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WANEP: Mobilising Ogoni Women For Peace

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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.

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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Female Novelist Emerges Nobel Laureate

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As the Swedish Academy finally announced laureates for 2018 and 2019, after scandal forced last year’s award to be postponed, Olga Tokarczuk has been declared the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Born 29 January 1962 in Sulechów, Poland, Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish writer, activist, and public intellectual , was barely six years old, and living in the small town of Sulechów, when the Polish students protests of 1968 erupted. Her father’s family were refugees from a part of Poland that is now in Ukraine. Both parents were teachers who “lived in an island of leftwing intellectuals, but not communists”.
Although trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw, Olga, upon graduation took a hospital job as a specialist in addiction, married a fellow psychologist and gave birth to a son. But after five years, she decided she was too fragile to continue at the hospital. “I was working with one of my patients and realised I was much more disturbed than he was.”
She left her job and published a collection of poetry, quickly followed by a novel; The Journey of the People of the Book – a parable set in 17th-century France – which won a prize for best debut. Though the books, and the prizes, kept rolling in, in her mid 30s, Tokarczuk hit a crisis and decided she needed to take some time out to travel. She became particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing as she has published several novels, as well as other books with shorter prose works.
Today, OlgaTokarczuk has been described as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors of her generation.With her declaration as the winner of the 2018 Nobel prize coupled with the 2018 winner of the Man Booker International Prize for her novel; Flights, she becomes the first Polish writer to do so.
A mother, and wife to Roman Fingas, when she was hotly tipped to win the Man Booker International prize last year, Olga Tokarczuk considered herself “ very naive”as she talked about facing controversy at home and the armed bodyguards hired to protect her.
A literary star in Poland, Olga’s sixth novel; Flights, could best be described by any one as her stepping stone to greatness. Not as though Olga had not featured any work translated in English language, Flights highlighted her as probably one of the greatest living writers any scholar would love to meet.
Adam Mars-Jones, once wrote a highly complimentary review of Flights in the London Review of Books. “It could almost be an inventory of the ways narrative can serve a writer short of, and beyond, telling a story,” he said. “The book’s prose is a lucid medium in which narrative crystals grow to an ideal size, independent structures not disturbing the balance of the whole.”
Tokarczuk prefers an astronomical metaphor, explaining that, just as the ancients looked at stars in the sky and found ways to group them and then to relate them to the shapes of creatures or figures, so what she calls her “constellation novels” throw stories, essays and sketches into orbit, allowing the reader’s imagination to form them into meaningful shapes.
She is currently best known in Poland for a 900-page historical epic called The Books of Jacob published in 2014. The Books of Jacob tells the story of Jakub Frank, a Jewish-born religious leader who led the forcible conversion of fellow Jews to Catholicism in the 18th century. The novel itself was well received, selling 170,000 copies in hardback and winning her a second Nike award, known as “the Polish Booker”.
In her naivety, thinking she would be able to discuss the dark areas in Poland’s history, Tokarczuk was branded a ‘targowiczanin’, an ancient term for traitor when she outraged rightwing patriots by saying that, contrary to its self-image as a plucky survivor of oppression, Poland itself had committed “horrendous acts” of colonisation at times in its history. A reason for which her publisher had to hire bodyguards for a while to protect her.
She has long been one of Poland’s highest profile writers, a vegetarian feminist in an increasingly reactionary, patriarchal country, and a public intellectual whose every utterance can make news headlines.
Call her an intelligent, brilliant or controversial artiste, Olga Tokarczuk has not only made her mark in the literary world, she has boosted the ego of women as a worthy ambassador of the folk.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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NGO To Train Women In Rivers

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The Founder; Impact Her Vocational Training, a Non-Governmental Organization ( NGO), Barr Efe Ukala, has said that her organisation has concluded plans to get over 300 women trained in various skills and entrepreneurship programmes in Rivers State.
Ukala disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The Tide Thursday in Port Harcourt.
She said part of the ideas behind her action was to help women close the gap between them and their male counterparts in the areas of skill acquisition and entrepreneurship.
According to her, the training would also help to bring investors in order to boost women’s businesses.
Her action she said, was further informed by the high statistics of African women whom she said were far behind their male counterparts.
Part of her success story, she revealed, was the aid given to some women whose businesses had risen to an enviable height.
Concerning the contribution of the Rivers State Government, she hinted that the government under Governor Nyesom Wike, has been supportive.
She narrated how the government had helped in the training of over 300 women who can now boast of their own personal business.
Also speaking, one of the trainees, Mrs Charity Chukwu, who admitted the positive impact of the programme since July this year, said it has so far exposed her to the entrepreneurship world.
Chukwu, explained how her experience acquired from the programme brought about a wide scope of her understanding of business and its management.
One of such skills gained, according to her, was how to prepare and export cassava flour, which she said was rewarding.
Another trainee, Amarachi Eboyi, also eulogised the NGO over what she described as an eye-opener to the business environment.
Eboyi told The Tide that with the assistance of the NGO, she had successfully concluded her business registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission ( CAC).
The Tide gathered that the organization had trained several women in 34 African countries,which Rivers State would have about 300 of such trainees by this weekend.

