By Sandra Umeh
A former Minsiter of Education Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili on Wednesday, called for the inclusion of more women in leadership positions and decision making process in Nigeria.
Ezekwesili spoke at the inaugural virtual conference of the International Women’s Day hosted by the Nigerian Bar Association Women’s Forum (NBA-WF)
The conference had as its theme: ‘Pathways to Diversity: Challenging blind spots and powering up for inclusion’.
Delivering the key note address, Ezekwesili congratulated the leadership of the NBA-WF for their initiative in putting the conference together.
She noted that the deliberations on diversity or differences was being driven by those considered as the marginalised in the society.
“In all the differences or diversities that we have seen, gender difference has become so pronounced in terms of a lack of recognition of it as an important factor for building resilence in society.
“Society, according to the divine who created it, is not made up of one gender, men and women make up society.
“In most societies and even globally, data shows that it divides equally in a unique way; so, women are 50 per cent of the population even in Nigeria,” she said
According to Ezekwesili, everytime people make the mistake of ignoring this data, they build a homogenous and exclusive society as well as companies which are not representative of gender profile.
She noted that in most parts of the world, women are visibly absent in decision making process as well as in the formulation of economic and monetary policies.
In relation to law as a discipline, she also noted that only about 25 per cent of women are in full legal practice, adding that motherhood or maternity which was perceived in the past as a hinderance, should no more be the case today as women are vested with potentials.
She urged the leadership of the NBA-WF to identify obstacles standing in the way of full participation of female lawyers in bar activities, and work out modalities in tackling these obstacles so as to ensure inclusiveness of women.
With this, Ezekwesili then declared the conference open.
Earlier in his welcome address, President of the NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata, congratulated the women’s forum for putting in place such conference
According to him, the conference’s theme is as topical and it is critical adding that International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
“Regrettably, however, there remains those less talked about issues and unconscious biases which have historically contributed and continued to contribute to the suppression of the female folk.
“It is in this regard that we must applaud the organisers of this conference for selecting the theme.
“I have always said that we have not scratched the surface in terms of the role that the legal profession in Nigerian can play in, and for, the Nigerian economy.
“This is why I continue to espouse the view that relative to our population, we do not have too many lawyers in Nigeria; We just have too many of our lawyers crowded in the same practice area.
“I have therefore, made it a cardinal policy of my administration to emphasise on the opening up of new frontiers of practice for our lawyer
“I also promised to support the NBA-WF in the quest to establish a sexual harassment policy for the legal profession in Nigeria amd I wish to use this occasion to restate that promise,” he said
Akpata pledged the NBA’s continued effort in promoting inclusiveness at the bar.
In her opening remarks, chairperson, of the conference planning committee, Mrs Chinyere Okorocha, said that there should now be a desire for women to rise up and explore opportunities.
She said that indeed, women in diverse fields and in law, have come a long way in rewriting the stereotypical narratives imposed by society.
“Today, we can give a little girl born in any state, the dream of not only becoming a lawyer, but of striving for and attaining the very pinnacle of the legal career, whether as a private practitioner, an in-house counsel, a public defender or on the bench.
“Whilst many challenges still abound, we must recognise that the price for the successes achieved so far, did not come easy.
“She said that the onus is therefore, on us to ensure that the sacrifices were not in vain and women must now push further and harder until the work is done.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that dignitaries recognised at the event included: The First Lady of Taraba State, Mrs Anna Isiaku, First Lady of Imo State, Mrs Chioma Uzodimma, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mrs Folake Solanke among other dignitaries. (NAN)