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Achieving 35% Affirmative Action For Women In Nigeria (I)

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Available statistics reveal that out of the 109 senators in the National Assembly, only nine are women, while only 27 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives are women.

Besides, out of the 990 members of the state Houses of Assembly, only 54 are women.

The picture markedly depicts a lopsided membership of the legislatures in favour of men and observers say that the story is similar at the local level, where only a few women function as chairpersons or councillors in local government councils.

The observers say that no woman has ever become the country’s president or vice president.

They, however, note that the first female governor in Nigeria, Dame Virgy Etiaba, only functioned as Anambra State’s governor for six months, following the impeachment of her boss, Gov. Peter Obi, on November 2, 2006.

They lament that Nigerian women are obviously marginalised in all the country’s democratisation processes, saying that in spite of the fact that many women are literate, they still hold less than five per cent of important decision-making positions in the country.

The whole scenario tends to validate widespread concerns that women are grossly under-represented in the legislative and executive arms of government across the country.

This is regardless of the fact that a National Gender Policy has been formulated to promote a 35 percent affirmative action for women – a policy that demands 35 percent involvement of women in all governance processes.

Several researches have shown a strong connection between women’s ability to participate in governance and their economic, as well as educational standing.

The studies also attribute women’s exclusion from political participation in most African countries to poverty, stressing that most African women live below the poverty level of less than one dollar (about N150) a day.

Some United Nations (UN) studies indicate that a clear majority of economic activities in developing countries are ascribed to men, whereas women actually perform 53 per cent of the work.

Besides, the studies signify that women also feature prominently in the informal sectors of the economies of most African countries.

Mrs Oby Nwankwo of the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) says that the women’s under-representation in the political scene can be reversed if they are empowered economically.

“Increasing the income of women gives them more confidence; women are better stewards of economic capital, as research has shown that women are more likely than men, to plough profits of economic activities into human capital development.

“The implication of this is that well-educated women are better suited to participate in a society’s decision-making processes,’’ she adds.

Nwankwo explains that women, who are empowered economically have fewer difficulties in playing active roles in politics because they can truly assert themselves, while they are unlikely to become pawns in the hands of political godfathers.

She describes the exclusion of women from participating in the country’s economic and political spheres as “an insult to the spirit and values of democratic governance and free market economy.

“In fact, the society is worse off for it, as women are always expected to play their socially ascribed roles of shaping an entire generation.

“The onus is, therefore, on the youth to take the centre stage in overturning perceptible barriers to women empowerment. Women have nothing to lose by participating in the country’s socio-economic and political spheres; the gains are limitless,’’ she says.

Stakeholders have been striving to mobilise the citizens to become agents of change in efforts to redress the situation and promote the interests of women in the country.

For instance, the UN Women, formerly known as the UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM), recently organised a conference in Abuja on how to attain the 35 percent affirmative action for women in the April general elections.

The agency stresses that the commitment of the entire citizenry, particularly the male dominated political class, is required in the efforts to achieve the affirmative action.

The Officer-in-Charge of UN Women, Adekemi Ndieli, says that the UN Women  are aware of the fact that there are no easy quick-wins from this advocacy, adding: “But we are more confident that we can achieve a great deal with the joint resolve of all the stakeholders.

“I respectfully call on all the policy and decision makers within the political parties to bend backwards to ensure that a critical mass of eligible women emerge as candidates for the 2011 elections,’’ she says.

Ndieli’s appeal, however, seems belated, as all the political parties held their primaries in January and the outcome indicate no marked change in the status quo.

Commenting on the dismal performance of women in the political parities’ primaries, Mrs Josephine Anenih, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, says that the much desired 35 percent affirmative action for women in elective positions may be unrealistic, going by the outcome of the parties’ primaries.

She, nonetheless, concedes that there has been an increase in awareness around the issue of women’s participation in politics and governance, noting that the number of women aspirants was unprecedented in the recent parties’ primaries, when compared with the previous years.

Dr Joy Ezeilo, a UNIFEM Consultant on affirmative action for women, says that even though about two-thirds of Nigerian voters are women, electoral and power-sharing arrangements fail to consider the interests of the women, thereby rendering them politically powerless.

She argues that the number of female legislators across the country is very low and faults the Electoral Act as “being gender blind and biased’’ for not allowing INEC to compel political parties to act in line with the requirements of the 35 percent affirmative action for women.

Ezeilo, who is the Head of Department of Public and Private Law in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, expatiates that the Act tacitly allows candidates to spend huge sums of money during their campaigns, giving the men undue financial advantage over female aspirants.

“The government should adopt special measures and mechanisms for achieving minimum standards for women’s participation in political parties and in government,’’ she says.

Ms. Ene Ede, the Executive Director of Equity Advocates, a women’s rights group, stresses the need to create a wider room for women’s participation in governance.

