This article was originally written for News Agency of Nigeria
By Justina Auta
Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Carl-Michael Grans, says gender equality is a means to stimulate more development in African.
Grans said this while declaring open the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Men Engage Africa (MEA) a Non-Governmental Organisation, in Abuja on Wednesday.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that participants at the meeting comprised of representatives from 22 African countries and partners of the MEA.
The ambassador emphasised the role gender equality played in every society, adding that Sweden’s quest to promote human rights and gender equality gave birth to the Feminist Foreign Policy in 2014.
“We will never achieve gender equality without involving men and boys, especially in countries where women and girls are under-represented.
“Nigeria is an illustrative example, where only five per cent of the members of Parliament are women and the situation is similar in many countries.
“Because gender-equality is not primarily about “being fair’’ to women, it benefits the entire society, men and boys included. Research shows that gender equal societies enjoy better health, stronger economic growth and higher security.
“It also shows that gender equality contributes to peace, and that peace negotiations in which women have taken part have a better chance of leading to sustainable results,’’ he said.
Chairperson, MEA, Hassan Sekajoolo, said the organisation which worked with boys and men for gender equality also focused on governance and network building in its struggle to promote gender equality.
Sekajoolo added that the report on Gender Parity Score in Africa carried out by Mckinsey Global Institute was a wake-up call for more efforts to be put towards gender equality to improve development on the continent.
“This report shows that if we do nothing, we are going to lose 316 billion dollars, but if we do something, we are going to add 316 billion dollars to the GDP of Africa.
“We need to make sure that we increase our efforts to work alongside women rights organisations for us to achieve true gender equality.
“If each country tried to be as good as its neighbours, we will go a long way because this reports says it will take us 142 years to achieve gender equality,” he said.
He, therefore stressed the need to strengthen works with women rights organisations, improve people’s welfare, advocate policies, laws and attitudinal change that would transform Africa and promote gender equality.
Also, Global MEA Chairperson, Bafana Khumalo, said the organisation focused on transformative masculinity in support of gender equality, especially amongst men and boys.
“In a region where the majority of citizens are women and when you look at the economy indicators, most of the food production is by women but they continue to suffer catastrophe, climate change, intensive violence; women are on the receiving end.
“Women’s rights are human rights and our task is partnership with women groups to match side by side to transform our region, so that we can have a world where all of us can be treated with dignity, respect and acknowledgement.
He stressed the need to engage with policy makers and government to ensure they create a conducive environment that would promote transformation.
Similarly, Representing MEA Nigeria, Dr Chris Ngwu, stressed the need for more women to be given opportunities to express their potentials.
“We realise here in Nigeria that politicians are beginning to involve more women as political points for campaign, which means we are gradually ascending towards gender equality.
Also, another Nigerian participant, Mrs Sekinat Lawan, said women should not be denied their rights stressing that policy makers needed to implement laws that would end all forms of gender based violence.
“Our society is a patriarchal nature, we realised that we really need the supports of the men. We can’t really achieve this, we must change a lot of mindsets, belief and cultural traits that we have been carrying all along.
“Women are not taken over, we are just asking for some space. If we have 50/50 it will go a long way in terms of health, education and home front.
“We are not taken over from the men, we are just asking them to give women some space,’’ she said.