After many years of work by the United Nations, the International Women’s Year (IWY) was declared in 1975. Further to this, 1976 to 1985 was established as United Nations Decade for Women.
Consistently and committedly, the United Nations kept faith by working towards the improvement of women’s status throughout the world.
The Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 held in Beijing had its theme, “Action for Equality Development and Peace”. One of its sub-themes was “Looking at the world through the eyes of women”. This theme directed all nations to consider the issues concerning women as very important. Not done with its focus on the persistent depravity of women in many spheres of life, the United Nations brought out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in which the third of the eight millennium goals is about promoting gender equality and empowering women.
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly again formulated another policy not only for the improvement of the status of women but also a host of other areas of human endeavour that are lacking attention. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was therefore, put in place. The SDGs has a collection of 17 global goals set by th.e UN for 2030. It is envisaged to transform our world by the year 2030. Keeping its essence “Goals 5” relates to Gender Equality. This goal specifically directs all nations to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
In order for countries to be able to articulate women’s issues to the benefit of the women and the countries at large, there is the need for WOMEN CENTRES to be built in strategic places in every country, every state and if possible at the local government centres – where the grassroots women could benefit from.
What are the reasons for building Women Centres for women, one may ask? First of all, the United Nations throughout recent times has identified the deprivation of social and economic amenities being witnessed by women all over the world which must be brought to a zero level so as to improve the life of women and children in their care who are the future of any nation. Furthermore, Women Centres afford the women a place they can go to discuss their problems collectively and seek solutions to them.
Women Centres must be all encompassing, integrated to serve myriads of purposes concerning women issues and should be multi-purpose centres – a one-stop-centre which would house skill acquisition centre, where crafts of all sorts will be taught by experts and exhibited for sale to the public at Trade Fairs. This no doubt will bring the needed economic empowerment of women.
Other services the Centre will provide will be care giving to vulnerable women. Therefore, Care-giver training institute,” which will take care of the health issues concerning women such as mental health, fitness, maternal and child-care is advocated. Under this could come some creches where little tots could be cared for during the office hours of their mothers.
A legal unit will be most desired for the legal matters concerning women.
Some of our women lawyers will be handy to lend assistance to indigent women who cannot afford the regular legal fees.
Women have often been neglected in matters of security. Society need to appreciate the fact that since women are not involved in the nation’s security architecture, the issue of security had not been tackled positively. Peace is eluding us daily. A Women Centre must incorporate a-Peace and Conflict Resolution Unit. Women have been known from our history to be good mediators. Our society is losing that half of humanity that could be gainfully employed for peace processes.
An office of Political Empowerment training is very essential. With the near neglect and sometimes tokism being given to women who constitute more than 50% of the electorates in Nigeria by way of their political participation needs a new direction of thought. The Political Empowerment of Women Unit will ease any government of the drudgery of choosing the best women for both appointive and elective positions in the governance of any country. Women are tired of government hand-picking women who more often than not do not align with the ideals of the modern women. Let women choose the women who will represent them in any sphere of endeavour.
The Unit will be responsible for counselling women and girls on their career choice. Accompanying this should be an Informal Adult Education Unit for women who did not have the first chance of having education at their early age – “The Second Chancers” as it is often called, the market women, are targeted for this programme.
Also, Digital Training for Women will be in this compartment.
It will not only be a place where meetings will be held but it will also generate revenue for the Centre, which could be hired for birthdays, marriage, etc.
Another area where revenue could be generated for the Centre is the “Sleep-over” apartments. These are one-room apartments – just like hostels for women and girls who could spend short periods of time when conferences are being held in Port Harcourt. Some parts of this hostel could be given to vulnerable women and girls.
Agricultural Unit also has its place in the Women Centre. Here women who are interested in agriculture could be counselled on which type of agricultural training they would wish to undertake from the process of acquisition of land to production.
A good number of women in Rivers State had made significant input into the development of Rivers State. They need to be celebrated in the various fields they had excelled. A Hall of Fame should be created for such women. This is aimed at inspiring other upcoming women and girls in the society for them to achieve more and be counted. In 1994 late Maryam Babangida commissioned the National Women Centre in Abuja. All States were expected to build same in their States and I know some States have done so but others have not.
