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.
What To Know About Tom-Brown
It was a full hall on Tuesday, at the post-natal wing of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital Health Centre, Omoko Aluu, in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rives State, not even a baby’s cry in the vicinity, could distract the keenly attentive mothers who had fixed their gaze at the guest speaker in the hall.
While mothers took turns to check the weight of their babies and presented them for immunization as the case may be, Mrs Prince-Obe Queen, a graduate of business administration and management, and mother of four, took to the stage, to stress the importance of natural food for mothers and children. Her exhibition was basically on Tom-Brown, a mixture of cereals ; corn, guinea corn, millet, unripe plantain, soya beans and groundnuts.
Mrs Obe’s emphasis on natural food devoid of artificial inclination, was best explained in her preparation of this all-important meal before the nursing mothers.
While the meal was still cooking, its aroma captivated the essence of the mothers as none stepped out of the hall until a taste of the meal was achieved. Against the numerous junks in the market branded as canned food which are blended with preservative agents or artificial properties enemical to our health, she presented Tom-Brown as a food without any chemical substance, good for a healthy body development.
Away from our knowledge of Tom-Brown as food for babies, this mother of four has come up with a brand of Tom-Brown, not limited to babies consumption, but for the entire family. Her desire for a perfect nutrition has lured her into a research that birthed the Queen’s Healthy Tom-Brown brand.
Although, determined to make a fortune from natural food, she said it is her own way of giving back to the society first and foremost, as she emphasises good food for a healthy living.
Those who have tested it, she said, liked it, and many children who were malnourished, when exposed to the food, looked healthier. She recommended it to diabetics, stating that a man who had a low sugar level of 0.3 had the meal introduced to him for a month after which, his sugar level was boosted.
According to her, those that undergo mental activities, those that work round the clock, need Tom-Brown meal to stay healthy. With Tom-Brown, coupled with a meal a day, the body’s diet demand for the day is met.
Bayelsa To Prioritise Women Empowerment
Bayelsa State Government says it will pay more attention to women in its empowerment and small businesses development programmes as part of efforts to stimulate the local economy.
The State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo disclosed this recently when a delegation of Ekeremor Local Government Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Women in Politics paid him solidarity visit in Government House, Yenagoa.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr Doubara Atasi, the Deputy Governor said the state government was putting in place effective measures to commence the disbursement of soft loans to the people particularly the women.
He explained that although the empowerment scheme such as the ongoing “Diri Boost” was conceptualized to impact Bayelsa youths and men, priority will be given to the women in recognition of the role they play in society.
He also pointed out that government decided to transfer the responsibility of women empowerment from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Empowerment to the Women Affairs Ministry to ensure effective and efficient coordination of issues affecting women.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo noted that the loan facility was targeted at promoting the development of small and medium scale businesses as well as engender agricultural production in the state.
According to the Deputy Governor, the present administration will do everything within its reach to take the Sagbama-Ekeremor Road to Ekeremor Town, which he noted, substantial work had already been done by the Chief Seriake Dickson’s Government.
He thanked the Ekeremor women for the visit and their abiding support for the PDP and urged them to gear up for the upcoming empowerment programmes “since government cannot give appointment to everybody who has worked for the party.”
His words, “You know that when you empower the woman, you empower a nation because mothers are key to whatever we do. They give birth to the children and also manage their husbands.
“So, as part of what we are doing, we have started the ‘DiriBoost Programme’, which is for both our women and our youths.
By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa
Issues On Women And Youth Development
Nigerian women have really come a long way. From the immediate post independence era to this 21st century, they have played major roles in social and economic activities which may have received little or no recognition at all.
In their bid to rise above the traditional Nigerian indigenous belief that the woman’s role is predominantly in the home where she is expected to act as a wife, mother and housekeeper, women are beginning to break out of such stereotypes. This is evident in their achievements in the various fields of endeavors which they now engage in.
