By G9ija

The Managing Director, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mr Buki Ponle, has described respect for women’s rights as a necessary ingredient for a better society.The managing director, in an interview in Abuja on Thursday, said the victimisation of women because of their gender “is one of the greatest injustices in the world”, particularly in patriarchal societies like Nigeria.Ponle said while women are in no way inferior to their male folks, they are often victimised and made to feel inadequate, thus refusing them the opportunity to serve their immediate environments and the society at large.He said it is disheartening that some cultures, particularly in Nigeria, place women at disadvantaged positions in the area of education, inheritance, nutrition, and right to choice, among others.“Traditionally, people do not cater so much for the girl-child.“In the area of nutrition there is discrimination, education, inheritance, right to choice, and other areas.“God did not make men superior to women. It is the society that has made it so and we have to correct all these.“If men champion this course, it will go a long way in changing the perception of those who feel that women are only to be seen and not heard,” he said.While pointing out that the female gender “is one of the greatest gifts to humanity”, Ponle said it is worrisome that most societies would rather suffer the consequences in terms of poor national development than allow their women to contribute to national growth.He stressed that nations that fail to engage women in policy formulation, governance and other areas of endeavour, are only short changing themselves.Ponle, who pointed out that women are not weak as portrayed by the society, noted that they are exceptional in several areas.He said: “when you know what women go through during labour for instance, you will appreciate them.”He further pointed out that women could multi task, perform excellently in academics, work places and many other areas and should not be muzzled for selfish reasons.On why he decided to take up a cause that some men would shy away from, the managing director said it was about championing a right cause.“It is a natural development and my engagement in gender events over time, contributed to my being a girl-child advocate.“I had a cause to bring a project to NAN, sponsored by UN Women with Gender and Development as a team. It was meant to make media practitioners to appreciate the role of women in nation building.“After the exercise, I was asked to conduct a regional workshop for Anglophone news agencies in 1996 in Accra, Ghana.“Participants from Liberia, Sierra Lone, Ghana and Nigeria were at the event and we discussed how we could change the role of women in development.“That also contributed to my push towards working for women advancement,” he said.Ponle further said: “I want to make a difference by touching the lives of the girl-child and women.“I do not treat the issue of women and children with kid gloves because I see them as precious gemstones.“They are people whom God has created in a very special way but because they are not valued in the society, especially by men, they are treated as second-class citizens.”Ponle advised families to respect their female children as much as they do their male children, saying “I do not know why people prefer to have boys than girls.“I make sure that wherever I go, I promote gender balance.”He advised men to see women as partners and not threat, adding that “some men always want to dominate and in fact try to suppress what makes them human because they want to display their masculine nature.“For instance, I can cry if need be and that does not make me less of a man.”NAN reports that Business and the Law 2021 report, obtained  from  https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender/overview, indicates that 40 per cent of countries worldwide limit women’s property rights.It further states that in 43 countries, male and female surviving spouses do not have equal rights to inherit assets and 41 economies prevent daughters from inheriting in the same way as sons.