In this post, our focus is on Nigerian women meaning all women in Nigeria as well as girls regardless of nationality.
The hashtag #MeToo has highlighted the incidence of sexual harassment and assaults against women especially in the workplace or a professional setting. It has also helped to identify a common denominator in all these experiences, namely, an imbalance of influence, power or control.
The question is not just whether there are laws and institutions in place to provide redress to Nigerian women who have been at the receiving end of these harrowing experiences but equally what are the factors that prevent women from speaking up and holding the perpetrators to account?
In our view, cultural and religious attitudes play a big role in "normalizing" such reprehensible conduct. Poverty is also a contributory factor as it conditions the victims to remain silent when faced with influential or more powerful perpetrators. Also, ignorance of the available forms of redress or assistance is an important consideration.
A lot of work is already being done to reverse this narrative through state-funded and nonprofit-led schemes on legal aid, rights protection and education. This is commendable.
However, we argue that improving the economic situation of Nigerian women is paramount. For example by closing the gender gap in financial inclusion. This means improving women's access to and use of formal financial services and improving the levels of financial literacy particularly among those who are rural-based and have low incomes and are less educated.
This is what DIN says:
"There is an obvious gender gap in financial access. Closing this gap must necessarily start with recognizing the extent of the problem. Financial institutions in the banking sector are now mandatorily required to develop products and services that target women. But with low levels of knowledge and awareness of financial products and services being the financial capability dimension that most characterizes the demand-side in Nigeria, achieving gender parity in financial inclusion will evidently require more than the availability of women-specific products and services. Crucially, the Nigeria Financial Literacy Baseline Survey (FinLit Survey), has identified market segments in which women predominate, for example, farming, microenterprise and marginalized rural communities particularly those in the North West and North East geopolitical zones. By having recourse to credible empirical evidence from the FinLit Survey about their financial behaviour, attitudes and practices, sources of advice and media usage, it should be possible to design targeted financial education initiatives aimed at driving uptake and usage of financial products and services by these women. This is a far more effective approach to achieving gender parity in financial inclusion than simply mandating financial institutions to demonstrate progress in providing women-specific offerings. In other words, financial education will be critical to achieving gender parity in financial inclusion in Nigeria."
From"Achieving Gender Parity in Financial Inclusion" in DIN's New Perspective Newsletter, May 2016