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Think equal, act equal!

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

This week’s release of the 2012 World Development Report (Gender Equality and Development) forced me to reflect, not on the life of my grandmother or women her age, but on the women of my generation and girls the age of my three young adult sons, whose voices and life stories the report brought to us so poignantly.

If they have to live through the inequality the report unveils, how can we who are blessed to work in development deliver better on our mission to lift slightly more than half of humanity out of the status of “second best”?

It was thrilling to see World Bank staff sporting t-shirts marked “Think Equal” around the Bank’s premises on Wednesday and I could not help thinking of what I believe the report is calling us to do. It invites us to do more than “Think Equal”. We have to “Act Equal”. In Gandhi’s words, “be the change we want to see”.

Happily, the WDR tells us what a better Africa we could achieve if we do indeed “Act Equal”. Maize yields would increase by 11 to 16 percent in Malawi and by 17 percent in Ghana if women farmers got the same access as male farmers to farm inputs, extension services and technical know-how. Burkina Faso’s agricultural production would rise six percentage points if farm inputs such as fertilizer were reallocated from men to women.

Imagine the difference this could have made in the man-made starvation we now witness in Somalia.

The “feel good” effect of knowing that the international community, through institutions like the World Bank, has moved significant resources into agriculture in Africa over the last few years does not prevent us from being haunted by how much more we could have achieved if we moved earlier, faster, delivered better, pushed ourselves more and kept the focus strictly on delivering results for the poor and the most vulnerable, among them women.

One of the report’s key messages—gender equality is also smart economics—has been around a while, but reiterated within the context of the grim figures the report delivers—excess female mortality after birth and “missing” girls at birth account for an estimated 3.9 million women each year in low- and middle-income countries—it constitutes an urgent call to action, especially for African policymakers and those of us who work on the world’s last development frontier.

Even the most macho policy- and decision-makers surely recognize the benefit countries, communities and companies would draw by reducing the productivity gap between male and female workers by one-third to one-half simply by eliminating barriers that prevent women from working in certain occupations or sectors. The gains accrued from increasing output per worker by three to 25 percent across a range of countries creates the kind of win-win that we must seek in order to deliver on the promise of development for Africa.

As a “knowledge bank”, we must do a better job not only of disbursing development finance but of leveraging our resources to support countries across the continent to implement the recommendations of the report. The sales pitch is a winner: countries that create better opportunities and conditions for women and girls can raise productivity, improve learning and nutritional outcomes for children, make institutions more representative and advance development prospects for all. Period! No mention of money. Policy entrepreneurship is what Africa is sorely in need of.

We owe it to the 51 percent of Africans who just happen to be women and girls to ensure that their children’s memory captures footage of women with a greater say in households and societies across the continent; women who earn equal pay for equal work and qualification; and women who lead truly better lives than my grandmother, my mother and I lived.

They deserve it. Our job warrants that we deliver for them. Our collective future depends on achieving and maintaining that gender equality.


Submitted by Ewaen idemudia on
Nigeria today, has a work force dominated by women. Go to schools and tell me how many men you see in school as teachers these days, from nursery to secondary only at the university you see some form of equality. Go to banks women dominant banks.It is hard to see a male secretary these days. When I was hunting for Jobs all vacancies apart from the highly technical ones are open to females only up till now same thing, from marketing to sales managers. Is it Until you keep the Men totally at home that you know women have taken all the jobs over from the men. Well I think the government should allow women go for Combat missions in the Niger delta, become involved more on police patrols and go after armed criminal. And employ more of them for anti terrorist squad to help fight the raising terrorist problems in the country. You women want to sweet job and leave the dirty job for the male. I say today in Nigeria do your research we have more female workers than male in all sector of Nigeria economy.

Submitted by Afia Appiah on
Kudos to all women activists who over the last 100+ years have battled for the rights of women all over the world. They created a space for me a 36 year old woman to continue the fight for increased gender equality. But who am I fighting for? Are they even aware of the injustices gender inequality metes out to them? Do they care past the basics of having enough for they and their families to survive? Or I am fighting for the disinterested young women on the university campuses who stare at me blankly when I talk women empowerment and their role in this gender activism. They just want to breeze through school, find jobs, get someone to marry them and have 2.5 kids. What inequality, they ask? Our successes as women who believe in a better world with equitable representation across all sectors cannot be achieved if those we are fighting for don't know and don't care. What space, they ask? The space I was lucky to stand into because someone fought to create and your life will be a lot better if you step up here with me.

Submitted by Abigail on
Actually, women've been religated to the background in so many different sector in Africa. Who're these oppressors? Centainly not men alone but mostly fellow women who were fortunate to get to the ''top'', out of greed they see the growth of another woman as a threat.

