Since the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a lot of attention on the role women play across the globe. The leaders of countries such as Germany, New Zealand, and Taiwan among other have been commended for the great roles they have played as women leaders in containing the COVID – 19 Pandemic.
This is unlike countries like Nigeria where women have not been deliberately included in the efforts to contain the virus but women have continued to organize, mobilize and have contributed immensely towards providing support at different levels to alleviate the challenges. However, there is less visibility on the challenge’s women have faced as well as the efforts women are making to respond to the situation and their contributions towards recovery form the pandemic.
It was against this background that the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, organized a webinar titled “COVID-19 Response and Recovery: The Role of Women Politicians” on Thursday, 11 June 2020 to explore the contributions of women the gaps and the need to mainstream gender into the recovery process. The webinar provided a space for women political leaders in Nigeria to highlight their experiences and roles in the crisis as well as provide key strategies for women’s inclusion in the recovery process.
The webinar brought together a team of resourceful experts as panelists. They were: Iyom Josephine Anenih – Former Minister of Women Affairs, Hon. (Engr.) Janet Adeyemi – President, Women in Mining; Former member, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Mulikat Akande Adeola – Astute Politician, Former Majority Leader, House of Representatives, Barr. Ebere Ifendu – President, Women in Politics Forum, and Barr. Aye Georgina Dakpokpo – National Chairman of Young Democratic Party (YDP) and Secretary IPAC. The discussion was moderated by the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Mufuliat Fijabi. Highlights from the webinar are as follows:
- Women are indeed playing a very significant role in the response and recovery to COVID-19. A lot of women politicians have devoted more time to care giving, support to frontline health workers who are women, initiated and provided support in the form of palliatives.
- There is an exacerbated increase in poverty, gender-based violence, burden on women and challenges with access to health care especially for pregnant women and nursing mothers. More so, many of them will be required to work longer hours, while juggling domestic responsibilities such as childcare.
- There is an absence of statistics on the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic generally and in particular from a gender perspective to enable adequate assessment of the impact.
- Women politicians are at alert on the recovery process and acknowledge the fact the full recovery from the economic impact of COVID -19 should be all involving and include women from all professional backgrounds and who have contributed significantly to the response and recovery process.
- The webinar acknowledged that there are gender equality gaps in the response and recovery to COVID -19 which is only a reflection of the existing absence of women in leadership and decision-making positions.
- The webinar made it clear that we also have challenges in the documentation of efforts and contributions of women amid the pandemic.
Some Key Recommendations from the webinar are as follows:
- The recovery process must be gender-responsive and that should impact on all areas of the economy and the governance process.
- The government needs to accept the fact that the gender gap is a necessity that must be addressed especially because it has remained a lingering challenge since Independence and Nigeria at 60 should be better off in terms of gender equality.
- Economic recovery process to COVID – 19 needs gender responsive policies that will address the challenges from a gender perspective.
- Women working in the informal employment sector in Nigeria must be included in the recovery process as women constitute most of the workforce in this sector. There is a need to ensure that compensatory social support packages are delivered to them.
- The needs of frontline female health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives, as well as medical facilities support staff must be integrated into every aspect of the response and recovery effort.
- Women should sufficiently engage in consistent advocacy either through the traditional media or the social media for visibility on key areas around the response and recovery from COVID – 19 and the contributions of women.
- Efforts should be intensified on data gathering to buttress facts. Data can be used to validate claims and advocacy efforts.
- A multi-faceted approach is needed to change the narrative of women in Nigeria. While it is critical to get in more women into politics, there is also a need for legal reform, advocacy, lobbying, and getting more women into leadership structures of the private sector.
- As the COVID-19 recovery process progresses, there is a need for adequate documentation to ensure that women are sufficiently covered as key players in the recovery process