In time past, women the world over were regarded as the weaker vessels, a characterisation most women saw as stereotype, comparing the volume of work they do, which most times, outweigh that of the men.
As such, women across the nations have been struggling to assert their freedom to walk side-by-side with their male folks in building true equality, development and peace in their countries. Indeed, the women have shown their resilience and determination to lead and not remain in the shadows of the men by excelling in many male-dominated fields and sectors.
In Nigeria today, the high level of violence and killings have continued to call for serious concern among women as they can no longer sit and watch the total decimation and disintegration of the country. And they have been in the vanguard for forging alliances that help build peace and ensure security of all communities in the country.
The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) is one of such platforms. In fact, as part of its efforts to guarantee the participation of women in entrenching peace and security in the country, the WANEP Nigeria and Kebetkache Women Development Resort Centre recently embarked on training of women mostly affected by violence and killings.
The choice of Ogoni women leaders for the latest phase of the training aimed at building their confidence to enhance overall contributions to peace, security and development in communities has been overwhelmingly received across the Rivers State. For WANEP, Nigeria, the template is designed to allow the trainees replicate lessons learned by also training others in their local government areas to enhance women’s impact in the society as veritable means of ensuring peace, stability, growth and development in Rivers State in particular and the country at large.
The training programme, tagged, “Peace and Confidence Building”, which is part of a two-year project aimed at, “Enhancing Women’s Participation in Peace and Security in Nigeria”, kicked off last Monday, with a call on women to identify with those things that make them proud, if they wish to live long and be happy with themselves forever.
In her opening address, the Director, Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs, Dr Carmelita Agbarubere, said that women have all it takes, even more than their male counterparts, to engineer peace and security, and wondered why they have to choose to rely on their male counterparts to excel.
Agbarubere, therefore, charged women to ensure they live a life of actualisation and self-esteem, adding that women were the most brilliant class of God’s creation, and as such, not expected to beg.
“You must live a life of self-actualisation and esteem in order not to remain a beggar to your male counterparts, who you are far better than”, she advised.
While talking on Domestic Violence and Child’s Rights Act, she appealed to male lawmakers not to appropriate the issues to themselves alone, arguing that women should be more involved in the decision making since the children and women were the most affected. She insisted that more women should be allowed to make decisions on issues of domestic violence and child abuse in the society.
Agbarubere warned that women should stop supporting men that violate girls, adding that tribalism has become a big problem that is eating Nigerians up, urging that they ought to be their sisters’ keepers. According to her, “Tribalism is violence because you violate the rights of others. We should uphold love and trust for one another”.
Also speaking, the National Network Coordinator, WANEP Nigeria, Chief Bridget Osakwe, noted that the high rate of killings in Ogoni necessitated the decision to organise the programme for Ogoni women, so as to brainstorm on best ways to bring peace to the people of the area. Osakwe added that WANEP Nigeria was established primarily to provide an alternative platform for collaborative peacebuilding, adding that indigenous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were expected to work in the area of conflict, peace building and security.
She said that it was in the bid to bridge the yawning gap that the training was conceived to help women build a platform to enhance their confidence and influence in the socio-political and economic development of their communities. In fact, the advocate of female involvement in decision-making and development argued that the time has come for more women to make their marks ventilating their skills and knowledge on issues around domestic violence and child abuse in such a way that they force policy shift, and engineer a swing pool of punishment or sanctions for offenders.
In her paper presentation on, “Gender”, the South-South Zonal Coordinator of WANEP, Madam Emem Okon, explained that women unknowingly ascribed roles to themselves that were not originally meant for them as commanded by God.
In the well-researched presentation, Okon argued that “Even when women are heads of households, they still ascribe the role of the head of family to the men, who do not deserve to be acknowledged as such”, and insisted on gradual attitudinal change to place the women in their place as leaders of organisations, communities and heads of families they struggle so hard to fend for. She advised the participants to aim to be leaders in their communities, local governments, and indeed, the state, and gave insight into organisations and countries across the world where women were at the driver’s seat. Specifically, she noted tech companies in Silicon Valley, California, United States, including Yahoo, among others, where women were at the top. Okon mentioned the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where a woman is the managing director, and also noted countries such as Germany, Croatia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, where women are heads of state and government.
Okon regretted that women have the mindset of feeling inferior based on cultural and traditional definitions, lamenting that they have continued to overwhelm themselves with unnecessary pressures just to please cultural norms and rites.
In an address to welcome all facilitators and Ogoni women leaders drawn from Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas of the state, the Queen Mother of Eleme Kingdom, Her Majesty, Chief Evelyn Gokpa Eh Alito, expressed joy for the choice of organising the training in Eleme, adding that she was willing and ready to follow up with more training initiatives to engender peace and development in the state and Nigeria at large.