Submitted by olamma ijekpa on
Warmest greetings Ma'am, I'd like to contribute my views to this interesting topic. I think that women should be given a chance to feature, support, contribute to the planning and running of affairs in our country and Africa at large. More Women should be found in places like Houses of Assembly, the senate, top Ministerial offices etc. Why? I believe women as home builders, hand that rocks/moulds the grown man and the society at large should be trusted also with such public responsibilities. My children drama group, CREATIVE WORLD CHILDREN DRAMATIC GROUP did a classical dramatic piece on this during Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan's visit to Port Harcourt during WOMEN FOR CHANGE SUMMIT / 35% AFFIRMATIVE ACTION,23RD Aug. 2010. It was simply enlightening and educating. We were invited by Her Excellency Dame Judith Amaechi, Wife of the Executive Governor of Rivers state. However, women are not to misunderstand the whole notion, the man is still in charge and the head of the home as God ordained from of old. Cheers!

Submitted by Benjamin Odiete on
Issues on gender equality need to be well addressed to enhance status opportnities in our society.

Submitted by paul on
Its gives me joy anytime i am opportune to read any of your posts. cos gr8 mind think gr8 and act gr8. You inspire alot of us and gives us hope that we can still make it only if we want to make it. you initiated lots of things that have given us hope, and we see them work and gives us the assurrance that it takes the right leader to led well. Ma can u pls try find out what have become of Nigerian Institute Of Mining and Geosciences? one of your babies while u serve as the Minister of Solid minerals. Its a world Bank assisted program and i feel seriously that as someone that was passionate about the take off of the school should endeavour to find out what have become of the school and how to achieve your objectives in what ever capacity you can.using your good office. i would be most glad if you can make a comment on this. Thanks ma and wishing you all the best in life endeavour.

Submitted by Tim Ukuta on
I am educated today Because of my mother I am God fearing today Because of my mother I own my business today Because of my mother I will do all that I can To support mothers. Thanks for this post...institutions and government should be encouraged to do more for women by creating a level playing field and access to governmental and non-governmental interventions. I greet the Saudi Arabian government for granting women the right to vote. It’s a step in the right direction.

Submitted by TIMI SIMPSON on
A topic that's been on my mind for some time now. Our sisters and daughters have to change their mind set and start acting equal! I have quietly been championing the course and strongly believe as Oby stated that if African women start to act as equals then hunger will be history in Africa. Africa would have unleashed our amazons and growth will truly start from the Kitchen. With all modesty, I inspired and co-founded a not for profit organisation called TALLAFIN KALLABI FOUNDATION (a Hausa phrase meaning Support (Tallafin) for People of the Scarf (Kallabi) i.e. support for woment). The mission of TK as we call it is to alleviate poverty , improve rural health, strenghten rural economies through diversification and improve livelihoods through women empowerment. TK's effort is geared towards rural economy diversification by linking enterprise to agriculture for food security. TK has adopted Koroko Village in Kwali Council Area of Abuja and the Alheri Sheabutter Society in Bosso Local Council, Niger State as pilot projects to be replicated in other parts of the country. TK is a group of women in support of rural women. Let Africa's growth start from the Kitchen that's the secret of Western Nigeria - my Grandma's tale! But are African women ready to Act Equal. I don't think so. I remember when I was going to get married I sought to be an agent of change for the African Woman, I told my fiancee that at our wedding I will pick up her name as our surname (mind you not her surname!)! She looked at me strangely and stoutly said over her dead body! Yet until then, she was my quintessential 'Woman Liber'. I told her I was dissapointed. She insisted on being Mrs. Simpson, she was Miss Faulkner so it was not in wanting an 'Oyinbo name'. We put the issue to her league of women liber and not a single one was willing to be the change. I told them of the story of one of Africa's most influential African of her time Lady Oyinkan Abayaomi nee Ajasa. She was married to a gentleman called Kofo Abayomi. But early in the marriage, Kofo Abayomi died. The young and beautiful heiress to Sir Kitoye Ajasa's estates remained single until one Dr. John from the West indies came to Nigeria and wooed her hand in marriage. She agreed to Dr John's proposal on one condition, which she had given to every suitor before him: Not only would she continue to be Mrs. Kofo Abayomi but her new husband shall henceforth be addressed as Kofo Abayomi! Dr. John agreed and died several years after as Sir Kofo Abayomi! The couple never had biological children but they raised several one of whom sits on the throne of Oyo today! Start Acting Equal Sisters! Can we at TK use the slogan Think Equal Act Equal to walk the talk in Nigeria?

