The concept of equity and how different societies of the world assimilate this notion in their social and cultural norms through policymaking and enlightenment remains undeservingly knotty in Africa.
Many women in Africa still struggle to access higher education and find it even more daunting to create and sustain economic opportunities in the labour market because of stereotypes they face on a daily basis. This is because many African governments have deficiencies in the implementation of gender-balanced policies.
These government do not prioritise investing in the quality of human resources and the educational attainment of its citizens; both have proven to be levellers in most developed countries’ socio-economic experiences in terms of women being capable of expressing their economic rights through better earnings and consequently improved standard of living. As a result of being exposed to quality education, they are enabled to harness and develops their talents whilst contributing meaningfully to society.
The value in education is that it is the basis for the full promotion and improvement of the status of women globally, especially in a world where you have as many women as there are men today. This is to draw comparisons between the percentage of the female who eventually transit from undergraduate to postgraduate levels of education, complete it and excel in it compared to the male counterpart.
According to statista.com, in 2017, Nigerian universities accounted for 1.7 million undergraduate students and 234,000 postgraduate students. Among the master students, women accounted for 36% per cent of the total, while the percentage was slightly higher among bachelor students.
Specific disciplines and certain geopolitical zones recorded lower involvement of women according to a research work “Gender Analysis of Student Enrolment in Nigerian Universities” curated in 2014 by Kola Adeyemi and Nelson EjiroAkpotu identifying lesser female participation in the sciences and science-based disciplines and recording a wider margin of higher education involvement among females from the South.
That higher education translates into greater value for the public good doesn’t quite capture the enormous potentials for the value that would exist if more women attained higher education that will afford equal playing ground in shaping how cultural nuances are perceived for women occupying pivotal leadership roles central to the development of nations and the global community in terms of political and economic leadership.
Our contemporary experiences in Africa handed over from western climes is one that also creates expectations that both men and women are to pool resources for family sustenance, that women as much as men are to make a valuable contribution in the workplace and in recent conversations, that women can shatter the glass ceiling created and sustained by patriarchy, but, these expectations will be mere mirages where there are deficits in policy implementation and educational enlightenment that should be directed to increase women’s participation in decision-making processes at all levels; increase the number of females who should have access to education in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics compared to the number of women in the humanities and arts.
The type of policy implementation that targets low economic status women and expose them to the internationalisation of higher education opportunities that can enhance their skills for better employment prospects commensurate with higher income which will not only benefits her on a personal level but benefit the society through fiscal obligation carried out when she runs a profitable business that remits personal income tax or company tax to fiscal authorities as well as pay capital gains tax on assets she disposes of.
The deficit in policy implementation was also identified by Beatrice Akala in her article 2019 “Gender Inequality in Education is Still an Issue In Kenya and South Africa” when she observed that Kenyan and South African Constitutions guarantee every citizen the right to education regardless of gender, sex and social class, and the fact that these legal frameworks are yet to translate into real-life opportunities for women who aren’t still fully represented in decision-making cadres compared to their male counterparts due to throughput, completion rates, areas of study and enrolment in postgraduate studies.
The recent health and economic challenges posed by Covid 19we have even now witnessed the emergence of black women assuming political and economic leadership roles with the likes of the first female and first black vice president of the United States of America, Kamala Harris and the first female and first African selected by consensus to be the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr NgoziOkonjo-Iweala.
The global community has spoken in its highest pitch, that seats are reserved for women who have paid the full price of equipping themselves with the required educational achievements.
Women leadership seems even more promising in these trying times where women-led countries have suffered six times fewer confirmed Covid 19 deaths than countries led by men according to a University of Dublin study. Africa also shows promising feats as Rwandan Cabinet member, Clare Akamanzi, and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki – Sawyer have led coordinated efforts to address the public health infrastructure in delivering improved public health initiatives, all pointers credit their educational foundation especially access to higher education.
It’s time for Africa to translate the numeric strength of its womenfolk into economic might and the surest way to achieve women economic empowerment lies in the instrumentality of higher quality education. It’s about time we seize this promising tool and reroute our collective purpose.
About The Author
I am Adeola, a legal practitioner, facilitator, tech enthusiast and advocate whose escape channel has always been the sights and scenes of the art world. Writing is my advocacy tool and has formed a revolving theme of my work.
My debut book, Metamorphosis: Tales by a Lawyer Girl is for professionals, entrepreneurs and young lawyers, gift a copy to any of these categories of persons as we celebrate International Women’s Day.