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I Work To Give Women A Voice – Dipo-Salami

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Mrs. Bunmi Dipo-Salami is a woman of many parts. She is a development consultant and social entrepreneur, teacher, and politician with almost 30 years post-qualification experience.  In the course of her career, she has served in the public, private, and non-profit sectors of the economy. 

She had worked with Governor Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State between 2010 and 2014 functioning at different times as the Special Adviser on Planning and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and later as Hon. Commissioner for Integration and Intergovernmental Affairs.

She is a onetime lecturer at the Osun State College of Education where she taught French and an Associate Lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University.

She has also worked extensively and continues to work with BAOBAB for Women’s Rights. She was a Senior Trainer and Co-Coordinator of the International Women’s Democracy Network at the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights Development and Peace (WLP), USA. Bunmi Dipo-Salami is currently the Managing Director/Chief Executive at PLEG Consulting & Resources Ltd. She has vast knowledge and experience not only in women, gender and development affairs but also in governance, democratization and public policies

Background

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education (French) from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and a Master’s degree in Development Studies with specialization in Women, Gender and Development from The Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. I am a World Bank Scholar and a Chevening Fellow.

The Public Leadership & Governance Center (PLEG) of which I am the chief executive is a strategy, public leadership and governance firm which works to enhance the capacity of leaders in Nigeria and across Africa through a multi-engagement methodology that strengthens public service actors to ensure good governance.

I am a feminist because I am unapologetically passionate about improving the status of women. I believe in the capability and potential of women and I acknowledge the role of patriarchy and its offshoots especially misogyny in the oppression of women.

In my life, I try to be the change that I desire through leading by example. I focus attention on making women economically independent and equip those who need support for acquiring critical leadership skills that enable them impact the lives of other women positively.

I believe every woman must have a voice to make choices, I work in solidarity with other women and some men to fight patriarchy and make women visible as critical stakeholders to improve their condition and position.

Challenges

There are many challenges facing our campaign of giving women their voices. There is this compartmentalization of the rights of women, thereby making some more important than others. Some self-professed feminists even believe that some rights are not right but privileges. Then there is poverty, this is a monster that constitutes an impediment to the realization of our vision as feminists. Over dependence on donor funding is also a challenge to feminist organisations because you are limited as to what you can do due to lack of funds. Then there is this religious and ethnic extremism which is now growing in dimensions that were not anticipated decades ago as well as this ingrained prejudice against women in our society today. It is manifesting in multidimensional ways overstretching feminists and gender activists.

Good news

From where I stand I don’t see a women’s movement yet. Feminists and women’s rights activists do not constitute a homogeneous group because we have different experiences, issues, skills, interests, circumstances and so forth. However, I am happy that women’s voices are getting out beyond the conferences and workshops that we organize for and with ourselves. The use of the social media has broadened the scope as it affords us the opportunity of working with women and like-minded men of all ages at all levels and within all sectors. We need to stand with one another at all times.

Gender Relations

From my experience, when men are rendered powerless by other men at any level, they resort to exercising control over women who they perceive as helpless. Women therefore become the losers in spaces where men are unavoidably inadequate.

One area where the effect of this is more pronounced is in the reinforcement and transmission of prevalent ideas about masculinity. They try to express those characteristic properties and traits considered typical of that species, which they have been socialized to accept from birth. Thus a man would do all he can to suppress his culinary talent which could give him happiness and joy in his home and even make him a successful individual in the society.

One cannot blame such a man because if he engages in such a role that society regards as beneath real men, we label him a weakling, sissy or woman wrapper. Similarly, if a man is supportive of his wife’s/partner’s career development and overall growth, he gets those labels and more simply because ‘it is not in our culture’. Moreover, a man who relates to his spouse/partner on an equal footing becomes the laughing stock of extended family members and nosy neighbours.

Hegemonic masculinity may appear to benefit men at women’s expense, however, experiences have shown that there are internal contradictions, which have damaging consequences for men and the entire society as well.

Child Raising

This is the most difficult task ever because you are responsible for raising another generation and you want to get it right. I have three adult children and my husband and I still grapple with some of the challenges. I must say though that we have been blessed with wonderful children. Most men believe that women have the sole responsibility of raising the children without assessing the long-term implications. When this becomes counter-productive, they turn around and accuse women of taking away those children in whom they did not make any emotional investment.

Inspiration

Small breakthroughs everywhere inspire me. I am motivated when I see smiles on the face of a woman who took a decision to leave an abusive relationship; I am inspired when a young woman sees the big picture and dedicates herself to championing the cause of women. I rededicate myself when I see women in positions of power standing with other women. Big achievements also keep me going, such as adoption and implementation of policy on gender equality, Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, equal opportunities initiatives and affirmative action.

Economic Globalisation

This is creating winners and losers in the global economy as a result of the lack of a level playing field for all players. Poor nations become poorer as nations.  Those at the center such as China, the European Union, Britain and USA, gain doubly from the new technology and trade with the periphery countries.

The plight of the not so developed countries is worsening as they are continually faced with more systemic and pressing problems than before. It is little wonder that one of the identified harmful effects of these gaps is manifested in the various forms of injustice that permeates society in diverse measures.  They include debts, poverty, identity politics, lack of power and participation.



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