Submitted by Idah idoko on
I think there is nothing like gender inequality even in our holy books. When God created man he made women out of men and said she shall be called woman because she is created out of man, but bcos of greed of todays woman, there have been agitating for equality which there know is practically impossible.

Submitted by Madua Justice J. Ebi on
By thinking equality of sexes and applying it in our actions, it makes us to bring out the best in our women, promoting mutual corporation and project a future where we could always imagine what we could achieve in an environment where every body is equal, regardless of gender. Madua' Justice J.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I am a feminine,and i love that i am made by my Creator as a woman.i have never felt secondbest in my entire life when placed beside a man.ithink it is time the womenfolks,ladiesfolks,girlsfolks recognise their right as(Homebuilders,good administrators of resources,a peculiar person)and take it by force.No more cry n no more intimidation.We have heard great women(Funmi Ransome Kuti,Queen Amina of Zaria,Maria Makenba,Kudirat Abiola etc), of our times in African who resisted oppression in whatever form and fought their way through turbulent times,obstacles,men ego and got to their destination.Presently,We have Ngozi Iweala,Dora Akinyili,Obiageli Ezekwezili(Nigeria),Opray Wilfrey(USA)just to mention a few.As a woman with equal gender equality it is good to think equal and act equal along your male counterpals even when they want to intimidate,never give your consent.Hold on to your virtue(s) as a great woman by believing in yourself,holding your head high above all else around you,fighting through with wisdom to possess your possession,keeping your homefront with the Lord God as your All in All,be kind to your self and people around you whether friends or enemies,smilling and moving forward,prayerful and fasting always to remove any blockade on your way by Divine Power,increase your knowledge by seeking it etc if you do the above you will see that you will never be secondbest or being trodden down by any man in any place in any where at anytime.They respect and honor you.Lastly help by resisting female inequality by voicing your voice and walking your talk.Desire think equal and act equal and it shall be yours. Enjoy your day in the Lord.

Gender equallity can only be achieved when many woman realise the importance of being independent and women should spear head educating their fellow ladies on this matter.Poverty, beer drinking and prostitution has also affected some of our ladies's indepedence in society.Its just my pray that as men we help our sister achieve this. On the other I think some women have done alot in areas of careers,politics and Business although much has to be done. I wish ladies well and continue working hard.

In 2004, I submitted a MA gender-based thesis to the Holy Ghost College, Kimmage Manor, Dublin- Ireland. It is entitled, 'Power and Women's NGO/NGDO: A Case Study of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) in Nigeria'. Reading Ms Ezekwesili's write-up, I am amazed to realise that the issues raised in my thesis seven years ago are still pertinent! The onus of my thesis is that the development enterprise, otherwise called 'modernisation/westernisation' and its multiferous Agencies including World Bank, IMF, etc, have opted for the 'power-over' concept of power interplays and relationship to the detriment of other power capilaries such as 'power within, power with, power for...' Also there is not enough power analysis by NGOs and other development agencies who carry out project implementation. Moreover, WID, GAD, Feminist Movements, NGO that attempt to balance the power equation fall into the same pitfall of 'development as modernistion/westernisation' with little or no cognisance of the power women (3rd World women) already have. As a result, the 'women empowerment' programme has become dis-empowerment for women, thus producing just the opposite result. This is becasue, as Albert Einstein said, you cannot solve a problem by using the same mind-set and method that created it. Aid-giving is Western-industry that perpetuates poverty and NGOs cannot alleviate, talkless eradicate it beacuse NGOs exist precisely because of poverty! NGOs "organisational schizophrenia", like the biblical servant turn between two masters: loyalty to donors (masters)and its own exsistence on one hand, and the grassroot beneficairies, especially women, on the other, is quite revealing! Like Ezekwesili, my experience of my mother's (now late), -a widow and single mother - strength, courage and intelligence, together with the role of the women in my village in making Catholicism my village supreme religion in the face of men's partriachal African Traditional Religion, rubbishes the image, stereotype and abstract categorisation and representation of the African woman as powerless, helpless, subjugated and incessantly in need of aid. It is this stutus quo way of thinking and doing that creates and reinforces gender inequality. I agree with Ezekwesili that thinking is not enough because thinking can be status quo thinking, just like status quo action. What is needed is critical thinking in a postmodern development paradym as well as a deconstructed development action, and that must start with recognising the power women have to build, transform, mobilise, achieve and protest... This power must be harnessed and brought to the negotiating table in every gender discourse and development endeavour. Brief, Women should not be seen, or made to act as objects but subjects of development programmes. We have acted and reflected. It's time to get back to action! By Malachy Nwanalobi Oleru, M.Afr(Secretary to the Catholic Bishop of Yendi, Northern Ghana)