Earlier, the Rivers State Coordinator, WANEP Nigeria, Loretta Ahuokpeme, had said that the role of women as lead stakeholders was in promoting the rights of women and ensuring peace within communities, adding that to achieve the onerous task; women must build their confidence first.
She expressed the hope that lessons learned from the training programme would help transform Ogoni women leaders as pacesetters in peace building and sustainable security in the communities as a veritable means of ensuring uninterrupted development in the state.
The participants identified the negative effects of violence in Ogoniland that may have been responsible for low investors’ confidence in tapping the potentials in Ogoniland as well as the factors that had over the years, slowed the pace of development in the area. They also resolved to work in synergy to promote efforts to tackle the incidence of rape and violence against women, just as they agreed to fight against purveyors of child abuse and trafficking. In addition, the women promised to do everything in their powers to influence actions to reduce the rate of poverty, killings, insecurity, displacement, marginalisation of the impoverished people of Ogoniland, among others.
Girl Guides Move To Eliminate Violence Against Women Take Campaign To Rivers Community
As the United Nations marks its 16 days of activism to eliminate gender-based violence, members of the Nigeria Girl Guides, Rivers State, last week undertook an advocacy visit to Rumuewhor Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.
In interactive fora with pupils of the State School 1 and 2, and students of Odegu Senior Secondary School Rumuewhor respectively, the State Commissioner of Nigeria Girl Guides Rivers State, Barrister Daba Harry, told the audience that they were in the community to sensitize people on the need to key into the United Nations Initiative at the moment.
Explaining that the UN uses the period between November 25, through December 20, to reawken the world’s consciousness towards the elimination of violence in the society, especially the ones perpetrated against women, Barrister Harry said, the mission of her organisation at the moment was basically to stop violence, increase peace, break the silence and speak out for the girls’ rights.
She harped on the reality of violence in our society, understanding the nature of violence and the need to avoid it.
In her own speech, the sponsor of the visit, who doubles as the matron of Nigeria Girl Guides Rumuewhor, and member of Trefoil Guild, Barrister (Hon) Uchenda Bibian Okogbule, called on the pupils and students respectively, not to only avoid violent tendencies, but also speak out against any attempt at violating their right, especially their sexual right.
She advised that they seek the intervention of the federation of women lawyers in the state, (FIDA) should they be violated by any person any time.
Barrister Okogbule, while emphasising the importance of the visit, which she also considers her own way of giving back to the society and her community in particular, said although this may not have been the organisation’s maiden visit to the community, it was their first school to school visit.
Meanwhile, the principal of Odegu Community Senior Secondary School, Mr James Anwanya, on behalf of his members of staff, had expressed satisfaction at the choice of Rumuewhor Community for the advocacy visit. He said it is an indication that Rumuewhor Community is still hopeful of better things ahead.
Mr Anwanya poured encomiums on the convener of the program, Barrister Okogbule, for carrying the community along, recapping her previous efforts at ensuring that the community is represented in the scheme of things.
Highlights of the visit included lecture on menstrual hygeine management and a lively interactive session with the students as well as offer of automatic registration of interested persons into the Nigeria Girl Guides.
It will be recalled that Girl Guides is a movement found worldwide, which was originally and still largely designed for girls and women only. This organisation was introduced in 1909.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
Monarch’s Wife Tasks NGOs, Others On Youth Employment
First Lady of Opobo Kingdom, Her Majesty, Queen Prudence Daneson Jaja, has called on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the philanthropists to support Federal Government’s efforts at addressing youth unemployment in Nigeria, which discourages social ills that paint the country black.
Jaja made the appeal recently while speaking at the 2019 Centralized Convention of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the Opobo Women Welfare Association (OWWA), with the theme: “In time like this” held at Opobo Town, where about 150 youths were financially empowered, in addition to other gift items. She said that the beneficiaries who were youths from the eleven wards of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State were enrolled for training in various vocations having realized that government alone could not create employment for millions of Nigerian youths she enjoined them to make good use of the empowerment given to them.
According to her, “collective efforts of government, well-meaning individuals, philanthropists, NGOs and other stakeholders are required to address the alarming rate of unemployment in the country”.
Queen Jaja, said that with the Federal and State Government’s several empowerment programs, more opportunities had been created for the youths who are willing and ready to become self-employed, rather than taking to crime and other unholy means of survival, decrying the practice of using youths by some wealthy individuals to amass wealth, build houses, ride exotic cars and engage in other unproductive acts, which she regards as misplaced priorities.
