NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine correspondent in Abuja reports that the key objectives of the second panel session at the 3rd Annual General Conference of the NBA Women Forum in Abuja were to: to determine the true meaning of equity between the genders (which the NBAWF has consistently declared as its goal, rather than equality); what constitutes a state of equity; to query the cultural and societal roadblocks that militate against female progression and cause attrition, and what solutions technology can provide.

The session which was moderated by Mrs. Folashade Abosede Alli, Principal Partner at Folashade Alli & Assocites, had a star-studded panel in the persons of Hajiya Maimuna Yaya Abubakar, publisher of Tozali Magazine, founder of Tozali TV and Chair, Governing Board of NIPOST; Fatima Lawan Mukhtar, Company Secretary & Legal Adviser at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN); Martha Alade, award-winning gender, diversity and inclusion advocate and founder of Women in Technology Nigeria (WITIN); and (as in the previous session) the only male on the panel, Mr. Israel Usman, former Lead Consultant with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

To Mr. Usman, part of the problem of inequity is the unwillingness or inability of its victims to seek redress in an effective manner. Throughout human history, he asserted, no meaningful progress has been made without a struggle. One of the first steps in this struggle, he suggested, should be a robust and explicit provision for the protection of women’s and children’s rights in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That struggle must be engaged in equally by both males and females, he said, because when we fight for the equitable treatment of women, we are actually protecting our children as well.

According to Hajiya Maimuna in her contribution, inequities exist across all the demographic divides in our society, not just between the genders. These divides must be identified – and the individual needs of each demographic group must be determined – before a wholistic struggle against inequity in society can be successfully mounted. But the first step, she warned, is that women who wish to be taken seriously should bring themselves up to speed in terms of upgrading their knowledge and gaining relevant competencies – in tech as well as in other areas of expertise. Incompetence can never be an excuse for any woman desirous of playing in the big leagues; that, Hajiya Maimuna said, is just an invitation to tokenism. If you must advocate for equity, she said, you must first prove your own capacity.

On her part, Alade believes that equality and equity are mutually complementary, and an entity can achieve both at once when they promote diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace. One compelling argument for embracing diversity, she added, is that if you’re an organization operating in a 21st century global marketplace, your current (or prospective) customer and client base is likely to be a diverse one.

The reasons for attrition, in the view of Fatima Mukhtar, range from the promotion of toxic environments in both the work and market places. A lot of females feel a lack of respect that can lead to low self-esteem, or burnout in the process of trying to prove oneself. She went on to enumerate ways in which the female legal professional, and organizations, can ameliorate the toxic conditions that beset them. One, there has to be flexible work culture based on an understanding of the times and the demographic shifts in the larger society; two, there has to a conscious and intentional determination to root out cultural norms that do not promote progress in a modern context; three, there has to be mentoring. Younger female lawyers must be aware of the challenges successful older colleagues have had to surmount to get to where they are now, and what lessons they learned along the way. Mukhtar also offered helpful advice on the use of technology to surmount work challenges such as transcription of documents, and the use of such apps as Grammarly (to check spelling and grammatical errors) and AI solutions such as ChatGPT.

According to NEWSWIRE’s correspondent at the event, the lively panel discussion was followed by an equally robust question-and-answer session, in which participants sought further clarifications, or made suggestions, on the need to hold the larger NBA leadership accountable on the issue of female representation – especially in committee memberships; the need for the NBAWF to present a memorandum on constitutional amendment to insert the provisions on women’s and children’s rights in the Nigerian constitution (as suggested by Mr. Usman); the need to also push for an amendment to the NBA Constitution to make provisions for a rotation of top positions, including the Presidency of the NBA, between men and women; and on the need for women to affirm other women in their quest to reach to the top. According to Ndidi Val-Okeoma, who is an aspirant for Governor of Imo State, women don’t support women enough, and that has to change.

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