Kehinde Kayode is a certified gender rights advocate and a development specialist. She is the founder and director of the Girls 4 Leadership Initiative, a non-governmental organisation focused on addressing gender rights issues in Nigeria.
Kehinde Kayode’s professional experiences cut across the development sector, the tech ecosystem, and the political sector as a political analyst. As a gender rights advocate, Kehinde’s most profound interest is in women and girls’ equal participation and representation in politics and governance.
In this chat with SNTK, Kayode shares her gender equality story.
What does gender equality mean to you?
I believe gender equality means fairness, justice, and the upholding of the fundamental human rights of men, women, girls, and boys. It is about giving everyone equal rights and opportunities regardless of their gender. With gender equality, all forms of discrimination by gender are totally shunned.
Gender equality allows all groups of individuals in a society to be seen, heard, and evenly represented. Men, women, girls, and boys are regarded as the same with no discrimination whatsoever. While gender equality champions sameness and equality, I strongly uphold that equity must go in hand with gender equality. Since, there are already long-existing political, economic, sociocultural, and religious barriers that are hindering gender equality in many societies of the world, we must imbibe the principle of equity to ensure fairness.
Please share what inspired you to become an advocate of gender equality
My inspiration to advocate for gender equality was garnered from my experiences of being born and raised in a country ridden with gender inequality in all spheres of life including the economic, social, political, and cultural aspects. I have experienced several forms of discrimination as far back as just being a girl who wants to lead since the norms preferred a boy as a leader.
Fast forward to becoming a woman, I have continuously observed these injustices play out in different forms. I believe in the power of my voice to change this wrong, hence I decided to embark on a coordinated and intentional effort to advocate and advance Gender equality.
In what ways do you contribute to the achievement of gender equality?
Part of my coordinated effort to advocate for gender equality is through my work in the Girls 4 Leadership Initiative. The Girls 4 Leadership Initiative is a non-governmental organisation that I founded in 2020 to improve the capacity building of girls and women in Nigeria. Some of our activities in the organisation include awareness creation and sensitisation projects on gender equality, empowerment programs for women and girls, and the building of mentorship cycles to create safe learning spaces for women and girls in Nigeria. Aside from my work with the Girls for Leadership Initiative, I have partnered with some institutions to plan and coordinate projects targeted at addressing gender inequality.
Some people believe gender equality is not achievable, especially in Nigeria. What is your take on this?
I do not belong to the school of thought that perceive anything impossible to achieve, and this includes achieving gender equality. I am very optimistic about achieving gender equality in Nigeria. Although the Gender gap index report is not showing a positive sign now, I believe that it is a work in progress. To achieve gender equality in Nigeria, we must emphasize re-orientation from harmful beliefs surrounding gender equality. Once we make the importance of gender equality to our development as a country clearer, it would be easy to dismantle existing systems and structures that support gender inequality in Nigeria.
What do you consider as the challenges facing gender equality and the best way to solve them?
The biggest hurdle to achieving gender equality in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, finds its root in some negative sociocultural beliefs that shape people’s opinions about gender equality. There are a lot of misconceptions about gender equality and what it is about. Many sociocultural norms and beliefs until now, continue to harm not only women and girls but in many ways affect men and boys.
Another challenging factor to achieving gender equality in Nigeria is the absence of the willingness of many stakeholders, including the government, traditional rulers, the public and private sectors, and the public to take the needed steps to achieve gender equality.
The way out for us out of gender inequality in Nigeria, despite these challenges, I think is multifaceted. However, they need to be well coordinated. One of these is to invest more in ways to shape socio-culture beliefs that do not encourage gender equality. We can do this using different platforms and means including entertainment (music & movies), and projects by government and non-governmental organisations, etc.
Another important aspect is addressing laws and policies that do not support gender equality in Nigeria. It is necessary to also formulate new laws that protect and encourage gender equality across all spheres of life. For instance, the quota system can help improve women’s political representation and participation in Nigeria.