Evelyn Oynilo, a seasoned broadcaster with over twenty years experience is the publisher of Phenomenal People magazine and former Chief Press Secretary to former minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Inna Maryam Ciroma spoke on sundry issues with Ruth Choji and Binta Abdulazeez Idris, while advocating for Journalists to be placed on special salaries. Excerpts.
It is believed that Nigerian women are yet to meet the target set for women all over the world. Do you share that view?
The Nigerian woman is part of the international women, so we will not discuss her in isolation. The 1995 Beijing conference set the template for women all over the world looking into twelve critical areas of a woman’s life, which include girl child education, women empowerment, women and the media, women and political power and institutional framework for women in power, women and environment and so on.
The theme is women and poverty which covers every aspect of womanhood. It is now 17years and yet, we have not made progress in Nigeria. Women are still poor, the girl child is still hawking on the street, and children are given out in marriage. Poverty is still the face of a woman, she is poor and malnourished. Women are still suffering. Although the government is trying, they have accented several laws that are supposed to help the women, but they are not being implemented.
The President has been gracious enough to give us thirty-three percent appointments. What about the state governors? Presently, we have only four percent of women in the National Assembly. So as Nigerian women celebrate International Women’s’ Day, we use this opportunity to speak out.
Who takes the blame for the plight of women in Nigeria?
Government is to be blame; they should put in place a mechanism. A good document has been drafted and designed by the United Nations. I have participated in conferences on the status of women and I do know that Nigeria’s report is not favorable. We should do more and if that bill is domesticated, people will be forced to do the right thing.
Women are being regarded as enemies of themselves. How do we get women to start loving each other?
Women do love each other, I can testify to that. Whenever I want to get things done, women come up to support me. But again, men fight each other too. They kill; they destroy and go to court because of thirst for power. I also blame the women; if you are not ready to be a president, don’t print posters and start disturbing people.
Women must pay their dues before they start seeking elective offices. Most of the men you see vying for elective positions have been impacting their communities positively before seeking such positions. Look at Obama, he started from the scratch, he started with volunteer work in his community, he went to the state level and made a name before going to the senate where he made impact again.
How would the Nigerian woman break away from traditions?
Education brings about enlightenment and progress. We have to target such women and teach them the importance of educating their daughters. Women have the responsibility of teaching their daughters the value of education, by showing them examples of what educated women are doing in the society.
It is common knowledge that urban women benefit more from policies than rural women, how do we break this gap?
I think it is a challenge for those running NGOs. We must redesign our strategy on how to reach the rural areas. We must leave the centre and go to the rural areas by designing things that will attract the rural people because they are in the majority.
That is what I call rural advocacy, and also more urban- based advocacy and seminars. We must have more outreach and talk to these people in the language they will understand.
How does the Nigerian woman break away from culture and traditions to become what the world expects her to be?
When there is education, there will be enlightenment and development. We have to target such women and teach them the importance of educating their daughters. Women have the responsibility of teaching their daughters the value of education, by showing them examples of what women who are educated are doing in their society.
Even if the woman is married, she owes it to her children to go to school and get an education because that is the only way she can better the lot of her children and society as a whole. We can change some of those bad, archaic aspects of culture with education.
Coming back to your constituency which is journalism, most female journalists are regarded as wayward, irresponsible and not marriageable. How were you able to overcome these prejudices?
Perception and misperception is a thing of the mind. I see it as misperception. But those that come close to us know the quality that is in us, our families appreciate us, our friends and society appreciate us. We contribute to the growth and development of society. I believe that a female journalism is powerful.
She is that woman that eats and dines with the most powerful in the society. She reports the powerful and that is why people think we are wayward. There are many of my colleagues who practice journalist and yet, have good homes, they work, do school runs and have successful marriages.
Given another opportunity in life, would you like to be a journalist?
Yes,I love it, that is why when I finished this aspect of journalism, I went into publishing. I love journalism. It is the profession that teaches you something of everything. The only aspect I will want improved on is the monetary aspect.
The salary is so meagre for all the work we do. I always advocate that government and private sector should remove the journalist from the class of the civil services and others. We are not civil servants; we should be paid special salaries.