“Already, there is what some people call ‘democratic deficit’, where women are not accorded their right of place in the polity. What is wrong with attaining the 35 percent women representation, as prescribed by the National Gender Policy?’’ she asks.

Tosin writes for NAN

Tosin Kolade

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Deborah’s Death, One, Too Many

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Deborah Samuel was a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State of Nigeria. The female Christian faithful, had also tested violence against women. This time, not from a spouse but course mates.
Parents had laboured day and night to ensure that she became a graduate so as to be empowered in the future. To have found herself in a tertiary institution means that the sky might not even be her limit. But what I may call enmity on womanhood had caused her death. It is surprising that it is happening in the four walls of an educational institution.
Lately, violence against women and girls has been on the increase. That of Deborah is one, too many. Since women are the weaker sex, what can they do?
Belonging to the WhatsApp group in a class to share and learn together may not be wrong after all. But the manner in which her course mates who belong to the same group took laws into their hands should be condemned.
Should social media platforms where groups share ideas and jokes become war zone? Should not people do simple arguments that should not lead to unnecessary death.
It was reported that Deborah and her Moslem course mates had a simple argument and before you knew it, it led to her death.
While they were in class, as a result of the argument, they allegedly pulled her out of the class, stoned and burnt her alive. They claimed she was blasphemous to Allah.
It cannot be imagined that even in a school, a student can be set ablaze by her fellow students in a tertiary institution without interference by security guards. Where were the security guards when the ugly incident occurred. Does it mean that they were in support of Deborah’s death.
Although after the incident, the Sokoto State Government ordered the closure of the institution and the release of the students who were arrested for burning the female Christian student to death.
Also, a 24-hour curfew was imposed in Sokoto State by its government over riots due to the killing. Religious tolerance should be the watchword for every Nigerian citizen irrespective of the type of worship.
Let us assume that Deborah made abusive statements against the practice of Islam, she should have been cautioned. I have not seen where Christians reacted so quickly to blasphemy against another faith. Christians are always peaceful in their obedience and practice to their religion.
When a Christian worship centre is burnt, there will not be war, but if otherwise, assume what will happen. The types of religion that are practised in Nigeria should signify peace. Clerics need to continue to teach what peace means properly among the various religions being practised in the country.
Report has it that when the institution’s security got hint of the situation, she was taken to the security post, where they were over-powered by the mob. If the security in that college wanted to save Deborah, why did they not invite security agents who would have come to disperse the crowd and save the girl?
When will people stop taking laws into their hands? If the aggrieved students felt that Deborah was blasphemous, they should have sued her to Sharia Court where she would have defended herself.
Human beings have no right to judge others on blasphemy. Whichever religion one practises, that person’s faith should be personal. If they felt that Deborah had offended the supreme head of their belief, they are not the ones to judge. Whether in Christianity or Islam, nobody has the right to judge. This is because there is judgement day when every man must give account of his or her work on earth.
Now that they have killed Deborah, if proven by the court, are they not guilty? Even before God, Jesus or Mohammed, are they taught to kill a fellow human?
If you think a person has uttered blasphemous words, allow God to judge. We cannot continue to lose young women whose future is bright. We cannot continue to lose nation builders. We are talking about gender sensitivity and women emancipation, some persons are ignorant of the fact that more women need to be empowered.
A lot of persons and groups have condemned the manner in which Deborah was killed. It should not just be condemnation, but action should be taken to ensure that those behind such dastardly act are brought to book. When they are dealt with according to the law, others who may be nursing further bad intentions will learn their lesson. It will also serve as a deterrent to others.
I thought Nigerian Christian and Muslims are brothers and sisters. People of various faith should live in harmony.
Like Sheikh Ahmad Gumi said: “Nigeria is not an Islamic state, Muslims in the country have an agreement with people of other faiths to live together peacefully and anyone who kills them on religious guise has committed a grievous sin”.
Deborah has gone. Sympathy goes to her parents and others left behind. Whether anybody protests or not, what can be done?
Christians who find themselves within the domain especially where the ugly incident occurred must comfort themselves and display a sense of maturity.
People should not be killing in the name of religion and at every little provocation. Those who killed Deborah also disobey and insult Allah.
Like the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama said,: “Religion means to wish others well to show compassion, mutual support and cooperation for what sues for peace, justice and equity”.
He said love is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, rich in mercy and reaches out to all.
To Christians, retaliation may not be the answer but giving peace a chance is better while investigation and action by both government and security agencies continue.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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NGO Urges Edo Women To Mitigate GBV

