I had gone to my secondary school few days back to collect my S.S.C.E certificate urgently needed to complete my university’s final clearance. I waited for about an hour before the principal arrived. Immediately she walked in she shouted “up NEPA” to my dismay. This slang is the greatest hymn title for the average Nigerian. I could see the joy, relief in her eyes as well as the eyes of other school heads there. The thing is, “up NEPA” signifies the triumphant entry of power into the home of an ordinary Nigerian, held back by instances of sustainable power supply. We can now charge our phones, watch our favourite television program and allow our hearts leap for joy for no ‘just’ cause. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is responsible for Nigeria’s energy supply. It is aired that Nigeria is capable of generating around 3’500MW of electricity which is below the country’s needs despite government investment of around $1 billion annually. Other West African countries are not left out as the high rate of poverty is majorly caused by the low energy supply.
Who are women? Being a woman goes beyond having hefty bosoms and nurturing skills. What if, just what if the woman is given the opportunity to corroborate the light that the world needs? A woman that can find her way through dark patches in the room where there is “down NEPA” to get that match-stick, light up the room for the safety of her kids; she can, as she had, for centuries be the best in the class and the energy to other women. Until Africa and indeed West Africa accept the fact that women’s role as background syndicate is a defect to everyone’s development, energy access can never be hundred percent. It starts from the home, the first social contact of the girl child. Why would she not be allowed formal education? Even when allowed, why is it cut short? It gets worse when you visibly encounter compromised situation in education. Why will the young bubbling girl be ‘thrown’ in ARTS and Social Studies against her will while her male counterpart is kingly in the Sciences?
I would bet my last dough on the fact that there is shortage of women in ministries and agencies that formulate technical and engineering dictums in universities. So why won’t there be discrepancies in the rules that govern the ways and manner subjects are to be taught to favour both genders. Indeed, chances have been compromised. The roles of women and the master-plan they choose to inculcate have been bedeviled by unwholesome instances of ill-content. The average Nigerian is awed, puzzled, rebuffed, when he hears a woman say ‘I studied petroleum engineering’, or ‘I intend to work as an electrical officer in charge of maintenance in the energy sector of the country’. The saddest is seeing a woman on a ladder, effecting repairs to a loose wire on the high pole. She becomes a laughing stock as well as the reigning celebrity.
The causes of gender inequality in the energy sector in West Africa are not farfetched. We are lukewarm to change. I would not want to be a psychologist here. If we trust women with our food, water, clothes and all, why can’t we with our energy supply. What would want to kill that dream of a woman who wants to effect transformation to the energy efficiency of her country? Lack of education will, compromised learning choices, lack of encouragement through communal psychological torture, ministerial failures and governmental unfairness, unsolicited exclusion from technical and decision-making programs, and corruption in the administrative policies in energy will. I have never seen governmental committees on power, task force on energy rejuvenation, power distribution companies, headed by a woman talk more of a female deployed technician deserving a standing ovation.
As a continent, as a community, we can never stand tall. Poverty rate is glaring, hardship, unemployment, financial constrains, and under-development. What is more? So much money is wasted on a single cause gone wrong. There is not a single economic pursuit that does not directly and indirectly rely on electricity, yet no meaningful profit, why would there not be hatred, clashes, seeking of greener pastures and leaving our lands bare. The gods have indeed want to punish us by first making us mad – for we cannot grasp impartial and genuine intellectual accordance to the female gender. Vital sectors of the economy are also affected as there is no broadband forum united in women empowerment so as to foster sharing of ideas and reduce intellectual monopoly. It has affected our perception of the woman, as imperfect and unfit. Alas, the discretion and continued psychological decay on gender issues.
How can all these be addressed? Ecowas Network on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access has dubbed its 2015 essay competition for young Africans ‘#Standtall’. What decorum! I am being brainwashed for good. Thousands of West Africans will hear me and millions will hear ECOWAS. Government plans must also align, high schools and colleges must be educated on gender issues. Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Equatorial Guinea is prompting the establishment of a regional gas companies in dealing with issues of supply of natural gas and re-gasification units in sub-regions. I just hope women are given chances to head administrative positions. Education of the girl child should not even be an issue of discussion; every child should be allowed his/her intended field
The hard stance of OPEC not to curb crude oil output in the face of plummeting prices comes off as a grand experiment and a workable policy following scandals and illegality rocking petroleum sectors especially in Nigeria. Diezani Alison-Madueke deserves mention here, as her being president of OPEC has encouraged women not to limit their roles in foundational issues on energy. That openness of the people and encouragement from within will salvage the loss of human resources. Government should promulgate laws that will foster this equality so as to heighten exposure and limit incompetent gestures. I have read textbooks that authoritatively spelt out the unemployable stance of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, that their agility will deny the sector needed output. Am clueless here, aren’t both sexes supposed to complement each other? Continuity in female participation must be maintained!
The outcome of all these will be huge: employment, poverty eradication, women empowerment, even development. All these are true taste of an African testimony. What is more? Respect and love between both sexes as a result of financial breakthrough, booming economic market, sustained developmental projects, refurbished energy alliance with other developed countries because of their perceived maturity in us (West Africans), reduction in manipulation and corrupt tendencies , and so on.
To conclude, I place my hand on my chest and justify the above spelt out solutions: that #Standtall initiative should be mimicked by other organizations because it will emancipate women through educated minds; that government plans can foster gender equality in the energy sector through decorating women as partakers in the administrative affairs as it is done in other advanced countries; markets will be open, survival of the fitness will be crushed; education will be respected and of effect; diverse knowledge will be put into use for good; family and continental empowerment which is the overall justification will be attained.