By design or sheer coincidence, the Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs (MOWA) made it a date with women in government Monday, to parley on ways to alleviate the burden of the deadly epidemic called HIV/AIDs as it pertains to women in the state
By design yes, because it is one of the key-job responsibilities (KJR) of the ministry to intervene on issues of women and children concern especially where their health and general welfare are being jeopardized.
By coincidence, because such was facilitated as the world marks the International Women’s Week, a period when gender-sensitive issues are usually placed on the front burner.
For whichever reasons however, the meeting, a one-day advocacy organised in collaboration with State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDs (SACA) under the World Bank Assisted Programme could best be described as timely.
In what could be adjudged an expository lecture by the Executive Director, Rivers State Agency for Control of HIV/AIDs, Dr C. M. Okeh everyone present had a privilege of a first hand information on HIV/AIDs as it concerns women in Rivers State.
Dr. C.M. Okeh in his lecture titled “Women and AIDs” revealed that the HIV epidemic is currently undergoing feminization, a situation where women top the list of HIV/AIDs victims because of their special vulnerability to it, so much that in Nigeria about 57 per cent of adults living with HIV are women an in the whole world 30% of those who are denied drugs to avoid Mother-to-Child transmission (PMTC) live in Nigeria.
Reasons advanced for the high vulnerability of women to the deadly epidemic ranges from thousands of young females becoming sexually active, special economic and cultural factors, to male dominance, ignorance and misconception, poverty. Early unset of sexual debut, increasing incidences of rape, low utilization of health facilities for Anti-natal care and delivery.
Therefore, the disproportionate level of vulnerability of women and men to HIV infection and the realization of the fact that the average girl-child has two times the chance of a boy to be infected has necessilated the special focus on women and the young ones to stop it from growing.
Moreover that HIV is now the second highest cause of death among the young ones beside violence, with over 2 million Nigerians orphaned due to it, coupled with the yearly outrageous number getting infected, the state ministry of Women Affairs, under the leadership of Mrs Joeba West, considers it imperative to task all female stake holders in governance , on the need for a concerted effort to fight against the ugly monster, an ill-wind that blows no one good through their offices of authority because they are a voice that could be listened to and the time to be heard is now.
Corroborating this charge, the facilitator of the Programme, Dr. C.M. Okeh, said, to achieve a meaningful progress in the fight against feminization of AIDs, all hands must be on deck as the government alone can not handle it. Women leaders at various levels viz (govt, corporate organization, civil society, religious and traditional) were advised to exploit the opportunity of their offices to make an impact.
Dr Okeh itemized instruments of the warfare as social education of women on HIV/AIDs, mobilization for uptake of ANC, hospital delivery and prevention of mother-to child-transmission, Campaign for prevention of prostitution, teenage pregnancy and abortion.
Promotion of virginity and delay sexual debut Economic empowerment, skills acquisition and access to micro-credit and grants, Fight against rape and Promotion of girl-child education
Earlier, the Director Women Affairs, Mrs Blessing Dienye has enumerated the reasons behind the creation of the women ministry to include engender change; first in the women’s orientation and then to others, stating that countries tagged “developing or underdeveloping” like ours are such where women are not part of the developmental trend.
In her dogged refusalto admit defeat, Mrs Dienye asserts “outside our environment, people with HIV/AIDs to the fulilment of their life, why is ours different?”
Blessing Dienye insists that a diagnosis of the HIV/AIDs virus should not mean a death certificate in advance.
She maintained that it is possible that a woman with HIV/AIDs could comfortably be pregnant and have a baby that is HIV/AIDs free.
Highlight of the meeting was the inauguration of 50 AIDS champions who were charged with the responsibility of salvaging the Rivers women in particular and every women in general from the scourge of HIV/AIDs.
Ondo Women Protest Half-Naked Over Insecurity
Hundreds of women across four local government areas in Ondo State on Saturday protested against worsening security challenges in the area.
The women, who took to the streets of Oka Akoko, Akungba Akoko and some other Akoko towns, demanded improved security from the state and federal government.
Recent spate of insecurity in the area include abduction of teachers by gunmen in Auga Akoko, the killing of a police officer at Oka Akoko last week, and the attack on 17 travellers on Ifira Akoko-Isua Akoko road by armed robbers among others.
Some of the protesters, who held brooms, were half-naked and chanting various solidarity songs along the streets.
Recall that Amotekun Corps also arrested no fewer than 17 suspected bandits from the North-West of Nigeria when they stormed Okitipupa area of the state.
The suspected criminals were found with dogs, cutlasses and charms as they wandered in the area without purpose.
It was the distress call by residents of the community to Amotekun operatives that led to their arrest.
Civil Society Calls For Laws To Harmonise NGOs’ Activities
Some Rivers Civil society organisation under the aegis of Rivers network of NGO’s (RINNGOS) is calling on state governments in the country to come up with rules and regulations to harmonise and coordinate civil societies’ registrations for optimum performances.
This was part of the resolutions at a network Dialogue /Consultation with the theme “Strengthening State Civil Society Networks/Coalitions to Harmonise Regulatory Frameworks at the Sub-National Level”, sponsored by the European Union (EU) British Council and the Nigerian Network of NGOs.
The group also planned advocacy visits to ministries, departments and agencies in Rivers State with the view to canvassing for laws that will harmonise civil society organisations registrations in Rivers State.
According to a programme profile made available to newsmen at the programme, the objectives of the project include: raising awareness and supporting sub-national networking/coalitions of CSOs in European Union (EU) Focal States to collect and review existing frame work in their respective states to identify the gaps and opportunities for better harmonisation and coordination of CSO registration and regulations at the sub national level.
