By Sumaila Ogbaje
The President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, on Wednesday, unveiled the Gender Policy for the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) to promote gender mainstreaming in the nation’s armed forces.
Mrs Buhari, who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Women Affairs and Administration, Dr Hajo Sani, commended the military for taking step towards actualising gender mainstreaming in the armed forces.
She said that the policy had the propensity of opening up opportunities not only for the female personnel but also for the children aspiring to join the military.
According to her, the policy has set the stage for every woman in the AFN to begin to play a significant role in the defence of the nation from all forms of security challenges that confront Nigeria.
“It is on record that women and girls exert more efforts than the men and boys to prove their competence in many chosen areas of endeavour including the military.
“Therefore, the Armed Forces of Nigeria has set itself up to benefit maximally from the abundant innate capacities and capabilities women and children possess.
“It is also heartwarming that with this giant step, the Armed Forces of Nigeria is encouraged to ensure that the large part of the population contributes to the task of defending the country against its enemies,” she said.
She said that one of the cardinal focus of her Future Assured Programme under Aisha Buhari Foundation was the quest for gender inclusiveness and increased participation of women in decision-making processes.
She expressed hope that because women had been “imbued with wisdom that enables them to unite systems”, they would play a critical role in bringing solutions to various security challenges confronting the country.
This effort, according to her, is an added impetus to the efforts of Nigeria through the Ministry of Women Affairs and other civil society organisations working on ensuring women and girl children rights in the male-dominated environment of Nigeria.
She advocated that the policy should keep in view the challenges that militate against women emancipation, adding that gender stereotype against women was a potential threat to their advancement in the military.
According to her, there are a good number of reported cases where women were prevented from participating in combat duties, excluding pregnancy or maternity.
“Women are often restricted to careers within the supportive aspect of the military such as finance, human resource, personnel, logistics, medical services, welfare etc.
“I enjoin the military women to continuously take note of this and vehement exception to such psychological oppression with the formulation of this policy.
“The security issues bedeviling our Country Nigeria still abound probably because we are yet to redefine the Armed Forces of Nigeria to explore the potentials of women for operational effectiveness.
“Women possess the traits of patience, perseverance and passion. Because of the emotional buildup of women, we possess the tendency to transmit the same spirit to any task,” she said.
Speaking, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, said the complexity and dynamism of the spectrum of security challenges facing the world demand that all useful approaches and means must be employed to combat the menace emanating therefrom.
Irabor said it was the realisation that gender disparity contributed in no small measure to the suffering of women and girls in any environment that birthed the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
He said that the crux of the resolution aimed at ensuring that women and their societal needs were safeguarded through increased emphasis on granting access to opportunities in all spheres of human endeavours including the military.
Irabor said that Nigerian armed forces had become gender-sensitive by ensuring that the career paths of female personnel were unhindered.
This, according to him, is evident in the fact that the AFN can boast of producing female officers up to the rank of 2-star generals, adding that women were currently engaged in all areas of specialisation including combat operations.
He said that the Nigerian Defence Academy had continued to train female cadets as combatant officers as well as the establishment of Nigerian Army Women Corps in 2018.
According to him, the Nigerian Air Force established the Women of War in 2018 to involve women in all aspects of air operations including flying, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control and engineering.
He said that the Nigerian Navy had equally deployed women as sailors and for other key aspects such as ship maintenance.
The defence chief said that the coming of the policy was a clear declaration that the AFN was totally committed to taking the issue of women empowerment to higher levels.
He said that the policy was part of ongoing efforts at addressing some of the security challenges prevalent in the country.
“The involvement of women and girls in a myriad of violent crimes and activities including banditry, kidnapping and terrorism among others, demands that the innate capacities and capabilities of women and girls are channelled and harnessed for societal benefits.
“On this note, let me assure you all that the AFN remains seized in confronting all agents that threaten the peace of Nigeria,” he said.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, commended the military for taken step to actualise the call for gender mainstreaming in the country.
Tallen, who was represented by the Director, Gender Affairs, Mrs Friya Bulus, pledged the ministry’s support for women emancipation in the armed forces.
The President, Defence and Police Officers Wives Association (DEPOWA), Mrs Victoria Irabor, commended the move and the unveiling of the policy document.
She advocated the proper implementation of the policy to enable it to achieve the desired goal, adding that the policy was poised to launch the Nigerian armed forces to greater heights.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was attended by the service chiefs, their wives and coordinator of UN Women, British High Commissioner among others. (NAN)