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Exclusive Op-Ed—Rio+20 and the Role of Nigerian Women in Sustainable Development

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By Jill Sheffield and Danielle Nierenberg

 

This week, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will draw global leaders to Rio de Janeiro to discuss how to ‘green’ the economy and reduce poverty around the world. The aim is to develop global goals to meet Nigeria’s and our world’s current needs—for food, health, energy, housing and other necessities—while also preserving the environment.

 

For many months, conference leaders focused lead-up discussions on issues including carbon emissions, clean water, and agricultural productivity, among others. However, paradoxically, there was little attention to a core issue in planning and implementing sustainability: ensuring women’s equal access to resources and services, including reproductive health.

 

The meeting, known as Rio+20, will mark the twentieth anniversary of 1992’s Earth Summit in the same city, which resulted in landmark conventions on climate change and biodiversity. The 1992 Summit included a call for gender equality, but no mention of reproductive health, or specific investment goals. So today there is, again, a historic opportunity to acknowledge and support the central role of women in sustainability and poverty reduction efforts.

 

As the world population passes 7 billion and Nigeria’s population nears 160 million, increased access to reproductive health and voluntary family planning is vital. According to a 2003 Guttmacher Institute study, nearly 215 million women in developing countries, including  one-third of Nigerian women have an unmet need for contraception. Research shows that if we were to meet women’s needs to plan the number and spacing of their pregnancies, population growth would slow and global carbon emissions would decrease by between 8 and 15 percent—the equivalent of stopping all deforestation today.

 

The human toll of the unmet need for contraception is staggering. A 2006 Guttmacher Institute study reports that 10 percent of pregnancies among Nigerian women are unwanted, leading to approximately 748,000 unsafe abortions, and nearly 2 million miscarriages. Among women terminating their pregnancies in abortion, nearly 1 in 5 do so because they say they are too young to be mothers.

 

Women are also critical in agriculture and food security efforts. Women farmers make up 80 percent of the agricultural labor force in Nigeria. This percentage holds consistent in other African countries and in some parts of Asia. Estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization show that if women had equal access to resources, such as land, training, technology, and credit, global food production would increase by 20 to 30 percent, which could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.

 

This extensive and intimate relationship with the land means that women, often exclusively, have extensive knowledge of traditional remedies and plants, indigenous farming practices and local methods of crop cultivation. Agriculture development policies and programs should be inclusive of women to meet local needs.

 

Investing in women’s education furthers economic goals and improves the health and wellbeing of future generations. According to the World Bank, a one year increase in education for women corresponds to an increase of US$700 in GDP per capita. In addition, educated women tend to marry later and have fewer children. Their own children, in turn, tend to have lower infant mortality rates, higher school enrollment, and suffer less from malnutrition.

 

As leaders look to the future and establish global sustainability goals, specific goals to promote gender equality in Nigeria and around the world must be set. Doing so will benefit women’s families, communities and nations today, and the environment and global economies tomorrow. Recognizing the important role women play as environmental stewards, food producers, business owners, health care providers, and mothers is the key to creating a prosperous and sustainable future for everyone.

 

Jill Sheffield is President of Women Deliver (www.womendeliver.org), Danielle Nierenberg is project director of the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project (www.NourishingthePlanet.org).

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Media Women Tasked On Journalism Of Responsibility