60 years ago, women potrayed an image of a helpless, oppressed and marginalized folk. Yet, their desire to be involved in deciding the the fate of their environment, emboldened their muscles to struggle to make impact, no matter how minute. With division of labour being done along gender lines, women could only control such occupations as food processing and distribution.
Notably, in the south eastern part of Nigeria, women were involved in the production of palm oil and palm kernel, their successes in long distance trade in different parts of the country also accounted for the distribution of various food items and commodities.
Fish drying was done in the coastal areas of Calabar, Oron and the Niger Delta. Women in Okposi, Yala and Uburu were known for salt production. Pottery making and weaving were popular among the Afikpo women. The women in the north, even those in purdah, were also involved in food processing and trading. The resourceful nature of these women made them able to contribute to the sustenance of their families.
Beyond the household level, needless to say that power was generally dominated by men. Nevertheless, in many areas, specific titles were given to women. The queen mother; a powerful title among the Edo and Yoruba, could be bestowed upon the king’s mother or a free woman of considerable stature.
The most successful among them rose to the prestigious chieftaincy title of Iyalode, a position of great privilege and power. Although with time, patriarchy, combined with colonial changes altered gender relations which declined the position of female chiefs in importance
The under representation of women in political participation gained root due to the patriarchal practice inherent in our society, much of which were obvious from pre-colonial era till date.
In all of this, the most serious threat to the influence and privileges of women occurred during the 20th century, when the cultural orientation by which a woman is seen as dependent on her husband created an enabling environment for thier subordination and restriction in pursing education.
Their plight was made worse by the operational system of education that placed more priority on male-child over the female-child. This era witnessed a system that subjected women to a place of being seen and not heard.The exclusion of the girl-child from western education to a great extent, widened the intellectual gap between the two folks.
This situation did not only súcceed in placing the Nigerian woman in second fidlle in the scheme of things, it projected her as a mediocre personality stripped of the will and power to rule, dominate and impact her environment. A very serious impediment to the political and socio-economical enthronement of the Nigerian woman in the 21st century.
This was the reason behind the numerous struggles for the emancipation of the Nigerian woman from political mediocrity and stagnancy through education and participation in the socio-economic and political development of the nation.
Like women in other patriarchal societies, the subordinate position which Nigerian women were subjected to, predisposed them to various acts of gender-based discrimination. Being a patriarchal society, male dominance was reflected in the marriage institution, political, religious and governing institutions, and in other public and private institutions existing in the country.
The result was low participation of women in both elective and appointive positions as very few women in the country occupied leadership positions and participated equitably with their male counterparts in decision-making. All the same, as Nigeria marks her 60th independence anniversary today, there is every reason for the women to celebrate as their status have continuously evolved curtesy of formal education from which a large number of elite women have emerged.
Intelligent, educated, and confident, women can now be found in all leading occupations; they now challenge many aspects of patriarchy and are gradually organizing to ensure that the political arena expands sufficiently to accommodate them.Today, Nigerian women have demonstrated great resourcefulness, not only in nation building but as custodians of great legacy in a country with rich cultures and potential.
Although controversial, gender has come to be a very crucial instrument for shaping the society and based on this, the world’s governments adopted gender equality and women’s empowerment as the third Millennium Development Goal in 2000. To this end, Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO, recognizes the importance of promoting the full and equitable participation of women and men in efforts to improve food security, reduce poverty, and fuel sustainable rural development.
Thus the millenium Development Goal3, MDG3, is targetted at eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and in all levels of education
The previous United Nation’s conferences such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, (1993), the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo (1994), the World Conference on Women, Beijing (1995), and the Security Council Resolution (2000), all focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Many actions had to be taken by women in order to break loose from political backwardness and social subordination and from other contending factors to the political progress of women. More awareness is being created with regard to incorporating gender perspectives in policy-making and the adoption of gender-inclusive approaches in the implementation of development-related goals in order to empower women.
As we speak, there are obvious efforts made by government and non -governmental organizations to increase the level of participation of women in politics in line with the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action.
In Nigeria, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35% affirmative action instead, and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.
