Ketil Karlsen

The European Union envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, has expressed the desire of the commission to support the Nigerian government to bridge gender inequality gap in the country.

Speaking during the Gender Essay Competition in Abuja on Tuesday, Karlsen, who is the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said the Union was eager to support Nigeria to facilitate a balanced gender system for women and young girls.

Karlsen said that addressing challenges that hold women back, especially gender stereotyping will encourage the participation of women in key sectors of the nation’s economy.

“If we consider ourselves humanists, then we have to remember that fifty-two per cent of the entire population in the world are women and girls, so if we don’t fight for the equality between the different genders, then we are not laying the right cornerstone for the foundation of a just future society, Karlsen said.

He said at the very top of the agenda of Africa and Europe, the EU is pursuing courses of action that are aimed at breaking down barriers against women which is vital for Nigeria’s development.

The envoy said the European Union was pleased with the massive applications received during the 2017 edition of the essay competition, while commending the Nigerian government for facilitating the mass participation of schools in the country.

“It gives me hope, I must say, when I hear that more than five hundred young Nigerians decided to participate in this competition. I read some of the wining essays and I think there are wonderful thoughts, very powerful messages in all of your work, so hopefully your reflections will help define the future of where you come from, of Nigeria, of Africa and the world as such”, Karlsen said.

Also speaking at the event, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, Nnena Ukeje, called for the adoption of a persistent and feasible framework to bridge the gender inequality gap that currently exists in Nigeria.

“The daunting part about attempting to achieve gender parity is that it is work that must be on-going. For us to continue to breakdown walls and defy stereotypes, it requires consistent persistence. It requires challenging socio-cultural and challenging traditional attitudes that endanger women’s advancements in society,” she said.
She urged the young recipients of the essay awards to remain gender champions and called for participation of more men as gender advocates.

In her vote of thanks, the political counsellor of the EU Delegation, Pauline Torehall, expressed optimism that the initiative would go a long way in changing the gender narrative of Nigeria, while encouraging the award recipients to remain gender parity ambassadors for life.
“You are truly gender champions and we hope that you remain gender champions for the rest of your life. In the EU delegation, when we announced this competition, we set out to stimulate children’s awareness on the role of girls in society. Judging from today’s contributions, I think we did well,” she said.

The top three winners from the competition with theme “Gender Equality” were awarded cash prizes of N30,000, N20,000, N10,000 and a laptop each respectively. Others who made the top 13-man shortlist received N30, 000 cash awards each as well as certificates of excellence from the organisers
The competition was organised by the delegation of the European Union to Nigeria in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education and Media Trust, publishers of Daily Trust Newspapers.

EU’s pledge of assistance comes against the backdrop of the increasing cases of gender segregation in Nigeria.