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Dealing With Domestic Abuse

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We are tired of cases of people maiming, beating and subjecting to hunger, or all manner of hardship, people they are obligated to love and protect. Some cases appear so bizarre that one is forced to ask if the perpetrators were actually in the right frame of mind at the time of the act.
When people talk about domestic abuse,they often focus on domestic violence. Domestic abuse has to do with any attempt by one party in an intimate relationship, or marriage, to dominate and control the other. According to Dr Humphrey Amadi of ‘ Help Guide To Mental Health And Welness’, whether abuse or violence, the purpose is basically to gain and maintain total control over the other.
An abuser uses fear, guilt and intimidation to wear down a victim and keep same under control. While abuse remains no person’s portion, it occurs across all ages, ethnic backgrounds and all social levels as well as all sexes, especially verbal or emotional.
From threat and verbal assault, an abuse could escalate to violence. Physical injury poses the most obvious danger, this is worsened by the emotional and accompanying psychological consequences.
Abusive relationships do not only lead to anxiety and depression, it also destroys self worth, leaving victims lonely and helpless. Prof. Nkem Agbaso of the Department of Guidance and Counseling, University of Uyo, once declared that ‘ no one wishes to endure such kind of pain’.
For Dr. Nikki Williams, a psychologist, when a partner becomes unussually fearful of the other, to the point of feeling like walking on egg shell around him, constantly watching what to say or do in order to avoid being attacked, it is indicative of a relationship prone to abuse.
Dr Williams enjoins couples to look out for occasions when a party in a relationship begins to despise the dignity of a mate, to the point of exerting supremacy, and a feeling of self loathing, helplessness and desperation. It could also take the form of being afraid of one’s partner, avoiding certain topics for fears of annoying a partner. She warned.
According to the psychologist, being a victim or merely witnessing a scene of domestic abuse in childhood, can turn one aggressive in life. Such behavior could as well be learned while growing up in a family with abusive parents or relatives.
It is important to note that stress and aggression occasioned by economic problems, often lead to domestic violence. A high level of unemployment contributes to the point that people quarrel in families due to lack of basic needs.
Again, alcohol and narcotics have also been fingered as factors triggering domestic abuse. Most people who are addicted to the above hardly control their abusive instinct. Unfortunately, alcohol and other related drugs are wide spreading in Nigeria, a reason why domestic abuse and violence have become common.
Even where alcohol and other drugs are in short supply, some pockets of psychological disorder as a result of long period depression, could still produce violence. This is why it is important that people care about what family members or partners in relationship go through.
Excessive suspicion, distrust and jealousy cannot be exonerated from the catalysts of domestic abuse. Most break-ups in relationship today, are courtesy of it. Above all Dr. Williams warned that whoever wishes for a lasting happy relationship, must in addition to being wary of all so- outlined, guide against anger.
Dr. Angella Amadi, a psychologist, identified physical violence amongst couples in Nigeria as most worrisome. It includes beating, slapping, rape, murder, kicking, rejecting to eat, not willing to shoulder responsibilities, and denying partners sex at will. She also identified acid baths as a form of violence which has received a lot of attention in Nigeria. Sexual violence in Nigeria largely goes unreported because of the burden of proof necessary for conviction as well as social stigma it brings. The common loss of Women’s rights upon marriage in sub-Sahara Africa and the implicit obedience and deference towards men is socially encouraged in the society.
Dr. Angella stated that infertility is a serious problem as over 40 percent of women who visited her for counseling often complain bitterly about their husbands unruly behavior in relation to infertility. The perceptions of domestic violence varies based on religion, and class. The Tivs see wife battery as a sign of love “ that should be encouraged. She said: “if you are not yet beaten by your husband, then you do know the joy of marriage, meaning you are not yet married.” All the major ethnic groups in Nigeria have a strong patriarchal societal structures that lead to justification of domestic violence as inherent right of a husband. In her study in the nation’s capital Abuja, she explained that while domestic violence is a violation of fundamental human rights which the Nigerian constitution is against, there are still provisions that tend to legalise it. The provision of the Penal code application in the Northern part of Nigeria specifically encourages violence against women. Underneath its provisions, the beating of a wife for the purpose of correction is legal by the use of (section 55 (1) (d) of the penal code.
Dr. Martins Oyeyidah, a medical consultant proffers solutions to reduce domestic abuse and violence in Nigeria. “The first step to action is to familiarize individuals and the community with the possible signs and indicators of domestic violence.” These signs can vary and do always come with physical symptoms because domestic violence is not just limited to physical attacks such as beatings. Domestic abuse also affects every level and demography in society. So there is no typical victim despite the stereotypes. Someone who may not appear to be a victim of domestic violence may well be suffering in silence.
Nigerian women should rise to the occasion and support the home by engaging in activities that will bring productivity in the home. More than one-third of women and one in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence in their life time, according to the National intimate partner and sexual violence survey.
Sometimes violence begins early in a relationship and other times it takes months or years to appear. It could be the jealous type, being jealous of your friends or time you spent outside.
“The lack of discussions of domestic issues creates a space in which an ostensibly socially unacceptable behaviour becomes allowable and even common place. Because conversations about domestic violence are off limit. Many women do not share abuse incidents with anyone. The taboo surrendering domestic violence discussion and accurate data reporting. It will be necessary to remove the stigma around domestic violence”, Dr Martins maintained.
He further suggested that this can be achieved through the creation of government -sponsored community programmes that directly address physical and psychological violence.
Mr. Frank Domino, a psychologist at a health Centre in Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt, observed social structure as the disparate status between men and women, as men have higher status in Nigeria than women. He stated that women should break out of traditionally engrained gender roles and expectations. With an increased sense of status, Nigerian women will no longer be bound to expected roles acquiescence. Given a voice, women will be able to challenge the established differences in status between men and women.
Igbe is a Freelancer in Port Harcourt.

 

Emeka Igbe

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