opportunity to complete high school, acquire higher education to enable them to reach their full potential in life.

“I must also say that Mr President values education and has introduced the National Student Loan Scheme, which is now in effect for our youth to have unhindered access to education, knowing that education is the bedrock of national development and the cornerstone upon which dreams are built, skills acquired and aspirations generally realised. “I believe that every state in Nigeria, and indeed Africa should have schools where socio-economically disadvantaged girls and women can access education without fear or discrimination due to their gender.”

Read Previous

Troops Nab Six Suspected Kidnappers, Reject N2m Bribe In Taraba

Read Next

Motilola Calls Out Kunle Afod For Sabotaging Her In Movie Industry