Submitted by Anonymous on
well, the word gender is not absolute but relative indeed, this is because society independently designs its thought as regard gender issue. well talking from Africa as a community and more emphases on the original inhabitant of the continent. male sex is seen as superior to the female sex, that is why the position of women as regard power in Africa is very scanty from the historical angle. one constant thing on earth is change and diffusion of ideas across society, nations, countries, and continents of the world. thus, i always believe that God created female and male equally, as well what a man can do a woman can do better. well in future i can be an active member. thanks

Submitted by Kofi Yeboah-Agyemang on
It is a fact that women advocacy for gender equality is real, yet the truism is that there should be enough common play field for women to be able to bring off their best. Most of the men benefited a great deal from either their mothers or senior sisters when they were young. However, when they grow and get married another woman hijack the man and make it impossible to give back to the very society that brought him up. The women gender advocates should take a serious look about this social problem that invariably leads to the antagonism and petty squabbles of the married women and their in-laws, a situation that could easily be avoided, for the whole society to have achieved the common goal of putting food on the table, a house to lay your head and clothing to wear-thus leading to a just society. Let's avoid he mad rush of copying certain traditions and norms we have little understanding or knowledge.

Submitted by ebere on
The government of every level should commit herself to human and capital development in order to achieve the desire goal in the country.the issue of woman hood should not be a bias program in our dailies in the sense that there are a lot of factors to be considered which are responsible for the limited involvement of women in government of today, which span from illiteracy, family value, cultural background, parental bondage, poverty of the mind, lost of social value in the family, peer group, early sex, low public sensitization, poor funding of public schools. etc

Submitted by Martinet on
Madam, I believe all you said. In spite of the fact that I am a man, I am of the opinion that if women are given equal opportunity like men, their contribution to our society will be enormous. Just think of a family where you have three boys (who will later grow to become men) and one girl (who will also later grow to be woman) and they are given equal educational opportunity. At their later years, the parents will confirm that the girl contributes more to the welfare of their parents. So, if this singular opportunity is replicated on girls or women, in other fields of endeavour, I believe they will contribute more to the development of the society. Think of a family where the mother and the father are professors, the family always lack virtually nothing in terms of material wealth. I really subscribe to the think equal - act equal philosophy.

Submitted by ike kleins on
In Nigeria gender equality is gaining balance rapidly, even the government of my beloved country Nigeria is stressing the need to bring women into political offices. here in Nigeria many women have benefited as a result of gender balance, it is even a threat to a man coversing 4 a political office with a woman here in Nigeria bc the Fedral Government of Nigeria is going to give her more preference in the election. talking of Africa as a continient, gender equality is gaining ground because we are bigining to understand the fact that women as mothers given the room, they can contribute to the growth of the society. Take for instance, it is the woman that makes a man to settle down. most men are alcoholics and drug addicts, but the presence of a woman in the life a man can change all that.That's why parents need to pay more attention to thier female children and ensure proper education when they are little. I am a living testimony. thanks

Submitted by Ogbonna Chinaedum Rolland on
I support gender equality........

Submitted by william barry on
the world bank are a joke and so is the un--they only want parts of africa to be undeer there total control and if the countries gvt doesnt agree with waht there policy is that has been agreed in usa at the un look at lybia he became there friend and when he said he would do things his way -- bang bang-he had to go the uk and the rest of europe is broke=----the uk has not a penny for schools yet we find billions to bomb lybia---- watch out any country finding oil --it might be your oil but you will find you have another master who will tell you how to spend all the revenue it earns--- on more bombs and guns and weapons to kill each other--no country in africa is safe from un world bank and all oil thieves who wont build you a school or a hospital or a new dock so you can export your crops--- but they will build you a newdock to help them take your oil--and your minerals away from you and pay you in arms and guns and bombs -- africa is the only continent in the world that has every mineral every crop and all the labour for it to be the the nos one continent in the world--WAKE UP AFRICA DONT LISTEN TO THE WORLD BANK--- TELL THE UN IT IS YOUR CONTINENT--YOU WANT MORE SAY IN WHAT HAPPENS TO IT---TELL THE OIL BARONS--FOR EVERY BARREL YOU TAKE FROM AFRICA-- YOU SPEND TEN PERCENT OF THE REVENUE IN THE COUNTRY IT COMES FROM--ON THE PEOPLE PROVIDING HOSPITALS AND SCHOOLS--AND MEDICINES-- TELL THEM TODAY DONT LEAVE IT TO LATE --GOD BLESS AFRICA--GOD BLESS ITS PEOPLE

Submitted by Mphatso on
Empowerment yes. R we really sustaining the effort? Numerous tactics needed for this. So much is already being invested. we can talk, act, yes! but the fruits should stay and grow forever.

