The Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies began as Women Studies Programme in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 1986. It was latter renamed “Women Studies and National Capacity Building Programme for Child Survival and Development” and by 1996 the Senate upgraded the Programme to the status of an autonomous research unit and christened it ‘Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies’ (CGSPS).
The new status and privileges positioned the Centre to adequately address emergent realities confronting not only women and children but also men folks, and the society at large. Thus, the mission of the Centre has been to maintain a high standard of teaching, research, training, consultancy and community service on gender and development.
Since its establishment, the Centre under the leadership of various Directors has vigorously pursued its mandate. As one of the earliest Centres for Gender Studies in Nigeria, CGSPS has an established history of culture of excellence in inline with the imperatives of its mission. The Centre has become a force to reckon with in academic community. It has attracted collaborative research projects in Women/Gender Studies both within and outside the Continent of Africa. Its research and support networks, comprising individuals and institutions, grow thick daily.
Members of the networks include, but not limited to, UNESCO, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Professor Roger Makanjuola, Mrs. Kemi Mimiko, Erelu (Mrs.) Bisi Fayemi, Justice Bola Babalakin (Rtd.), Chief (Mrs.) Florence Ajimobi, UNICEF, British Council, FAWE, NTA, Federal Ministry of Health, CIDA, AAU, University of Dalhousie and Saint Mount Vincent University and University of Ibadan (Women’s Research and Documentation Centre – WORDOC).
The Centre with the help from the afore-listed individuals and institutions been able to conduct over twenty (20) basic and action research studies, implement certificate training programmes in Women and Health Management for staff of Federal Ministry of Health, organized an eight-week Gender and Development (GAD) course for NGOs, evolved a trans-disciplinary approach that relies on the pool of scholars spread across various departments in the University, and gave a total of one thousand, three hundred and five (1,305) scholarships and eighteen (18) fellowships.
The activities of the Centre has increased female undergraduate enrolment from 5,519 in 2003 to 8,447 in 2011 and female postgraduate enrolment from 116 in 2003 to 1912 in 2011. The Centre helped the University to develop guidelines for anti-sexual harassment policy and established gender-friendly employment policy. Today, Obafemi Awolowo University is one of the most gender-sensitive workplaces in Nigeria.
Moreover to keep issues of gender-equity at the front burner, the Centre publishes biannually “Gender Equity Bulletin”, which is a powerful tool for the dissemination of gender equity news and activities. The Centre also maintains “The Gender Web Forum”, with an online community and a crucial avenue for continuous dialogue, further sensitization, and dissemination of gender issues within and outside the country. There was also an audio-visual, a collaborative project between the Centre and NTA, which helps to popularize OAU-Carnegie Gender Equity Initiative.
These giant strides and many others are as a result of the immense support given to the Centre by the University Administration and every stakeholder. They are also a reflection of the dynamic and efficient leadership that has been piloting the affairs of the Centre since its establishment to date. For instance, under the first (Professor Simi Afonja), second (Professor Olabisi Aina) and third (Professor Sumbo Abiose) Directors of the Centre, activities geared towards the promotion of gender equity within the University, and collectively they secured a total of one thousand, three hundred and five (1,305) scholarships and eighteen (18) fellowships. Then came Professor Funmi Soetan , the immediate past Director, who dreamed and laid a solid foundation for the movement of the Centre from its current dilapidating Contractors’ shed to its permanent building. With the assistance from the University Administration under the indefatigable leadership of Professor Bamitale Omole, (the current Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University), Professor Soetan’s dream has become a reality, which owes its existence to the benevolence of the First Lady of Ekiti State – Her Excellency, Erelu Bisi Adeleye Fayemi who donated a building to house the Centre.
The building has certainly been built when the Centre needed it most. Because just a few weeks after the current Director (Professor Simisola Odeyinka) resumed, a heavy downpour gave rise to a mighty flood which filled the Contractors’ shed housing the Centre. The flood shut down activities in the Centre for about one week. However, with the donation and commissioning of this building today, the perrenial problem of flooding of the Centre has now been solved permanently. After taking over the mantle of leadership, the current Director immediately swung into action. First she ensures that the Centre moves to its permanent site to be able to achieve the set objectives; second, the anti-sexual harassment policy of the University has been approved by Council and third, she has been working hard to ensure that the Centre’s postgraduate programmes start very soon.
Despite the afore-listed accomplishments of the Centre to date, it is not our intention to rest on our oars, there are still many more programmes to be accomplished in the near future. The present donation of the building that houses the Centre is a testimony that we cannot do it all alone, we still solicit for more patnerships at individual, corperate and institutional levels.