At the federal level, in 2011, the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration’s cabinet had women occupying about 33% of the positions. This was more than the 30% reserved for women under the affirmative action guidelines contained in the National Policy of Women adopted in 2000. However, since then, the number of women in top government positions has dropped.
Here in Rivers State, the Executive Governor, Nyesom Wike provided an enabling environment for women to ascend political height by mandatorily reserving the local government vice chairmanship position for women as well as encouraging them into councillorship positions as a stepping stone into politics.
Right now, following the United Nations (UN) declaration on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which emphasize gender equality, economic empowerment of women has been spotted as a prerequisite for sustainable development, hence a global phenomenon.The MDGs 3 leverages on the understanding that promoting women‘s economic empowerment serves as a precursor for gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. To this end, governments and donor agencies such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank Group (AfDBG), International Finance Corporations (IFC) and several other organizations including the private sector, have developed various gender related polices to enhance WEP.
The Federal Government of Nigeria recently launched the WEP programmes alongside other women/youth related development projects. the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its financial inclusion strategy (under the Microfinance Policy), plan to reduce gender inequality by increasing women‘s access to financial services by fifteen per cent (15%) annually.
These are indications that Nigeria is keen in ensuring that women are economically empowered. Women make enormous contributions in every sector of the economy (markets, formal institutions, informal institutions, households, etc.). It is on record that in the last 30 years, 552 million women joined the labor force with a 4 per cent increase in Sub-Saharan Africa.
On the other hand, life that was much more abundant at independence gradually became difficult for the youths in the late 1970s and 1980s. Crushing economic hardships inflicted sorrow on many Nigerian youths. Thus, the picture of Nigerian youth since independence has been that of a marginalized group.
Most vulnerable for development and filled with vigour and the spirit to achieve, every one expects the young, agile, and virile to be innovative, unfortunately an enabling environment had remained elusive.
In a clime full of misery, the youths were left to contend with violence, pandemics of all sorts, assassination, examination malpractice, sexual promiscuity, joblessness and above all, poverty.
In an attempt to save their future from absolute deterioration, Nigerian youths disaggregated themselves into different forms of resistant militia groups, leaving questions in the air as to what hope the future holds for a ‘dishonourable’ future leaders?
Nonetheless, realizing that skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development, thus providing an opportunity to achieve inclusion and productivity within the country, the Nigerian government chose to harness Nigeria’s young demography through appropriate skill development efforts called N-Power Programme.
The modular programmes under N-Power is ensuring that each participant learns and practices most of what is necessary to find or create work. The N-Power Volunteer Corp involves a massive deployment of 500,000 trained graduates who will assist to improve the inadequacies in our public services.
The Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan was also developed by the Federal Ministry of Youth Development (FMYSD), as a strategy to respond effectively to the youth employment challenge in Nigeria.
The major objectives of the plan are to address fragmentation and harness technical and financial resources for meaningful impact. The plan targets young people between the ages of 18-35 years and details needed actions in support of employment creation for youth in critical economic and social sectors and outlines the financing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation frameworks.
The Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP) has an implementation phase from 2019-2023 and emphasizes the 4Es: Employability, Entrepreneurship Development, Employment Creation and Equal Opportunity.
In addition, a Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) was conceived and designed to: fight and reduce unemployment among Nigerian youth by creating at least 774,000 empowerment opportunities.
Here, youths are trained and empowered to have the capacity to empower at least one other youth within immediate community. It helps to create wealth among the growing youth population. While incomes will be stablised and sustsined, through this programme, it is expected to fight the scourge of criminality and drug abuse among the youth by keeping them productively engaged.
All these programmes if sincerely harnessed, no doubt would build the capacity of the youth to take charge of their own wellbeing and future by building their assets and realizing their potentials.
Hopefully, with the efforts of the federal and state governments as well as those of public spirited individuals and non governmental organisations at ameliorating the wellbeing of the youths, the hitherto devastated nigerian youth can contribute to GDP growth through the development of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs).
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
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