WOMEN RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS: Gender-based stereotypes.
Another area women are globally discriminated against is gender-based stereotypes. According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR), gender-based stereotype is defined as a generalised view or preconception about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by women and men. It is said to be harmful when it limits the capacity of women or men to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choice about their lives. Even though a gender-stereotype can be positive and psychologically gratifying (for instance, women are merciful and home builders), it is mostly used to pull women down from fulfilling their potentials.
Most often in Nigeria, gender stereotyping is negative. It is socially degrading. In mostly all the ethnic groups in the country, women are perceived as weak beings. In fact, among the Yoruba, women are believed to possess ‘seven (7) bones’ while men are believed to have ‘nine (9) bones’. This determines the assigned gender social roles and functions in the society. Even though other ethnic groups in Nigeria might not have the ‘bone-number myth’, they have other beliefs that socially degrade humanity in women.
Social degradation of women through gender stereotyping thus translates into a perceived limited capability of women to excel in certain but important sectors of the society. First, it discourages girl-child education, thereby denying them right to education. Some societies in Nigeria still see education of the girl-child as a waste. They believe that no matter the degree a woman has, she will still end up in the kitchen or “the other room”.
It is also the limiting power behind career excellence of most women. It is perceived that women cannot go into career that demands either mental or physical strength. Gender stereotyping is the reason why women constitutes 49.5% of primary school teachers and only 26.3% tertiary school teaching staff, according to the 2015 National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) report on Women and Men in Nigeria. It is the feminisation of the teaching profession! But not only the teaching profession as there are only 300 registered members of Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) while as at July 2018, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) registered 2097; majority of whom are men. This gap also exists in the medical and other science-related fields.
The consequent of all these gender stereotypes is denial of women rights to education, career freedom, health, marriage, freedom of expression, association, political participation, among others. This is not only harmful to guaranteeing women rights but also damaging the dignity of female gender in Nigeria.
Between March and July, 2018, COREN have approved two sets of newly registered engineers. In July 2018 alone, 2097 newly registered engineers (check here; http://www.myengineers.com.ng/2018/06/06/nigerian-female-engineers-worried-by-the-numerical-disparity-with-male-colleagues/) were just one out of the six (6) categories of registered engineers by the Council (available here: https://coren.gov.ng/index.php/download/category/6-council-latest-approval-list). If you download the lists from the two links, you will see the unimaginable gender gap in engineering in Nigeria. The details of how women engineers lament about the gap was reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and was published here: http://www.myengineers.com.ng/2018/06/06/nigerian-female-engineers-worried-by-the-numerical-disparity-with-male-colleagues/. The NBS Report on Statistical Report of Women and Men in Nigeria (2015) is downloadable here: www.nigerianstat.gov.ng/download/491%20December%202016.
Written by Concern Women International Development Initiative (CWIDI)
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