Gender & Leadership Institute
The rationale for establishing the Institute
Why a gender and leadership Institute?
- There is a dearth of vibrant activists, and feminists with solid arguments and vigour to challenge patriarchy in Africa. (especially in Nigeria) We have mostly development workers but not people angry enough to challenge patriarchy, gender injustice, increasing fundamentalisms, abuse of women and other vices which are unfortunately on the rise.
- Nigeria is very important in the history of Africa (both in terms of its population size and economy) but unfortunately lacks the leadership role it should play in terms of human rights promotion There are high levels of impunity and disregard for the SRHR, respect for diversity, and a strong sense of analysis on human rights (Activists have become very selective in the rights that they promote, there are no vibrancy in terms of research, most of us have become copy and paste activists, researches done in the late 90s are used to implement interventions)
- Lots of our training (leadership training and SRHR conferences) are based in other parts of Africa. They are quite expensive and only a few Nigerians benefit
- Nigeria is looked upon as the hub of Africa-for instance when Nigeria passes a law banning FGM, some other African countries follow
- The current leadership is saddled with battling corruption, but little is being done with regard to women’s human rights. Women’s participation and voice have greatly dropped.
At a time when funding is difficult to secure, what is our Sustainability Plan?
- VSI has already acquired two plots of land on which it will build the Institute
- VSI is planning a model school, (nursery and primary school). Indigent children will be supported on scholarships while a few others who can afford it will pay fees to support the institute
What is the proposed Structure of the School?
It will admit 70% girls and 30% boys (all students from ages 2-12. A few indigent girls will be placed on partial scholarships while the boys will pay full fees.
From inception, there will be introductory lessons on gender, with boys gaining skills to work with girls as equal partners. Younger children will learn through pictures and poems portraying women who have contributed to development such as Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria; Ayesha Imam, a fine woman activist from Northern Nigeria who through her organization has mentored women in African and beyond; Gambo Sawaba and others. Vibrant women in politics, women who led men to war, women in aviation and other positions hitherto reserved for men. Lessons will also be learnt about Africa, its rich culture, and stories of women presidents. There will also be nursery rhymes on gender equality using existing materials by feminists but simplified and age-appropriate.
Children between ages 5-12 will read biographies and feminist herstories developed by women such as AsmauJoda, Ayesha Imam, Bene Madunagu, Hajara Usman, Amina Salihu, and GamboSawaba. Feminist stories will be incorporated into the learning curriculum.
The idea of having and working with a few boys is to begin to groom a generation of men who will serve as champions, be supportive of girls and understand gender dynamics. They will ultimately help other boys and men begin to unlearn gender stereotypes. (Research has shown that the early years is a critical period when behaviours are learnt. Some interventions we have held in the past also indicate that men like to hear from other men hence the inclusion of a few boys) There is also an argument that if we keep helping and working with only women and girls to become ‘perfect’, they might end up with ‘imperfect’ partners and family members.
Ultimately we hope that the government will either adopt these schools or become interested in our curricula) there will be lots of advocacy to ensure this happens.
The Gender and Leadership Institute
This is planned to be a 1 month-intensive certified course on introduction to gender, sexuality, human rights education, paralegal training, sex, and political education, amongst other courses.
Existing manuals developed by Women’s Learning Partnership, INCRESE, AHIP, AHI, GPI, BAOBAB, and herstories of women activists will be used to provide training which is planned to hold during the summer holidays. Beneficiaries will be girls between the ages of 15-24.
A few girls will attend without paying fees while beneficiaries from outside Nigeria will be encouraged to seek grants to cover tickets to attend (a few scholarships will be given based on the availability of funding and a strong reason for attendance and an indication that lessons learnt will be implemented) Great considerations will be given to girls from Northern Nigeria.
What would make it attractive?
- Issuance of certificate
- The institute is strictly for girls and women and will seek to increase their participation in business and development initiatives
- The courses will reflect the history of women’s struggles, – the struggles by women in the early times, women’s suffrage, history of the 1st woman driving a car in Nigeria amongst others
- Showcase women’s contribution to leadership, sports, politics and all facets of life
- Beneficiaries will be attached to mentorship programs and earn a stipend during this period-Mentors will be women who have excelled in politics, sports, education, etc
- It will promote transformative leadership, identify young feminists from across Africa and support them to document women’s lives, support women and creating jobs.
- Guest appearances of role models to support the institute like actors, actresses, women in business, and musicians amongst others
- Institute will be open to non-Nigerians and facilitators will be from all over the world.
- Identifying promising young people and linking them to other programs outside of Africa and elsewhere.
While plans for the institute are ongoing, how has Vision Spring Initiative been implementing some of its plans?
- Currently, partner with organizations and government-owned schools to provide gender training to both students and school counsellors.
- The organization through consultancy builds the capacity of CSOs, and CBOs on gender and leadership, activism and feminism
- Partners with governments to develop gender training manuals and uses them to facilitate training
Other longer-term plans
- Completion of the gender and leadership institute – approached banks but loan facility is difficult to get.
- Ultimately the government should adopt the gender and leadership Institute or replicate it in other states.