Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Post Beijing: Political Will and Impact

A Keynote Address Delivered by Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, First Lady of Ondo State at the
4th Ekiti Gender Summit held on March 3rd, 2020, at the Adetiloye Hall, Trade Fair Complex,

Let me begin by congratulating my dear sister and colleague in gender activism, the First Lady
of Ekiti State, Mrs Erelu Bisi Fayemi, and indeed the entire women of Ekiti State, on this
auspicious occasion of the 4th Ekiti Gender Summit. Putting together the 4th edition easily tells
us that Ekiti State is deliberate and committed to the issues of women and will continue to press
for progress.
Since the Beijing Declaration which marked the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995,
governments, civil society and the public have translated the platform into actionable steps in
individual countries. Undoubtedly, these changes indicate a renewed passion for the issues of
women, and have ushered in enormous improvements in women’s lives. Globally, more women
and girls than at any previous point in time serve in political offices, are protected by laws
against gender-based violence, and live under constitutions guaranteeing gender equality.
Interestingly, this year 2020, also marks the 25th year anniversary of the Fourth World
Conference on women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
However the Platform for Action envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life, yet, NO
COUNTRY has yet finished this agenda. The case for women in our dear country Nigeria (and
most parts of the African continent) is one which is bedevilled by age long patriarchy and
subjugation of women. Most women in this country still earn less than men and are more likely
to work in less quality jobs; physical and sexual violence against women still happens on a daily
basis; gaps in reproductive health care leave 800 women dying in childbirth each day.
To change this narrative and leapfrog all obstacles currently faced by women, especially those
in the grassroots, requires political will. In fact, having political will is the first step and perhaps
the most important step. Our government at all levels must understand that sustainable
development cannot be achieved in societal frameworks where the roles of women are not
included. Women just like men can contribute immensely to the socioeconomic and political
development of Nigeria and must be included in elective roles. We must strive to increase the
number of women in parliament: This is the only way issues of women can be considered. In
addition, women empowerment must be taken seriously and all hands must be on deck to
combat feminized poverty.
As some of you may know, I am passionate about the issues of women and girls and I am not
hesitant to say anywhere I go that I am a feminist. In Ondo State, I am happy to say that we are
making progress. Since I became the First Lady, I have been deliberate about the issues of
women and girls. Some of our initiatives like FOWOSO (Foundation for Wives of Ondo State
Officials and Political Appointees) and BEMORE (a specialized STEM program for girls) have
come to stay and we will do everything we can to sustain them. This I must add is the right thing
to do, and the only way to go. Just recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation included
women empowerment to their areas of focus and this corroborates my assertion that this is the way to go.