2015 September saw the emergence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Many women groups and organizations are thrilled because the goals when achieved are supposed to help in gender equality and women empowerment. Some of us wonder why there is so much hype for these gender issues, after all, women are better off now than they were in the days of our fore fathers. What more could they be agitating for?
What more do women want? They have voting rights, they have access to education (sometimes), and their choices concerning basic things in life have improved tremendously to the point that there are female presidents and prime ministers nowadays. Do they want to become men altogether?
Take a look at these few scenarios with me.
Madam Chinwe is a twenty-five year old mother of one who is pregnant with her second child. She is about six months gone when the midwife in her village discovered that she tested HIV positive. The midwife referred her and the husband to the government hospital in town for a confirmatory test but the husband for reasons best known to him, cancelled the idea. Now, Madam Chinwe is supposed to deliver in a month or two, yet she is not sure if she would be endangering the life of her unborn child and that of the health workers, and even herself. She has no means of income, an illiterate petty farmer, thus, she cannot afford to disobey her husband and seek medical help on her own. I believe that a little education and empowerment would have made all the difference.
I met Mrs Okwuchukwu about two weeks ago in a maternity home where she was shedding tears because she lost her baby boy at birth. The health personnel informed me that she came to the maternity few days before her due date with high fever and other symptoms. After the necessary tests, she was diagnosed with hepatitis and was promptly admitted at the hospital. After the preliminary treatment, she felt a bit relieved and requested for discharge which was denied due to her condition. However, she and the husband persisted and the medics had to insist that they sign that it was their choice before they could leave the maternity. The next day, she came back, still very ill and in labour. Unfortunately, the baby died at birth. Do you know why that young woman took that stupid risk? MONEY! It was later that her mother was narrating to the nurse that they had no money for hospital admission. Do you think that Okwuckukwu would have taken that risk if she was enlightened enough to know the implications of a pregnant woman neglecting her health? Would she have been that daring if she could support herself and her family?
A young woman in her late thirties visited a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in the outskirts of Abuja seeking assistance. She was recently widowed, uneducated and jobless with nine little children. How was she supposed to cater for this large number of children? She took some of them to orphanage homes and left the tender ones with her. How did she even end up giving birth to nine children in this 2015? She was not well tutored in family planning and the little she learnt, her late husband refused to oblige and beats her up whenever she refused to give him show. Upon her husband’s death, his family took everything and left her poorer than before.
These are just a few basic instances, like a tip of the iceberg, the key reasons for the agitation for women empowerment and gender equality. Every woman that wishes to, should have the power to choose what she wants to do and when she wants to. Her body, her talent, her time, resources are hers to use just as those of the man are his.
All that women desire is to have the power to make decisions, the power to choose and to act, are they really asking too much?