The managing director, Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, has decried the rate of marginalisation of women and girls in the country, while calling for collective support for inclusion of women in policy making.
She said with 90 per cent of key leadership positions in the country being occupied by men, it is infeasible to address the challenges facing women and girls.
Ihekweazu therefore, stressed the need to change this narrative, saying women participation in governance is crucial to the country’s economic recovery and building back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She stated this at the maiden edition of the #HealthMeetsArt Gala with the theme ‘Celebrating Womanhood’, organised by the Nigeria Health Watch, in Abuja.
Noting that women make up half of the population in the country, the MD said it is important for them to take part in making decisions that affect them.
She lamented that women, on a daily basis, are confronted by inequality which builds on and is rooted in the constructed role, attitudes, values, and influences that society ascribe to men and women.
“Gender inequality impacts on the health, social status of women and girls and their access to economic and educational resources, amongst others. Women’s autonomy in making decisions about their health and bodies can be at odds with societal and cultural norms.
“If we are not sitting on the decision making table, how much of our experiences being shared, how much of the issues we face are being addressed? Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of deaths among women in Nigeria; over 23 percent of global deaths of women are in Nigeria. Nigeria accounts for one of the largest share of maternal mortality globally and this should worry us.
“If we have more women in policy making positions, we are sure that a lot of these things that directly affect their lives will be addressed . We are all striving for gender equality in Nigeria, where women have the opportunity to achieve their potentials,” she stressed.
Speaking further, Ihekweazu explained that the Celebrating Womanhood Art gala was used as a platform to highlight the important need to accelerate progress towards gender equality in Nigeria.
“Today, we are working with the female association of artists in Nigeria and the Nigeria Gallery of Arts to create artistic work that really speak to issues and not just to celebrate women but to highlight their strength and challenges facing them in our society.
“The focus is to use the artistic work to highlight the travails and challenges of womanhood. We want to see a Nigeria where every woman has equal opportunity to participate in the affairs of the country,” she said.
In her remarks, Wife of the Kebbi State Governor, Zainab Bagudu, called for prioritization of the education of the girl-child, adding that women are faced with a lot of challenges which varies from health, education to funding and to culture.
The curator, head of station, National gallery of Arts, FCT, Tiny Azodoh, said the nexus between art and public health is that majority of health challenges are emotionally induced.
Azodoh said the artists have spoken through their works. “We look forward to another intervention where victims of trauma, domestic violence against women and girls, gender inequality and social exclusion, use art to take us by the hand and walk us through their experiences.”