A female Rear Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, Itunu Hotonu, on Thursday addressed gender issues in the military and cautioned women who – in the name of female empowerment – pitch themselves against men, as both men and women are co-developers in the society at large.
“A lot of women miss it. We think that we are in some kind of war and we have to go out there and fight the men and prove that we can do it, that is not so,” she said during a interview on Sunrise Daily.
There have been calls from several quarters to the Nigerian government, as well as the private sector, to allow more women take leadership positions. In light of this, The Sun Women Leadership Summit was staged to help women prepare more adequately for leadership roles in the country.
Speaking about her expectations for the event, Hotonu noted that “I expect that at the end of the Summit, a lot of young women who are up and coming would have something to look forward to as a road map to being able to grow.
“For the older women, it would be a chance to look back and take stock of what they’ve been able to do and if there’s anything else they can do to improve mentorship of the younger ones.
On the rarity of highly placed women in the military, Hotonu explained that “you’ll find that the world over, women typically constitute just about 10 percent of the military, sometimes less. So what is happening here in Nigeria is by no means unusual.
“However, it is interesting to note that the Nigerian Navy, to which I belong, has been one of the most gender-friendly arms of the military” she said, noting that “practically, all branches” of the military had been open to the female folk as at the time she was conscripted.
“So I think the challenge is not so much that of what the women face in the military, rather the perception that women have of the military”, she said, adding that most women are fearful of the military.
She disclosed that a lot of men support and encourage women in positions such as hers, but also demand that “you work hard enough. You prove that you can actually occupy the position”, “so for me that’s the way it has been”.
Hotonu has been teaching women at the Sun Women Leadership Summit, holding in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
“Even if you find yourself as a woman in a man’s world, it is not for you to feel that there’s a battle you are fighting with the men.
“A lot of us women, we miss it. We think that we are in some kind of war and we have to go out there and fight the men and prove that we can do it, that is not so.
“Rather, I think we should see ourselves as co-developers in the nation’s progress”, she maintained.
She also advised that women should not forget those who gave them opportunities to thrive, disclosing that “there were no women before, obviously, I was mentored by my male senior colleagues. I was given opportunities by those male senior colleagues.
She concluded that “the important thing is to prove that the trust they have reposed in me is actually worth it.
“So, I’ve tried to tell all the women that – look, the men will support you. They would help you grow. They will be there for you, as long as you don’t come at them in a militant manner. As if there is a war”.