Last week, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) announced on its website that it plans to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day with a half-day seminar that will focus on engendering gender parity in the Nigerian corporate environment. The seminar will leverage this year’s theme — Balance for Better.

“This year once again, NSE will be joining global exchanges to celebrate the International Women’s Day by hosting a half-day seminar including ‘Ring the Bell’ for gender equality. We will leverage on the theme, “Balance For Better” to develop relevant content and activities in line with the objective to accelerate progress towards bridging gender parity.”

Europe has already taken the lead

But while this is a step in the right direction, the truth remains that Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa still have a long way to go in their pursuit for Gender Equality, according to a recently published report by The World Bank titled “Moving towards gender equality: A new index looks at legal reforms to help women’s economic inclusion”.

In the report,  The World Bank noted that while most of the world moved towards gender equality over the past decade, only six countries have been able to achieve a 100% gender equality ranking; a perfect score. These countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Now, this is a huge improvement, given that just ten years ago, no country in the world was able to achieve gender equality. Instead, the global average index was 70.06% a decade ago but today. Currently, that score has managed to inch forward to 74.71%. This significant improvement is mainly because about 131 economies made 274 legal changes toward gender equality.

Although all the six countries mentioned above are in Europe, other regions of the World also made considerable efforts towards equalising treatments given to men and women. According to the World Bank report, on the average, the highest improvement came from South Asia followed by East Asia, the Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Middle East and North Africa had the slightest improvement, and this is not unexpected given the tenets of the Islamic religion and its traditional treatment of women.

A closer look at Sub-Sharan Africa

While different regions across the world have recorded improvements in different areas of Gender Equality, Sub-Saharan Africa continues still has a long way to go. But that notwithstanding, some improvement has been noticed in terms of more females being employed and having greater control over their marital lives.

Overall, women in Sub-Saharan Africa now have better economic empowerment and labour force participation rate compared to years before. And the implication of this is that it has become much easier for Sub-Saharan African women to find jobs in areas previously known as the exclusive prerogatives of men. It also implies that women can still work after getting married.

Nigeria has come a long way in its pursuit of gender equality. From pre-colonial days to the current century, the role and status of women have continued to evolve in Nigeria, albeit gradually. It is no longer uncommon to be on board an all-female flight crew airplane in Nigeria and some African countries. Nigerian churches can boast of highly talented female pastors holding high ranking positions or even leading such churches. In the recently concluded elections, no fewer than six women were elected into the upper legislative chamber of the Nigerian government, the Senate.

Last Saturday, I was particularly surprised when someone sent me a video of a woman, most probably from Delta State or Anambra, pouring libation while the men looked and cheered her on. Recall that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had in 2014 struck down the Igbo Customary Law that sought to disinherit the female child from her father’s estate.

Though the World Bank report did not disclose the ranking for Nigeria, it is hoped that as the likes of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and similar corporate bodies celebrate and increase the awareness for gender equality in Nigeria, slowly but steadily, Nigeria will one day join the league of Nations where women are treated equally as men.

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