Please i will like you to know that there is a dire need to develop women.I however frown at a situation where equality means that men are deprived of their economic status.Its good that women must also be allowed to work and earn money , which is a good idea.But the money men earn is the family's money, and madam's money is her money which she only shares with her family when the need arise.Such monies are are betther spent on their own family and france made cosmetics.The man still has to buy her a car and bear responsibilities.No wonder there are so many widows and the world population is saturated with women.Because the society expect too much from men, while a woman is merely expected to bear children.This division of the available jobs between genders and the non even traditional ditribution of the incomes, for the whole family but on hair attachment, cosmetics and latest dresses manufactured overseas, is the origin of a new type of poverty which the World Bank should document:How much of a man.s income or that of a man is spent on their immediate family. Men over the decades, even centuries have worked hard to take care of their families, fight great wars and die in millions, even where one village fight with the other, men have given their lives to protect the land resources and the women. Efforts have always been made to protect women and children While saddam Hossein's two sons and grand sons were been shot dead, his two daughters were applying for visas at foreign embassies.Jenniffer Lopez has divorced three husbands.She is better off financially than the first two.She was nice enough to give employment to the first two husbands.Did lawyers battle to divide her assets ?.If she has been a man what would have happend.women are very important and in some communities women are looked down upon.yet the properties of a man belong , not to him.Black men pay dowry before marriage , white people pay dowry after marriage in form of settlements and allimonies.Please balance this call for equality, when more than half of enrolled students in the universities, secondary schools and primary schools are already female.

Submitted by Paulus on

Dear vice president world bank The write up you pasted in this blog is quite commendable yet just like you identified actions speak louder than words. Solving this problem from the family level is the best option. Remember it is still the rich women who go to the rural areas and bring less fortunate children to the urban areas to use them as house maids. They send their own children to well equip and modernize schools and send the maids to government schools usually afternoon session. They pay less attention to their problems, their potentials and calling. During festive periods they still give preferential treatment to their children in place of this poor ones who does all the house chores. Established and prolific women of the society need to focus their attention on informing, enlightening and assisting the girl child at a tender age. They need to encourage the poor girl child to understand the importance of education by giving them scholarship and observing them closely to know where lies their potentials irrespective of the fact if they are their children or not. The women of the society are 80% cause of their predicament. Most of them only wish to be with already achieved persons rather to start building a home which she can be proud of.

Submitted by Rex on
Liking it or not men, I'm proud to be a woman. Women are the very important type of Human Beings. Without a woman what can you get out of this world? Is it children, home or ... People of this media, a woman should not only be given equal rights, but be respected. Which man has ever brought life to Earth apart from a woman? Please people, a woman is human and a very important one. Let no one humiliate her. We are to be treated with equality as we do some very impossible things as life bearing. I am proud to be a woman because I can do all what a man can do and still do what he's unable to do which is very important to humanity. Thank you!

Submitted by Tope Olaifa on
I commend the effort of Madam Oby at striking this awareness in her own little corner. It is quite inspiring to me because I have had the opportunity to read it. This in itself is hinged upon the fact that I am basically educated and beyond this I am ICT compliant to a degree that I could access information on facebook and read blogs. Pray, how many women fall within this category I have mentioned? There are millions of us in the rural areas who do not even know anything about this gender rights and equity we are talking about. I am aware that many Gender and Development organisations are making incursions into grassroots yet their effort has remained a drop in the ocean. Many of these organisations are even content talking to elite women groups in cities just because the cost of grassroots advocacy and mobilisation is higher and funds are really not coming easy from anywhere. I run one of such organisations and this informs what I am saying. The engine of my car got knocked at one instance on the way to Ibagbeto and I know what I faced to get it out of the creeks. Meanwhile, it was a privately sponsored project. Yet we need to get to the grassroots. That should be the target of our campaign. The city women have an advantage of education and exposure. We don't.

Submitted by Anonymous on
We cannot divorce gender equality and development. They go hand in hand.

Submitted by Anonymous on
As a male, I should be equal to every other male on this planet. As a wheelchair puns male, im in much more of a minority than able bodied woman. I have read one of the posts where a woman has said she'd allow her son in the kitchen to cook, would she let her daughter mow the lawn. Probably not. My point is we can still be equal whilst doing the roles that we are physically capable of doin. That's equality to me.


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