In her words, “touching the lives of the less privileged, creating jobs through empowerment in various forms and sponsoring unemployed youths to make them self-reliant are legacies for which they will be forever remembered”.
She pleaded with well-meaning Nigerians to rise up and pay attention to the worrisome unemployment challenges nationwide, appealing for collaboration by all stakeholders to mitigate the unemployment rate among youths.
Also speaking at the event, President of the group, Ama-Opu-Orubo Felicia Stephen Pepple, appealed to government at all levels to include youths and the less privileged in the society in their policies and programs in order to quell the upheavals beclouding the nation, adding, “this is the time the attention of our leaders at all levels are needed to address the escalating feud in Nigeria which is borne out of unemployment of the youths, as well as their empowerment. Greed and avarice are the twin relations of mal-administration and fracas hovering in and around Nigeria of recent”.
She further admonished politicians to shun the habit of using Nigerian youths during elections to cause mayhem in the country and later abandon them, noting that, “a hungry man is an angry man.” The youths she insists, should be encouraged by way of empowering them with scholarships, grants and other necessities of life for them to turn away from social ills, such as; rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, killings, drug abuse and drunkenness among others.
Pepple used the opportunity to advise the youths especially the recipients of the empowerment largesse to utilize them for their good, instead of using it for other purposes irrelevant to the society.
Meanwhile, Ama-Opu-Orubo Felicia Pepple, has asked the National Assembly to expedite action in implementing the violence against person prohibition bill while calling for twenty years jail term for anyone guilty of raping a girl less than fourteen years.
The group leader also called on the Federal Government to quickly give legal backing to the law so that offenders would not go unpunished, adding that the problem of Nigeria is not in law making but implementation.
She, however, said that the current laws which seek to protect the right of citizens in cases of this nature do not go far enough, adding that the punishments provided by existing laws was inadequate in light of present realities.
Pepple, therefore, implored the Federal Government to show concern on the plight of sexually abused people in the country. She stressed that it is imperative to establish a commission to handle the issue of rape properly and suggested that officers that would man the commission should be experts from relevant disciplines.
By: Bethel Toby & Patience Mecha
NAWOJ Seeks End To Sexual Harassment Of Members
Female journalists in Nigeria have been advised to report all forms of sexual harassment meted against them in the course of discharging their duties.
Speaking during a two-day training programme organised by the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists in collaboration with the Norwejian Union of Journalists (NORSK), one of the facilitators on “Combating Sexual Harassment In Work Place and Safety In Field”, Mrs Rafat Salami, said there was need for media houses to have a sexual harassment policy in their offices as well as ensuring that it is listed as misconduct.
Salami noted that the reason while we have unions is to be able to fight for the rights of workers, especially when female journalists are being harassed in their places of work. She warned women against raising false accusation against men on rape as they stand the risk to be arrested and prosecuted.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, stated that female journalists have a critical role in setting agenda as concerning gender inequality.
Nsirim stated further that NAWOJ does not have statistics of work done so far, adding that while they celebrate their last 30th anniversary they ought to have shown statistics of work done on advocacies and achievements recorded so far.
He charged NAWOJ to celebrate leaders who fought for the rights of women, citing the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as a case study. Nsirim further charged female journalists to look towards the incidences of sexual harassment on female journalists with a view to developing database, so that registered journalists can easily be accessed at anytime in case of molestation.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Atosemi Teetito, described the theme of the training as apt and timely, adding that the Ministry of Women Affairs is so passionate about discrimination against women and girls.
The Permanent Secretary, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Dr Carmelita Agbonbere, noted that last Monday marked the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, she stressed that it is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls.
Teetito called for global action to increase awareness on gender-based violence and sexual harassment on female journalists within workplaces, adding that such acts must stop. She urged female journalists to stand firm and maintain their dignity no matter the cost.
In their separate presentations, the facilitator on Gender Equity And Safety, Mainstreaming, Making Your Gender Analysis, Mrs Veronica Ogbole, revealed that the Nigeria Sexual Offender Register has been launched yesterday by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbanjo so all sexual harrassment issues can be reported.
Ogbole commended the VP and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs for taking that bold step in launching the offenders register, adding that offenders have been getting away because they know that they are not being reported or prosecuted.
She urged that victims take full advantage of the development, while calling on the ministry to ensure full implementation.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Lilian Ogabu-Okonkwo, had advised female journalists in the state to train themselves so they can improve, build themselves to have an edge over the men. She stated that only female journalists can report issues of sexual harassment and all forms of molestation better than others.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the occasion, Mr Chidi Okoro, had said that gender equity leads to peace in some parts of Africa, he regretted that in Nigeria, positions are still dominated by men.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
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