#ChooseToChallenge: Nigerian Women and Post-COVID Resilience. A Goodwill Message by Her Excellency, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu at the Vanguard International Women’s Day Conference on the 25th of March, 2021
The impact of crises have always been heavy on women and girls and Covid-19 was no exception. While more men died from covid-19, a lot more women were forced into socio-economic disasters. Although this was a global issue, the effect on women living in developing Nations with high patriarchal social system like Nigeria is even worse. Prior to covid-19, Nigeria women experienced poor access to healthcare services, due to barriers like cost and distance. With the diversion of Government funds to covid-19 related interventions, sexual and reproductive health services became scarcely available, further worsening maternal and child health outcomes.
The economic impact of Covid-19 isn’t gender balanced. With the informal economic sector being the most hit by the pandemic a lot of women were forced to lose their source of livelihood. Women working in the formal sector were also heavily hit. Most companies realised they had little need for receptionists, secretaries and office assistants. These are positions well dominated by women. This underscores the need for innovative programmes that can build the capacity of our women to transit from mundane analogue-based professions to the digital economy.
With the mandatory stay-at-home order, more women were restricted to homes headed by abusive men. During the pandemic, there was a spike in the incidence of gender-based violence in the country. In fact, the violence took a new turn as more young girls became victims of rape and other forms of sexual abuse by relatives, some even by their fathers.
The pandemic has further proved that the Nigeria socio-political system is unfavourable to the welfare and protection of women and girls. We are currently sailing on troubled waters and the captains of the ship seem to have taken their hands off the wheel. It is about time we took decisive actions for a gender-balanced world, a gender-balanced nation. If we don’t, nothing will change. Our women continue to bear the brunt of the covid-19 pandemic and this should steer us up for action. We must work to be on the decision making table in order to ensure our women are protected. We must invest to build the capacity of our girls, broaden their intellectualism, give them that inner strength; that self-esteem; that self-worth that gives them the strong conviction that they are in no way the lesser version of men. When our girls are educated, the female folk will be protected and the nation will experience good development.