It also seeks to engage stakeholders to improve responsiveness between states ministries, departments and agencies and sub-national CSOs on the need for a harmonised regulatory framework.
It noted that the organisation aims to work in various areas such as: HIV/Aids, environmental protection, malaria, women affairs and others.
Declaring the event opened, the chairperson of Rivers Network of NGOs, Mrs Mina Ogbanga, said the event was to equip participants with the skills for advocacy.
Ogbanga said the task of changing the society is a collective one, adding that the Rivers Network of NGOs will work with every interest group to achieve success.
She said that the donor agencies were ready to fund participants to carry out projects in their respective communities.
High point of the event was the inauguration of four groups charged with the responsibility of embarking on advocacy visits to various ministries, departments and agencies in the states.
By: John Bibor & Oribim Ibama
Women And Harmful Practices
The bill for prohibition of harmful practices against women at the National Assembly is a welcome development.
Severally, there have been talks, seminars, workshops, fora, arguments, bills and laws abolishing issues that concern women, especially violence. But a lot has not been achieved to curtail the menace.
Violence against girls and women has been on the increase. From time to time, it is either girls are denied access to father’s property or a widow is denied inheritance to husband’s properties. Even when laws are put in place about things that will help women have their rights, some persons feel that culture and tradition do not permit.
We are aware that some women are rich and may not want to partake in the share of their late parents’ property, but there are vulnerable ones who need to be empowered, through perhaps, late parents’ property inheritance.
Some of the obnoxious laws were made before now without the consent of women. There was no representative to either argue for or against so as to be beneficial to women generally. Some of the laws were so primitive that even when civilisation came, became difficult to change. Very unfortunately, it is the women that execute the laws made by men in their absence. Women are suffering it.
If the bill abolishing certain practices against women and girls will be passed into law by the National Assembly, it will be better for them. For long, laws against female genital mutilation and circumcision have existed but some communities with their culture and tradition have refused to put a stop to it with reasons best known to them.
Circumcision of a full-grown girl or lady may not be the only way of attaining maturity. It is a harmful practice and the pain associated with it cannot be imagined. This illegal operation is not performed in the hospital so the dangers inherent will be much.
For those who still practice it, the menace should be discouraged as that is not a proper way of ushering a girl into womanhood. A lot of women lose their lives due to pains experienced during the process. it was practised in the past when civilisation was not there, it is a different case, nowadays with science and technology proving it wrong, those who still practise not should resist.
It is a right step in the right direction and it is time the National Assembly and all stakeholders intensified efforts in dealing with persons who perpetuate evil against their fellow women.
If the bill will be passed into law by the National Assembly, it is welcome but the fear that comes to mind is implementation. The issue has been dwelt on for decades, but it is still practised as big ceremonies in some communities.
When it comes to inheritance, a girl born into a family, married or unmarried will be denied access to father’s property but if it has to do with the demise of parents or sickness, the woman and the husband will be mandated to provide a cow for the burial rites or offset medical bills.
If the National Assembly makes laws concerning the well-being of women, community heads, molecular leaders, women groups and associations, religious organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) should create more awareness through the media to sensitise rural dwellers.
In this digital era, it should be forbidden that a woman loses her spouse and she is mandated to drink water used on the late husband.
The items in the bill to be passed into law by the National Assembly are in order as it concerns women.
A legal practitioner, Tam Jacobs, said if one forcefully shaves a woman’s hair with the intention that she is mourning her late spouse, she can sue that person for assault.
He said if the woman is forced to drink water used on her late husband’s body, she can also sue for attempted murder.
According to him, several cases of girl-child inheritance have been won and documented in the law court but some cannot claim it.
“Even a widow who is handicapped may not be able to make attempts so NGOs, CSOs should be in the forefront to support them and ensure that the laws are implemented at the grassroots level where they are practised”, he said.
A pharmacist, Eno Amos said any culture that does not add colour and value to life should be abolished.
She added that implementation can be easy in the cities where awareness has been created but expressed fear that it may not be easy in the rural areas where culture is really practised.
A business woman, Agnes Ugwu, said tradition and culture were made by man and not God and wondered why people who claim to be educated still follow the tradition of ancestors who never went to school.
Ignorance also comes to play here. If you have watched a documentary showing female genital mutilation and the gory experience the young women go through, is something else. Some of the perpetrators claim that the practice has existed for ages. Women have to learn more about issues that concern them.
A nurse, Rosy Ekeocha, said it is not about culture but about the behavior of a group of people in the community who force it on others.
According to her, let people change their behaviour and leave culture alone. It doesn’t happen in every family and if any family allows it that’s their business.
She said we are in the 21st century, certain culture and tradition need to be reviewed to ensure that they allign with today’s reality.
Culture is dynamic she said, but that implementation of laws relating to the vulnerable in the society calls for concern.
We should not behave the way people behaved five dacades ago, after all, we do not dress the way our forefathers dressed. Time has evolved and things are getting better as it concerns women. We are getting more exposed and more enlightened about issues that concern is. Information is moving round as the world is a global village.
Talking about culture nowadays, we wear shoes whereas our forefathers never had any. They walked barefooted
far distances to get family necessities but things are better now as we are mobile.
That should also happen to culture and tradition. There are certain aspects of our culture and tradition which are practised today that have expired long ago. We should get rid off them.
It is expected that the bills abolishing obnoxious practices against women and girls in the society will achieve expected results when passed into law at the floor of the House.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
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