By Sumaila Ogbaje
First Lady Aisha Buhari has called on the military authorities to end gender stereotype against female personnel in the nation’s armed forces to enable them exhibit their full potentials.
Buhari, who was represented by her Senior Special Assistant on Administration, Dr Hajo Sani, made the call at the Maiden Defence Headquarters Conference on Women Peace and Security on Thursday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference has the theme “Gender Mainstreaming in the Armed Forces of Nigeria for Peace and Security“.
She said that Nigeria and Africa as a continent had a men-dominated environment especially in the armed forces, adding that the military was often hostile to women because of the dominance.
According to her, specific factors which include rejection, isolation and unhealthy attitude from mainly the men are pronounced within the operational combatant sectors of the armed forces.
“Gender stereotype against women is a potential threat to women advancement in the military.
“There are a good number of reported cases where women were prevented from participating in combat duties, excluding pregnancy or maternity.
“Women are often restricted to careers within the supportive mustering of the military community such as finance, human resources, personnel, logistics, medical services and welfare.
“I enjoin the military women to take vehement exception to such psychological oppression,’’ she said.
Buhari said that the probable reason why security issue bedevilling Nigeria still persist could be because the armed forces had not been redefined to explore the potential of women for operational effectiveness.
She added that women possessed the traits of patience, perseverance and passion, adding that they possess the tendency to transmit the same spirit to any tasks because of their emotional build-up.
According to her, the role of the armed forces is to provide security for the nation, this mission must be frame for women to participate fully in the provision of the envisaged security.
“There is a need for the reformation of the laws and policies that bother on the inclusion of women in the strategic reformation of effective operational deployment.
“There should be training and development opportunities that are specifically designed to support and/or accommodate the special needs of female personnel, officers and soldiers alike.
“The military should as a matter of urgency, eradicate gender biased policies, procedures where these still exist.
“The wide margin and lack of flexibility in structures based on gender should be bridged.
“I wish to also call on women soldiers to continue to exercise resilience for which they have been identified.
“They should also continue to show good example in professionalism, and therefore beacons of inspiration to other women,’’ she said.
Buhari however commended the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, for convening the conference with the aim to support other efforts being made to mainstream women in the Armed Forces.
Earlier, Olonisakin said that the Nigerian armed forces had attained 27.9 per cent female participation in peacekeeping operations.
He said that the percentage was higher than the UN recommendation of about 17 per cent, adding that the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) had commenced training of female cadets as combatant officers.
He explained that the women were given equal opportunities like their male counterparts, including commanding major combat units and flying fighter jets for the Nigerian Air Force.
According to him, the Nigerian Navy has equally deployed women as sailors and for other key aspects such as ship maintenance.
“Similarly, the Nigerian Army Women Corps was established in March 2018 to ensure optimal performance of women towards enhancing the Armed Forces operational efficiency as well as allow them aspire to the peak of their career without limitations.
“This is the first and only women corps in Africa.
“Similarly, the Nigerian Air Force established the Women of War in November 2018 to involve women in all aspect of air operation including flying, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control and engineering.
“The Armed Forces has also incorporated the concepts of women peace and security in the training curriculum of Armed Forces Training Institutions.
“Topics such as conflict related Gender Based Violence (GBV), Sexual Explanation and Abuse (SEA) and gender mainstreaming are given centre stage during training.
“Despite all these achievements, there are still room for improvement. This informs the need for more collaboration and awareness campaign on gender mainstreaming through this and similar fora,’’ he said.
The defence chief reiterated that the Armed Forces was committed to giving ultimate support in fostering the agenda of women and inculcating it in the military operations.
He assured that military authorities remained committed to promoting gender equality while commending its partners for their input and support in ensuring the protection of rights of women.
Olonisakin also commended the first lady for her support and participation at the conference.
He said that the theme for this conference was timely, adding that it was anchored on contemporary issues bothering on key aspects of military operations.
According to him, ever since the spectrum of conflicts shifted from interstate to intrastate, military interventions shifted its focus from state security to human security, increasing the roles of women and their degree of vulnerability during conflicts.