Why We Must Embrace the HeForShe Culture – Olusegun Olagunju

L-R Hamzat Bala Lawal, Senator Jummai Alhassan

Ever imagined the world where there wouldn’t be differences within the gender grouping? Ever wished your female children are accorded same respect as given to the male folks out there?

 

These drove the challenge for the HeForShe campaign that was created by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and empowerment of women, HeForShe is a global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential, enlisting men and boys as equal partners in the responsible crafting and implementing of a shared vision of gender equality, with norms of gender equality, non-violence and respect, and thus together positively reshaping society.

Purely the fundamental objectives of HeForShe campaign are to change discriminatory behaviours, through building awareness of the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment and the crucial role men can play in their own lives, and at more structural levels in their communities, to end the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.

HeForShe also provides a platform for men and boys to become advocates for women and girls, and to behave accordingly, telling their stories to the global community about the actions they are taking to end inequality.

There are mixed feelings in the acceptance of this cause but to know if this call for change is necessary, we need to have had a fair knowledge of how gender-inequality wrecks the society.
Research estimates suggest that, on the current trajectory, gender equality would not be achieved until 2095. With men and boys at the table and engaged in the issue, we believe that we can more than double the Speed of change.

Can we then fold our arms and anticipate 2095 without acting as fast as we can and allow this unhealthy phase continue in this devastating form?

In this light, an event was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development at the International Conference Centre for officially and Nationally Launch this HeForShe campaign in Nigeria to sensitize the National mind-set of the need to act now for a gender equal world.

Present at the event were notable figures, the Vice President of Nigeria; Professor Yemi  Osinbajo, The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Senator Aisha Jummai AlHassan and Phyllis Nwokedi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

The Ministry channels visibly took all present around what we stand to enjoy as this campaign kicks off. It was relayed that the Ministry’s ambitious aim is to secure the commitment of one billion men to make changes in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Those changes may range from small steps – acknowledging the issue and recognizing that the status quo is acceptable to big steps that directly make changes to individual or community lives.

Hamzat Lawal; The Chief Executive of Connected Development, an organization that has done well in ensuring that marginalized people and sect are empowered and have their voices amplified was also present at the event and gave a direct speech on the focus and his stance on gender equality and parity.

He said “Although we have come a long way from a century ago regarding the rights of women and girls, there is room for improvement. According to UN Women, gender equality is defined as “equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”.

For long, the attention and the pressure have fallen only on women to be the ones who should believe in gender equality. This is wrong. Both men and women should play an active role in ensuring equality between the sexes. As the popular Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says- “we should all be feminists”! This creed should be passed on to our future generations.

He further enthused “I am happy to be a young man who truly believes in gender equality. In my organization, 70% of my workforce is women.  As of 2016, my organization – CODE has directly impacted 26,811 rural lives, especially those of women and children in ensuring that educational and health care appropriations meant for them are well spent through our “Follow The Money” campaigns.
“However, this is not enough. As an Activist, I strongly believe that now is the time to stand up on our tiptoes, extend our arms to the sky, and confess to the world that we are sick of our women and girls missing out of school, and being victims of conflict and domestic violence.”Lastly, Lawal pointed out that “My greatest dream is that one day, I’ll have a little daughter and a son of my own. When my son asks me what it means to be a man, and when my daughter asks me what it means to be a woman, I should be able to tell them one similar thing- “Boys and Girls are equal!

“I implore our youth to join the HeforShe campaign by standing with women and girls around the world who deserve access to education, healthcare, water, and sanitation, as well as decent work.  As a great country, we could lead Africa in achieving the sustainable development goals.”

It is anticipated that out of the signatories to HeForShe, half will take the initial step of joining the solidarity campaign by making a simple positive pledge for gender equality. It is also projected that another quarter may make the pledge and then be inspired to become more engaged by taking a second step-to donate, to advocate and to sensitize themselves to gender equality issues. And a final quarter may deepen their engagement by making and following through on a major commitment that substantially contributes to social change.

 Every story of a champion making a difference has the potential to inspire others to become more engaged. Each man who takes a new action helps all of the humanity to take an additional step towards gender equality.

I advise you to Take Action Now for a Gender – Equal World.

Olusegun is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development & FollowTheMoney. He’s a Social commentator and Social Media expert.