• Friday, September 29, 2023
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With right environment, there is no ceiling women cannot break – LASEPA GM

With tight environment, there is no ceiling women cannot break – LASEPA GM

Dolapo Fasawe is the General Manager, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). Speaking in an interview with Ngozi Okpalakunne, Fasawe who is a medical doctor and the first female to become the CEO of LASEPA spoke on the relevance of International Women’s Day and the need for women to be educated, informed, and empowered. Also, she called on women in positions of authority to fight for their fellow women. Excerpts:

Nigeria joined the entire world to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). In what ways do you think this annual event has positively affected the lives of women both in rural and urban areas?

The International Women’s Day is not exclusive to educated women, or women of a certain socio-economic class, it is for all women and even the girl child. Now for the women in the villages and the uneducated ones, we call them, the informal sector, every woman is an entrepreneur or a business woman, so the fact that they are there or we are not bringing them to the fore front, we are constantly thinking of programmes and projects to take to these group of women.

Take for instance, if you visit, our dump site, majority of the people that pick scraps there are women, if you go to the market majority of sellers are women, but they are called informal sector, what the government owned these people is to tell them that there is no barrier to how high they can rise, we realised that there is social, culture and tradition, and even almost all local laws are holding women down in our society and it is left for us both media and the educated ones to show them how they can break this barriers.

Some men who were selling tomatoes have grown to be industrialists, some men who started as carpenters are now developers and builders, but the women would be there as people that carry sand because it is a stereotype that a woman cannot be a developer or builder, so what do we do, those women who have excelled in men dominated industries should build up a fellowship and start to encourage them.

Women who have missed education should insist that no girl child should be left behind, every girl child should go to school, we are the ones to encourage the young ones otherwise, l can assure you that breaking that bias will not happen in our generation, nor in our children’s generation because even us, right now is difficult because we were brought up biased, we still talk to our children with bias. Take for instance, some women when their male child is crying, they will ask such male child why he is crying like a girl.

We send our eleven year old male child on errand with the driver, but for our twelve year old female child a nanny must go with her together with the driver. l am not saying we should not protect our girl child however, boys also are exposed to abuse. We have to consciously break this bias by little domestic things like that.
The fact is that our generation has missed it. It is clear, the fact that we are still fighting for representation, we are still fighting to be heard, we are still fighting for laws that support gender equality, means that we have missed it.

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However, a journey of a thousand years has to start somewhere and lam happy that we are having this discussion because advocacy, education, information, communication and empowerment is the key to breaking this bias.
There is no ministry of men affairs, there is a Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation because the woman really is the home maker, the woman in our society is the one who goes to seek for help when there is problem in the house or her children do not have food to eat, so gender disparity is a big war that Nigerian governments is fighting.

The fact that we have Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and every state has a Ministry of Women Affairs is heart-warming and we do hope that these will be a reminder to them, to let women know that there is no ceiling they cannot pass through because of their gender.

Women and girls in the society today are domestically abused, raped and even discriminated, what is the way out of these challenges facing female folk?

In Lagos State, there is law against rape, there is law against domestic abuse, there is law against violence, there is law against even maltreating a woman and we have a mobile court.
Because women are usually afraid to come out to talk, we have Alternate Dispute Resolution Department in almost all the local governments in the state, the ministry of justice, has the Office of the Public Defender and it will interest you that a large percentage of their cases are always towards domestic violence against women, sexual abuse against women even emotional abuse against women or bulling against women. Take for instance a situation where a woman build a home with a man, the man is tired of the marriage, he kicks the woman out and expect her to fend for herself , Lagos state has laws against that, that protect the women.

What can we do to reduce these incidents is to let people know that there is Office of Public Defender where they can report, confidentiality is kept and their help is free at least in Lagos state.

I believe if more women know all these things we are talking about, it will reduce the cases and when men start to go to jail more often as a result of raping women and girls, teachers touching girls in the school, it will serve as a deterrent.

In what ways do you think gender inclusion can help achieve gender equality?

Every woman who is in the position and has a voice should fight for gender inclusion, the men will not fight for us, organisations will not fight for us, it is all of us that will fight for each other.
I will advise that women who found themselves in positions of authority, women who have fought their battles and have broken the barriers to areas of leadership should quickly give the ones down there a ladder, encourage them, support them and push them up.
l am the first female GM of LASEPA and l am gender sensitive, for my directors, l have probably equal number if not more women than men in leading this agency and they are not leading because they are women, they are leading because of dedication, passion and commitment.
When you talk about gender issues, we can also be bias towards men, but that is not the case here.

Can you share with us your experience and how, you were able to occupy the position of GM, LASEPA?

It is important for women to know that the way we bring up our girl children is what will determine their future. l am a medical doctor by profession, that was really a male dominated field , l had to work extra hard to prove myself as both a doctor as my male colleague.
l have had people coming in to my clinic and say they want to see doctor Fasawe and they are looking at me and l am saying ok, can l help, is there any problem? Their response will be, until I see him.

They are expecting a male doctor. Then literature and what we learnt growing up did not help in that health sector, because women are seen as nurses while male are seen as doctors.
These are the stereotypes, women have to fight and how do we fight it through, you stand your ground, you look for more strength.
If you want to excel as a woman, you have to be able to pull on your inner and lam telling you, comfortably, it is possible to be a hundred percent wife, mother and managing director or general manager , commissioner, governor or president.

Recently, Nigerian women gathered at the National Assembly, protesting bias against the women folk and demanding for about one hundred and eleven seats in the Assembly; do you think this is achievable?

Some countries have made laws statutorily that a certain percentage of elective positions have to be given to women, a certain percentage of appointed positions have to be given to women.
l want to put it out to women that nothing good comes easy, in the past men were the ones in the fore front of politics, in the past men told their women to cook for their political meetings and the women who came for meetings were looked down on, the men will ask her whether she does not have children to take care in the home and that is how we got to this stage of having to fight.

What would you like to be remembered for?

When l was in public health, l realised that the mentally ill irrespective of gender was not an issue, but they were stigmatised and there was no specific project targeted for these set of people. We then formed a committee, with the help of the then governor and Jide Idris who was my commissioner. It took us about six years to get a policy which was finally signed into law, so Lagos state has a mental law because l stood up and raised my voice for the mentally challenged.

l will be remembered, that l spoke and fought for the mentally ill, l would also like to be remembered that l came in to the environment space and l got people to start understanding that global warming and climate change is real and it is as domestic as not wasting water when we brush our teeth at home charity begins at home, climate change is not far from all of us, global warming is not far from all of us, air quality, understanding the environment is crucial to life, it is crucial to this gender discrimination we are talking about, l want to be remembered as that woman that help a few people to understand the environment.