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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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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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