Risk Management & Nation Building: The Role of Women

“A bird cannot fly with one wing only. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women” Valentina Tereshkova.

Women represent an essential force in the quest for national development of any nation. In the developed nations, women have been able to portray this important role. It is evident that the 21st century will witness an even greater prominence of women as the culture and traditions that have kept women in suppression gradually fade away.

 

Despite the fact that women have been placed low according to the societal norms, stereotypes and traditional ideology that relegate more women to housewife roles, the contributions of women are still noticeable in major layers of the society. In fact, it is realized that women have indeed contributed to the political, social, economic and professional growth of both developed and developing nations of the world, however women in Africa have been systematically excluded from the benefits of planned development in spite of their importance to major sectors of the economy especially agriculture, food supply, the informal sector and service and farm labor force. In Nigeria, women form a sizable proportion of the country’s population at 49.4% (Source : United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division) and if we continue to ignore this proportion of individuals, we are invariably dismissing the contributions of women in all spheres of human endeavors to the overall development of the home, the community, the state, the nation and the world.

Despite their contribution to the development of various communities, it is disheartening to know that women receive only one – tenth of the world’s income and own less than one – hundredth of its property. The division of roles between men and women as prescribed by most cultures still assign the subordinate position to women.

 

Women are submerged in extreme poverty, illiteracy, different kinds of abuse, discrimination, exploitation and ill health. Therefore, a collaborative policy must be formulated for the participation of women in the overall national development. Currently, things are changing, women’s role in national development is gradually being acknowledged hence they should be given every opportunity to develop their potentials so that they can assume their rightful place in nation-building. The Standing of Nigerian Women in Political Participation and Performance from 1999 to 2011 increased from 1.8% to 6.4%. In 2015 representation of women in elective positions further deepened to 1.6% despite their active participation in pre election activities.

Undeniably, over the years it has become increasingly evident that brawn rather than brain has taken over Nigeria’s socio-political space, and being physically assertive, aggressive and boisterous has become a highly celebrated national ethos. On the other hand, those who are intuitive, possess high intellect, insightful, reasonable and sincere are increasingly excluded from all spheres of our socio-political life.

Undoubtedly, one of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s development is the continued relegation of a highly competent and effective segment of our population incapable of contributing effectively to national development because of the physical, social and cultural restrictions placed on them. Women have been most adversely affected by this phenomenon, and unless the situation is changed, this country is unlikely to achieve true integrated national development.

Adoption of a holistic approach to managing risk, shared action, gender inclusiveness, responsibility at different levels of society from the household to international communities are key ingredients to success.

On the other hand, the question that begs for an answer is “why has the task of nation building being so difficult in Nigeria?”. Risk management can be a powerful tool for nation building and it has the potential to bring about security and future prosperity to people in the developing nations. Effective risk management approaches will not only protect the affected in developing countries but it also has the capacity to unlock opportunities for better development outcomes. Across the world, women tend to hold less negotiating power and control over resources than men, which feeds into the lack of access to decision-making processes and consistently renders them more vulnerable to the impacts in crisis situations.

Developing countries tend to be hit the hardest by risks because the resources they have to manage risks are often inadequate or non-existent. (For example, in the past four decades, Bangladesh has faced three cyclones, each claiming thousands of lives. However, over the years, casualties have been greatly reduced – from 300,000 lives in 1970 to 4,000 in 2007 due to the implementation of a nationwide program to build shelters along with the introduction of improved forecasting capacity and a relatively simple but effective public alert system). In managing risks in nation building, the need to evolve from unplanned responses when a crisis occurs to a more proactive, systematic and integrated risk management approach would benefit us immensely as a country.

 

Adoption of a holistic approach to managing risk, shared action, gender inclusiveness, responsibility at different levels of society from the household to international communities are key ingredients to success. While households are the primary source of support, communities can provide informal networks such as insurance, and initiatives to absorb shocks. The function of the household is fundamental and the women usually have a significant role in maintaining the transition of households to communities. From the assessment conducted on women, their behavioral tendencies align with the challenges currently experienced in nation building.

  • Women’s leadership styles can be defined as people based, role   modelling   and   clear expectations and rewards (Mckinsey, 2009)
  • Women adopt more democratic/participative styles (Eagly & Johnson, 1990)
  • Women are more collaborative and more enhancing to increase others’ self worth (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003)
  • Women    are    rated    more    competent    in    taking initiative, practicing    self-development, integrity and honesty and driving for results (Zenger Folkman, 2012)

 

Some of the the challenges Nigerian women encounter in actively participating in politics are but not limited to: inequitable socio-cultural and religious practices; insufficient financial resources; the under-representation of women in governance; an unhealthy political environment; political party bias; false perceptions of women in politics; lack of support from family and fellow women, hypercritical media and the indigenization of women political aspirants. Despite all these barriers that impede gender parity and promote gender discrimination, some propositions that may assist in the realization of the equity drive are imperative;

“In managing risks in nation building, the need to evolve from unplanned responses when a crisis occurs to a more proactive, systematic and integrated risk management approach would benefit us immensely as a country.”

 

  • Firstly, government should bolster its political will and efforts towards promoting gender parity and women empowerment through reshaping the legal and institutional framework to hinder gender discrimination.
  • The legislative system should eliminate all impediments to gender parity and reform laws that discriminate against women, such as laws and cultural practices or laws on inheritance, labor market participation, discrimination in peculiar employment opportunities and favorable employment policies.
  • Educational opportunities should be given to girls and boys equitably and particular attention on soft skills to address gaps such as confidence, leadership at the very young stages etc.
  • The media should assist in enlightening the society on discrimination, violence and crime against women, unjust cultural and traditions to be produced in both English and local language services.
  • The achievement of gender parity should start with the practice of internal democracy and parity at party levels which will propel the achievement of positions.
  • Women need to work together by championing a common front, helping one another and working together towards achieving success.

 

Finally, it is important to stress that women now constitute important partners in progress in any serious movement towards national development in all its ramifications and thus we should act in this regard at all times.  Let us continue the conversation.

 

I’m Debola Surakat– Senior Manager, AXA Mansard and 1st Winner, Nigerian Risk Awards.

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Phone: 0809 555 0641

Email: info2@conradclark.com



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