By Femi Oyelola
Nigeria joined the global community on July 11, 2023 to commemorate the World Population Day in order to focus on the urgency and importance of population issues.
Annually, the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) commemorates World Population Day with Governments, Civil Society, NGOs and Youth groups to bring attention to pertinent issues faced by people in the world.
This year, the World Population Day highlighted the need to advance gender equality to help realize the dreams of all the 8 billion people on the planet under the theme: “Unleashing the power of gender equality to spur national development”.
In his remarks during the commemoration in Kaduna, the Sexual, and Reproductive Health and Rights, (SRHR) Analyst UNFPA, Dr. Baba Modu Mari, said the growth of global population has been in sync with the increase in Nigeria’s population growth from about 140 million people in 2006 to about 221,588,161 million people in 2022.
Young and adolescents account for more than 60% of Nigeria’s population and the population of women and girls are far more than 49.46% of the total population.
Dr. Mari said, this situation calls for the Government to invest in their health and education, while providing them opportunities for decent work so that they can contribute to economic growth and overall social development.
However, Nigeria which conducted its last national census 17 years (2006) ago, it’s plan to conduct another green census has been temporarily put on hold.
The Executive Chairman of National Population Commission, (NPC), Nasir Kwarra, during his meeting recently with president Bola Tinubu, said the Commission has spent about N200 billion for the preparation of the 2023 population and housing census.
The counting exercise was intended to hold between 29 March and 2 April in all the 774 local government areas of Africa’s largest population.
Analysts believe Nigeria with its 2.4 per cent population growth rate is heading towards explosion especially when the growing rate is among the women and girls, hence this year’s theme: “Unleashing the power of gender equality to spur national development”.
Speaking on the alarming growing rate at a fora, the Executive Chairman of NPC opined that one of the ways to address the challenges of a growing population in the country is to have accelerated access to family planning at all service points across all communities.
However, the theme of this year is worrisome because it is aimed to shed light on the importance of ensuring reproductive health and rights for everyone, particularly the womenfolk as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. It emphasizes the need for accessible healthcare services, education and empowerment, particularly in Nigeria where population growth is escalating rapidly.
It is observed that the major problems facing Nigeria’s population today are multifaceted. Inequality, racism, conflicts, disruptive technology, and diseases all present significant challenges. Inequality and racism widen the gaps in healthcare access, educational opportunities, and overall quality of life. Conflicts disrupt communities and people’s lives, leading to displacement, instability, and difficulties in providing basic services. Disruptive technology, while beneficial in many ways, can also contribute to job loss and unemployment in various sectors. Diseases, as the recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, can cause immense suffering and strain on healthcare systems.
Many advocates have posited that the root of this marginalisation is gender inequality. UNFPA further noted that “this pervasive injustice keeps women and girls out of school, the workforce and leadership positions; limits their agency and ability to make decisions about their health and sexual and reproductive lives; and heightens their vulnerability to violence, harmful practices and preventable maternal death, with a woman dying every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth.”
Stressing on this, the Director General of Kaduna State Contributory Health Management Authority, (KADCHMA) Mallam Abubakar Hassan, said Kaduna State Government has promised to continue its Gender and Social Inclusion policy that will protect women and girls in the state.
According to him, the last administration of Mallam
Nasiru El-Rufa’i’, introduced Gender Policies to protect the rights of women in the state, which he is sure the current government in the state will sustain.
He assured that the Senator Uba Sani’s administration would ensure that women and girls were protected through social inclusion at all levels of governance.
Despite contributing about 70 per cent to food production in Nigeria, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO), women farmers continue to suffer discrimination and lack of funding.
According to a 2012 gender policy report by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, only 8.5 per cent of the women own land in rural Nigeria, while in relatively poor rural areas, 10.1 per cent of women have access to land compared to men who owned 88.1 per cent and 46.1 per cent access respectively.
In the urban centres and poor urban centres, women’s access to land is 4.5 per cent and only 5.9 per cent of them owned land. The men, on the other hand, have 49.5 per cent of access while 28 per cent owned land.
Access to financial services still remains a challenge in many parts of the country. In addition, infrastructure, technology, and education are all lacking in rural areas, which makes it even harder for farmers to access resources to improve their businesses.
Despite the government’s noble intentions of boosting farming activity in the country, several financial policies have contributed to increased social disparity through their broader implications.
The women would be happier if they are seen as part of the society without gender discrimination, and free access to socio-economic and political structures like their male counterparts.