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A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Global Women for Quality and Sustainable Development Initiative (GWSD) has urged women in leadership positions in Edo State to use their various offices to mitigate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the society.
Executive Director of GWSD, Mrs Mariam Kadiri-Ezolome, stated this during a capacity building on stimulating women for leadership positions, held in Benin on Monday.
The Tide’s source reports that the training was aimed at mitigating GBV through protection.
Kadiri-Ezolome said GBV would be alleviated in the society, if more women were empowered and speak out against it.
“As women leaders, you should relate more with women at the grassroots; know what they are going through and see that they are empowered to bridge the gender gaps in the society.
“Women leaders should give other women, especially at community level, the voice to speak out against GBV.
“Also, some women don’t know what GBV is and as women in leadership, it is expected that we create awareness about it,” she said.
Speaking on violence against women during elections, the Founder, Echoes of Women in Africa, Mrs Louisa Eikhomun-Agbonkhese, said that electoral violence were mostly targeted at women and girls, thus preventing them from exercising their franchise.
Eikhomun-Agbonkhese added that women were sometimes scared to speak out against GBV in the political space due to fear of the leadership structure.
In her remarks, Executive Director, Women, Youths and Children Advancement Programme, Mrs Agatha Osieke, said women should equip themselves with relevant skills to enable them rise above GBV.
“You should know what you are seeking for: that you want to bring positive change. You need relevant skills, research, negotiation, listening and more.
“Women need to come up with a roadmap to change the narrative that women are not ready to hold political positions,” she said.
The source reports that GWSD is a non-profit organisation dealing with issues concerning women, youths and people in the community.
The group also provides varied services, geared toward improving the quality of life of its beneficiaries for sustainable development.
The source also reports that the capacity building was organised by GWSD and funded by European Union, in partnership with Agent for Citizens Driven Transformation, through the British Council.

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Coping With Pregnancy In Married Young Woman

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After marriage ceremonies, healthy couples pray for babies to come as they are referred to be fruits of marriage. Children also are source of joy to families. Although it is not a war zone when children do not come after marriages.
Young mothers need to adequately understand the various stages in pregnancy and how to go through the stages with minimum anxiety to be able to give birth to healthy babies.
They also need to know how to take proper care of the babies when they are born.
Pregnancy starts when conception occurs. Every pregnancy comes with its peculiarities. When pregnancy occurs, the woman notices many changes in her body.
As a young woman, the monthly period ceases, while breasts become full, firm and nipples become large and darker.
There is a likelihood of experience nausea or morning sickness lie, early discomfort, frequent pouring of saliva and sometimes vomiting. The woman also experiences sleeping excessively in the morning. Loss of appetite sometimes comes up when a woman becomes pregnant.
When a woman becomes pregnant as it is confirmed by a gynecologist, it is necessary that she attends antenatal care in a hospital. It is also known as prenatal care, which is given to the pregnant woman and the unborn child.
Experts say the importance of this is to ensure that the pregnant woman and the unborn child receive proper medical care to prepare them for safe delivery.
During the antenatal care period, the pregnant woman is made to undergo certain tests such as urine and blood, blood pressure and weight check, abdominal examination and pelvic assessment.
The advantages of antenatal care cannot be over emphasized as the mother-to-be is given all necessary medical treatments required for her safety of the unborn baby.
During antenatal care, complications are detected early and remedies are provided.
Maternity personnel like the midwives and staff nurses give adequate training on what to expect during delivery especially by young women who may be new to it.
The kinds of food to be consumed by the expectant mothers are normally identified, even the types of cloths to put on.
The kind of clothes a pregnant woman puts on also matters. \it is good to avoid all those tight jeans trousers around the waist. Maintaining good hygiene becomes necessary so that both the mother and the child will be free from diseases.
When a woman is delivered of a newborn, medical experts advise that she attends postnatal care, that is the care that the mother and her baby attends for medical check-up for six weeks.
Pregnancy is associated with some common problems. Constipation in which defecation is not frequent and sometimes passing of faces is hard. The problem is increased by the pressure on the lower abdominal region caused by enlarged uterus.
Heartburn is another problem associated with pregnancy. It is the passage of small amount of stomach contents into the lower part of the digestive tract. It is caused by enlarging uterus pressing against the stomach.
Some pregnant women experience leg cramps at night. It is experienced more at the late stage of the pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting are the commonest which a lot of women suffer during pregnancy.
In some women, it stops after about three months. Weight gain comes up for some. But expert’s advice for regular weight check-up so that it doesn’t become excessive.
Some items needed for the care of new born: toiletries for mother and child, feeding tools if need be, spoons and cups, sanitary towel for mother.
Mother’s brassiere, night wears, bedspread for both mother and child.
The baby needs things such as vest, pars of socks, sweater, cap, napkin and diaper.
During the postnatal care, doctors examine the nursing mother to ensure that she is okay.
Such things as her weight, urine, blood pressure and blood haemegblobin are checked. There have been cases here after delivery, some mothers experience swollen legs. The baby alongside the mother is also examined.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode with agency report

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