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Members of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Rivers State Chapter, have been charged to practise “ journalism of responsibility “. The chairperson of the association, Mrs Susan Serekara Nwikhana, gave the charge two days ago in a one day capacity building workshop organized for members in collaboration with West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP) in Port Harcourt.
Mrs Nwikhana noted that journalism of responsibility which according to her, can only be achieved by presenting the facts to the audience to hold their opinion on the presented facts, remains a sure way to gaining the public’s credibility as well as enhancing the media’s reputation to the public.
She maintained that such could go a long way to debunk the age long myth that complete objectivity is not obtainable in journalism practice, as journalists are said to lack the will to be entirely separated from their personal view points despite their averred claims to objectivity.
Commenting on the topic of the event, ‘ the role of the media in the implementation of the Rivers State action plan on 1325, and, identifying fake news, facts and the journalist’, Mrs Nwikhana noted that the topic could not have come at a better time than now, considering the importance of information dissemination to peace building or escalation of conflicts in the society.
Corroborating the stand of the media women’s boss on factual presentation of information, a guest speaker in the workshop, the south-south zonal director of Business Day Newspaper, Mr Ignatius Chukwu, the principal responsibility of every journalist is to report the fact notwithstanding the resultant effect.

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Oba Extols The virtues Of Women

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The new Oba of Ogba Land, His Eminence, Barrister Nwachukwu Nnam Obi (111), has expressed great value and respect for the women folk.
This happened last week as a delegation of members of the Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Rivers State chapter, visited the palace of the late Oba, His Eminence, Sir (Dr) Chukwumela Nnam Obi (11) OON, JP, FNATT, Oba (Eze Ogba) of Ogba Land on a condolence visit to his family.
The royal father who spoke lovely of his mother, sisters and wife, recognized and acknowledged in no mean measure, the value of women to the development of the society.
He confessed a high indebtedness to the effort of women around his life for successes he ever achieved in life.
His words; “ whatever I have become today, women contributed so much to it hence I hold them so close to my heart”, were clear demonstration of the extent to which he appreciates the immeasurable role of women in societal development.
Relating his resolve to keep to the later, the legacies, wishes and aspirations of his late father, he said “ my father had longed to have a woman serve in the capacity of the vice president of Nigeria. It had also been his dream to have some obnoxious traditional rules within our domain amended in favour of women, especially as it partains to sharing of family inheritance “
He thus promised that his kingdom would continue to ensure that women are put in their right place, while issues that bothers on their well being would always be given a priority consideration.
In her response, the Chairman of NAWOJ, Mrs Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, appreciated the gesture, especially his resolve to carry on the existing relationship between his late father and the body of women journalists in the state.

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250,000 Women Suffering From VVF

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No fewer 250,000 women are battling Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) in the country.
However, only 3,000 of that number are fortunate enough to be attended to annually.
This was revealed by Board Chairman, North-East Development Commission (NEDC), Maj-Gen Paul Tarfa, during the flag-off of Free Fistula Repair Campaign Project (FFRCP) by the commission in collaboration with the Borno State Government, yesterday.
VVF is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault.
VVF patients are usually underage/child-brides, who develop the condition mostly after childbirth.
However, experts list the causes of VVF to include abdominal surgery (hysterectomy or caesarean section); pelvic, cervical, or colon cancer; radiation treatment; bowel disease like Crohn’s or diverticulitis; infection (including after an episiotomy or a tear you had when you gave birth) and traumatic injury, such as from a car accident.
Meanwhile, in his goodwill message at the ceremony, the NEDC Board Chairman, Maj-Gen Paul Tarfa, represented by the Board member North-West zone, Hajiya Asmau Mai-Eka Muhammadu, said only 3,000 of the 250,000 VVF victims get attended to.
According to Tarfa, “Statistics indicate that there are about 250,000 women awaiting repair in Nigeria, out of which only 3,000 are fortunate to be attended to annually.
“12,000 new cases develop every year with large numbers coming from the North-East due to the insecurity and increased poverty, which further hindered access to health care.
“It is, therefore, important that all efforts are made to bring succour to this vulnerable group of women to enable them pick the pieces of their lives, by offering them a new lease for meaningful existence within their respective communities.”
The wife of the governor, Dr. Falmata Zulum, flagged off the fistula repair project (FFRCP) at the Conference Hall, State Specialist Hospital in Maiduguri.
It was also revealed that 100 women victims have undergone successful corrective surgery at the hospital.

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