• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Women are still underrepresented and obviously marginalized


What is the mission and vision of Mobihealth International?
Mobihealth is a woman founder multi-award-winning integrated telehealth start-up company whose mission is to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible to the world population especially those in remote rural hard to reach communities, leveraging on technology.

What would you describe as the greatest passion that has brought you this far in your career?
My childhood health challenges and experiences of others around me inspired me to choose a career in medicine because I wanted to help people; I wanted to alleviate their sufferings because I realised how vulnerable and weak, we are when our health or those of our loved ones are at risk and when help seem unreachable. Founding Mobihealth helped me to align my passion with my purpose and it is really gratifying and humbling to be able to make a difference.

The Nigeria health sector is grossly under-funded which has led to high brain drain over the years, as a medical professional, how do you think this malady can be addressed?
Nigeria’s health sector challenges are multi-faceted; inadequate funding and consequent lack of good infrastructure, shortage of health workers, exposure counterfeit medicines, and all in a country where 95% of people lack health insurance. The Government’s performance in the health sector has been quite disappointing. The poor remuneration for health workers has created a massive emigration to Western countries further worsening the manpower shortages.

The annual budget of the Nigerian government for the health sector is only 4.17% of the total national budget, which is equivalent to only $5 per person per year! Although Nigeria’s 2022 government budget shows a slight increase in health funding, it still falls below the 15% stipulated by the Abuja Declaration to which Nigeria was a signatory, nearly two decades after.

The impact of poor healthcare funding reflects in our high morbidity and mortality data. The emigration of doctors and other health workers from Nigeria has been on the increase in recent years and has worsened over the last few months, further negatively impacting on an already weak health system. Not only do we have critical healthcare worker shortage, at <10% of WHO prescribed standard, Nigeria bears a significant percentage of the world’s disease burden. According to UNICEF’s recent report “preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrheal, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70% of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.” This is further aggravated by an expanding incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and Stroke.

To overcome these challenges, there must be the genuine political will by the government and other stakeholders to prioritize healthcare funding and implement favourable policies that would strengthen our health system. Additionally, government must support innovation. Technology can really help leapfrog many challenges and improve access to care in a cost effective and sustainable way.

The COVID19 pandemic has shown that investment in healthcare infrastructure, welfare of health workers, training and education of medical professionals in line with global best practices are non-negotiable in pursuit of Universal Health Coverage. Investment in local manufacturing of Pharmaceuticals, Research and Development are also critical for us to change this dismal narrative in the health sector and reduce the impact of brain drain.

Thankfully, the National Health Insurance Act was recently signed into law, making enrolment into health insurance now mandatory for all citizens. This is a step in the right direction, there are many other factors that need to be addressed and there is no paucity of information about what needs to be done.

Women are known for seeking ways to educate, empower and contribute to the society; can you say that the womenfolk are performing up to expectation in Nigeria?
Women are the engine room of the any economy contributing significantly directly and indirectly through paid and unpaid labour. The contributions of women to Nigeria’s economic development through available data about women’s participation in the private and public sectors are well documented. According to PWC, ‘’Nigerian women account for 41% ownership of micro-businesses with 23 million female entrepreneurs operating within this segment thus placing Nigeria among the highest entrepreneurship rates in the world. Likewise at the lower levels in formal employment there is almost an even split in the workplace between men and women. However, women remain disenfranchised as they climb the corporate ladder with a decline in representation on the senior leadership teams and at the Board levels. Report shows that women own only 20% of businesses in Nigeria’s formal sector and account for just 12% of Directors on corporate boards.

According to OECD report, ‘’increasing women’s and girls’ educational attainment contributes to women’s economic empowerment and more inclusive economic growth. Increased educational attainment is said to account for about half of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years. But, for the majority of women, significant gains in education have not translated into better labour market outcomes. Women are more likely to be unemployed than men; Women are over-represented in informal and vulnerable employment; Women bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work. Unpaid care work is essential to the functioning of the economy, but often goes uncounted and unrecognized. It is estimated that if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, it would constitute between 10% and 39% of GDP; Globally, women are paid less than men; Women are still less likely to have access to social protection; Women are less likely than men to have access to financial institutions and credit facilities’’.

Additionally, the exclusion of women from the digital world is costing the global economies significant loss- as high as $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries over the last decade—a loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 if no action is taken.
Reversing this trend through a gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology, health and digital education of girls and women remains imperative, if the world is serious attaining about gender equity.

How well can you describe the implementation of the affirmative in the country and what other limitations can you ascribe to the seemingly slow progress in the ascendancy of a woman as number one citizen in the country?

Nigeria as a member of the United Nations is a signatory to the various relevant international instruments, treaties and conventions. These instruments require member nations put in place all the necessary mechanisms needed to eliminate gender discriminations, ensure equality and human dignity to all, men and women.

Women are still under-represented and obviously marginalized in democratization in legislative and executive arms of government. This trend flows from the national level, to state down to local levels where few women take the lead in local government chairman and councillors.
Record has it that no woman has ever become a president or a vice president of Nigeria. The UN says there can’t be sustainable development and peace when women “are not sitting at the tables.”

The national Gender Policy (NGP) formulated a 35% Affirmative Action (AA) in Nigeria since 2006. This policy demands that 35% of women be involved in all governance processes and aligns with SDG-5, targeted at achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Although the NGP is recognized but is not practiced due to lack of structures and processes.

Nigeria is yet to meet this target despite some progress that have been made. There is still a long road to having a woman as the No.1 citizen of Nigeria. For example, in the recently concluded elections women only accounted for barely 10% of candidates vying for the House of Rep and Senate; 6% for Governorship. There was only 1 Female Presidential candidate and no female Vice-Presidential candidate from the 18 political parties that are taking part in the polls.

These alludes to the significant barriers against women; the lack of government actions, poor financial and structural support, sociocultural barriers, sexism and violence against women remain. Sustained advocacy, education, awareness, funding support and implementation of policies are needed to encourage more women to participate in politics.

Nevertheless, there are some positives with greater appreciation of the vital role women play in nation-building. Particularly in the private sector, we see more decisive and deliberate actions being taken with many women being appointed to the senior executive and boardroom roles. Recently, the Tony Elumelu Foundation appoint a young vibrant woman as it’s CEO, that was impressive! We need more of this.

There has been an increase in the rate of rape and sexual abuse on the girl child, do you think social media has been a negative influence on the society especially on the female gender?

In Nigeria, sexual violence is grossly under reported due to fear of stigmatization and blame. It is estimated that at least 2 million Nigerian girls experience sexual abuse annually and that only 28 per cent of rape cases are reported. Of those, only 12 per cent result in convictions. The Amnesty International said rape is becoming a national crisis.

Reports indicate that the COVID-19 stay away restrictions worsened the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria a trend that was recorded in several African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa.

Social media platforms especially Twitter, IG have been very useful in raising awareness, reporting to the law enforcement agencies and sustaining campaigns against perpetrators and seeking justice for victims. Celebrities and social media activists have been tagged and have used their platform to amplify the call for justice against perpetrators. The sense of community has been quite strong thus encouraging victims of Sexual and GBV who often suffer in silence, to speak up. Although there were small minority of divided opinions but there have been more positive gains from social media than the downsides.

What message do you have for the Nigerian women as they celebrate this year International Women’s Day?
As we celebrate the IWD 2023, Under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, I would like to encourage every girl and woman out there to use every opportunity they get to embrace and learn how to use technology to optimise their access to quality healthcare, education, finance and political empowerment because when women win, the whole world wins! We are the backbone of the society and must not allow anything keep us back!