Dr Hauwa Mohammed Mainoma is the director, Gender Studies and coordinator, Long Vacation Programme, Admin and Planning, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. In this interview with MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI, she speaks on the benefits of Gender Studies to the nation among other things.
What is Gender Studies all about?
Gender studies is a center that deals basically with gender issues, that is to be able to know the functions and functionalities, how the male and female should partake or be involved in the society. How they can come together to develop the society in order to contribute their own quota in the development of the nation.
Sometimes, when you put people together, there will be a kind of friction. So gender studies creates awareness and defines certain role in the society. With this definition, when another person’s role is played, there will be friction, and misunderstanding.
It is captures issues surrounding both male and female as they are being discussed and investigated to find ways of solving the challenges associated with violence and discrepancies in the community and so on. Some communities see women as the least privileged persons that does not have a say in the society.
So, gender studies is trying to inform them that a female has a great role to play in such a way that she can be able to contribute to the development of the society and the nation as well. So to a large extent, it tackles this issue.
Also, gender studies can be seen as a rescue center for both students and staff . This is because, if a student has an issue with his own lecturer or any person within, gender studies will solve the problem or channel the problem to the people or authorities that will be able to solve it. So, it is a kind of rescue area or place that people come to give suggestions and contribute their quota to help the centre and also develop certain traits in the society. So, it is also linked to the community, to stakeholders that are the backbones of the institution, whether primary, secondary or tertiary institution. It is the link between them. The community go there to lay their complains.
The institution interprets these complains into academic language. In fact, it is a place that bridges the gap between the community and the institution, which is the school and it also helps to create awareness about education especially in terms of the girl-child education to the community . Gender Studies enlightens parents, communities and society at large about critical issues.
These are the little ways gender studies is established to perform in order to help the near community and also the far community even beyond Nigeria.
How can Gender Studies help alleviate violence in the society and also impact on the nation’sveconomy ?
Gender Studies can really help since much of the violence, disagreement come because of frictions happening in the society. We are into research, into organisation of seminars, conferences involving various academicians and intellectuals who usually come to dispense their own knowlege, with a bank of knowledge to solve the various problems in the society. So, if there is a problem, they just look in their knowledge bank and find the appropriate solution to that particular issue. The center for gender studies has solutions to crises happening in the society or in Nigeria as a whole. It is just a matter of government engaging the center to boost high productivity.
How can the girl- child , especially those at the grassroots be equipped with the knowledge about Gender Studies?
First of all, we have to tell them the importance of knowledge, you have to tell them how that knowledge helps in developing that particular child and also the community and nation at large. You have to tell them step by step, how it will really help them. You also have to address issues like income. It is not just being engaged to have a white-collar job. When you are educated, you will see that there are lots of opportunities for you to play a role in which you can be able to contribute your own quota to the development of yourself, your community and the nation at large.
We would have to create awareness about the importance of knowledge and not even saying a girl child is being educated so she must work. Even if she is sent for marriage, that marriage will last because she knows her right, the right of her husband, the right of those around her and the family at large. When she is able to do that, there won’t be much friction in the marriage, even the community and society will be at peace because everyone knows his role to perform. So, in relation to that, gender studies is there to create awareness about their priority.
Girl child education is very important, in fact to me, girl child education is more important than the male child education because in marriages, most of the time, it is the woman that is contributing a lot to the upbringing of the children. Sometimes ,when the man is not at home, she would use her money to provide and care for the household.
Sheis seen with the children at all times, she knows their needs and does not have to wait for the father to provide. Some people say show me the way to catch fish and not to give me fish. So, being educated will imbibe in her a hundred ways to catch fish, so she really helps the family, the husband and any other person that is with her.
Despite the declaration of free funding for education for nine years by the UBEC, there’s still call for an extra three years.What do you think?
I can see that this one is just on paper. There’s a fantastic plan that the policy makers are coming up with programmes that will help the community and the society. The educational planners are really trying to evolve a well-designed plan for education but the problem now where I can say the government is failing is the monitoring aspect. You will see that most of the time the design is being done, it is only in public schools. Some people now are returning to the private schools and the private schools don’t even have the facilities or the time to cater for the child in all aspects, you will see that they are certificating while they are not supposed to certify any child after six years but rather, after nine years because it is 9-3-4. Sometimes, a child of four, five years, is given a certificate to go to another school or continue in that same school for Jss1 and 2. So, that is what is really happening with the private schools and if you can’t beat them, you join them. Few of us who know about it, can’t do anything because the government keeps quiet, but if the government comes out to say this is what we want and everyone will have to comply, it would really help especially in the public school when you certificate a child after four years or after being in primary six, it will be very difficult for them to continue to JSS1 or 2. And we know the parents don’t even want them to go to school, so it will be a relief for them and at the same time, you will see that in JSS1 and 2, there are a lot of peer-to-peer interactions.
So, if we say basic primary, it is like a free education. If we are breaking it, we are bringing in certain things or foreign things that are not really in line with the original plan. So, the real issue is that of monitoring, the issue of supervision and inspection of that particular programme.
The programme is well planned, well designed, but the monitoring and supervision aspect is what is hindering the programme. If a child can be able to finish the basic nine years, you will see that there is a lot of skills acquisition at the basic nine. The child can use the acquired skill to support himself from SS one to SS three and even all the way to the higher institution. But when you break it, it will be a relaxed programme and that is the end.
In your Advocacy for Gender studies can you tell us some of the challenges you faced?
Well, we have a lot of challenges . I must confess but the major one is funding.
The center for gender studies is supposed to be a hub of activities with a busy schedule being attached to it. You can’t move without it, even in creating awareness you have to go round, you have to print flyers and pamphlets to make the people aware that you are around and this is your mission and also you have to travel far and wide to study other areas that are familiar with yours, what their problems are that they are unable to solve so you bring it in also to pilot test it, so it has to be a standing order in your own. All these things involve money.
You have to get the money to say this is my plan and this is what we want to do. To just make a plan and keep it is really demoralising. So, this is the greatest challenge that we are facing now.
How do you want the state or federal government to come in?
I think they should come in through the institutions, through the universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and other higher institutions. In such a way that funds are set aside either through Tetfund or any other means for just the center for gender studies because this center encompasses all the programmes that are being undertaken in the university. So, you cannot just tell somebody to leave where you are and come here without giving them anything. Gender studies, also has to do with advocating and empowering individuals, so if you empower people, you must provide funds to start up businesses. You just can’t leave them like that, it encompasses entrepreneurship and any other courses to be morally sound, even the study of law has to come in, that is the department or faculty of law and maybe the department of Islamic and Christian religious studies, psychology, sociology and so on.
Because you have to study people to pinpoint their actual problem to know how best to solve it. It is very wide in such a way that you have to go round to see things and be able to table the solutions.
The government should try and find a means of funding the centre, either directly or indirectly to make it work effectively and efficiently. In fact, if they inject more funds into the centre, the end result will be positive. So, when you solve their problems, you have done more than half the work of your government. If they can collaborate with us, they can solve much of their problems through research and so on.
What advise do you have for members of the communities and the grassroots?
Pressing issues and challenges should made open to us for discussion and solution. It is only in doing so that such problems can be investigated and solutions proffered.
Stakeholders are heads of communities. They should try to penetrate their people to tell them what they need from the society or the government. They should try and be familiar with the problems in their domain. Anytime they have something that they want the institution to do for them, they should come to us, our doors are open. We will help them out, even if we don’t have what they want, we will channel them to the rightf agency.
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