The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019. As an organisation with a mandate to promote, protect and preserve the rights of women and children in Nigeria, March 8th is always a special day for us. We proudly add our voice to celebrate women’s contributions to their home, work, society and the world at large.
According to unwomen.org the theme for this year is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. This year’s theme is focused on the innovative ways we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. The achievement of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions, particularly when it comes to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
FIDA Nigeria celebrates our great and courageous women achievers at all levels, who against all odds are breaking chains, pushing boundaries, climbing ladders and standing tall in all sectors of society. These women through their doggedness, perseverance and sheer determination are helping to close the gap in and promoting gender parity while facilitating in building a gender balanced world. We salute you and encourage others to rise up and emulate you. We celebrate women who have seized the moment and are creating pathways to enable better balancing …great mentors, great persons of influence touching lives and impacting positively. More women are participating in the political process, vying for and taking up appointments and key positions of leadership, however a very small percentage are given the opportunity to succeed in the very rough terrain.
Women as professionals are also breaking several glass ceilings, progressing in different business and operating seamlessly in the ‘man’s world’, determined not to be held down by stereotyping, absolutely courageous and independent geared towards breaking the set moulds and challenging the ancient systems. It is also now more common to see in society a higher percentage of women being bread winners, economically buoyant, owning great businesses. Yet, economic freedom is not enjoyed by all, as so many still suffer economic abuse, many still can’t culturally own land or property, many still suffer from the infringement of their inheritance rights and the education of the girl child is still a challenge.
When it comes to the legal profession, this years theme has encouraged us as female lawyers to reflect inwards. FIDA acknowledges that though we have achieved a lot in the fight to protect, promote and preserve the rights of women and children, we still have a long way to go. The judiciary is a compass of society and there needs to be more of a move towards upholding women’s rights. Gender law is not yet mainstream in legal practice. Lawyers and the judiciary are encouraged to make a conscious effort to adjudicate and decide cases from a rights perspective.
Another issue, is the gender disparity in the leadership of the legal profession. The legal profession requires significant research and analysis and women who are typically the home makers, often find it difficult to find a happy balance and practice law because of these factors. FIDA Nigeria is proposing that one way we can innovate for change in the legal sector is to take a more digital approach to the practice of law in Nigeria. If we take a more technological approach to legal practice in Nigeria, the ease and speed of working will be increased and more women will be able to take advantage of it and attain higher positions. With more legal technology, more people would be able to work digitally and we would be able to reform the 8.00am to 8.00pm work hours, which most law firms in Nigeria are indirectly operating.
The legal profession in Nigeria must realise that technology and process are now just as important as legal expertise in the delivery of legal services. The legal sector must begin to think equal and innovate for change. Clients now want to be able to report their cases virtually or request their legal agreements virtually. It also saves them the time and energy. Case law and Statute can also be made more easily accessible if they are moved online. FIDA Nigeria is looking to make this digital move and develop a web application through which women and children can report their cases of abuse and violation and access FIDANs and FIDA partner contacts. This app is part of our efforts to “think equal, build smart and innovate for change” and so if you would like to get involved please contact us.
FIDA Nigeria calls for a greater gender balance, all round, at all levels and in all its ramifications. This is absolutely necessary because of the great benefits that will accrue to our communities and our nation. A balance will be for the better because where everyone is carried along, given equal opportunities, rights and benefits, peace and social justice will reign and consequently, we get a productive and progressive nation where everyone is opportune, without discrimination, to play any key roles they desire based on their strengths and merit.
We encourage the men to support gender parity. We need more #HeForShe champions to be our allies, collaborate with us as advocates for and champions for change as we seek to strike the gender balance. We need more progressive mindsets for inclusiveness.
We call on all to be great watchmen. Where there are lapses or any absence of balance, speak out, point it out and take progressive steps to balance it out.
FIDA Nigeria wishes women in Nigeria and all over the world a happy International Women’s Day and encourages all to #ThinkEqual #BuildSmart #InnovateForChange
Rhoda Prevail Tyoden Eliana Martins
Country Vice President/ National Publicity Secretary