The Women Centre which is indeed a multi-purpose one is not only to answer the call to order for the fifth goal of United Nations Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) to be instituted in every country, it is also to provide the right environment and resources that will cater for the specific needs of women and give succor to those experiencing different challenges.
Sometime last year the Chief Executive of this State, Chief Nyesom Wike promised to build a Women Centre in Port Harcourt. We hope and believe our amiable Governor will redeem this pledge and the women of Rivers State will eternally be grateful to him.
Thom-Manuel is a former Women Editor of The Tide.
Group Spoils 600 Ikwerre Widows In Rivers
Over 600 widows recently received the goodwill from the Ikwerre Community Association of California, United States of America as part of the group’s mandate.
Tagged, ‘Ikwerre Widows Project’, the association reached out to the widows in Rivers State as a way of putting smiles on the faces of the widows and other less privileged women from the Ikwerre ethnic nationality.
To this end, members of the association recently visited widows in Rumuewhor and Eli-Brada Communities all in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State with food items.
Presenting the food items to one of the happiest widows in Rumuewhor, the association’s representative in Rivers State and Coordinator of the group, Dr Christiana Chukumati, said that the association remains sensitive to the plights of the less privileged in the society, especially the poor widows.
In an interview with The Tide at Eli-Brada Community, Dr (Mrs) Christiana Chukumati said the yearly visit to Ikwerre widows in their various communities was designed to demonstrate the determination of the association to give back to the society, adding that the gesture had been part of ways the Ikwerres in California positively give back to the society.
your father or mother, you have killed your past life. If you kill yourself, you have killed your present life but if you kill children you have killed your future, so if they are not properly guided on time, they will go astray”.
Maintaining that education is key to developing the society, she remarked that if these children are engaged in meaningful ventures, the society would be free of crime, kidnapping and criminality, for an idle mind, she said, is the devil’s workshop.
She therefore, advised parents and elders to collectively put their efforts together to train up children in the way of God so as to attract peace and harmony among the people of the community. She reiterated that it is only when good training is given to children, that youth restiveness, crime and criminal activities are curbed in the society at large.
While she appealed to Ikwerres in California not to relent in their God-given-vision, she called on well-meaning individuals in the state and country at large to emulate the gesture and replicate same to other widows, as well as build up Rivers State instead of helping to run it down
Also speaking, another California representative in Rivers State, Pastor Constance Walker, who commended the efforts of Ikwerre brothers and sisters in California at keeping the initiative afloat since its inception, charged the beneficiaries to undertake meaningful ventures in order to maintain their dignity and be able to cater for their children.
Citing Proverbs 22:6, the cleric enjoined widows to seek God’ wisdom in the training of their children so that when they are old, they will never depart from it.” She thanked the leaders of the two communities for the warm receptions accorded them.
Walker stressed on the need for women to be calm in times of trouble and pray for continuous peace in their communities in order to engender development, nothing that Ogbakor Ikwerre in California would do all they can to continuously support widows if peace continues to exist in Ikwerre communities.
One of the widows, Mrs Mary Okpara, in tears, commended the initiative, saying it is a good thing for the rich to remember the poor, especially at celebration season, but regrets that they have hardly received anything from anyone except from Ogbakor Ikwerre California.
She said: “This is the first time we are witnessing this kind of gesture, where widows who have been forgotten are remembered for good and given hope. God must bless this our people in California.”
Beneficiaries could not hold back their joy as they thanked and prayed for their people in California and their representatives in the state.
Also speaking to The Tide, one of the beneficiaries and leader of the widows, Mrs Wikpe Josephine, thanked the Ogbakor Ikwerre in California for putting smiles on their faces and prayed that God continues to preserve and keep them alive to do more for them.
In her reactions, the coordinator of the widows, Mrs Helen Njigwum, said she was so glad that she could comfortably say that the days of begging during Christmas was over and extends her good will message to those in California, praying that celebration departs not from their households.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Happiness Ebulu recounted how she had been through rough times to the point that family meals was difficult to achive.
The Tide observed that in the two communities visited, the beneficiaries could not contain their joy as they broke into singing, jumping and dancing around the California representatives to express their gratitude.
In their separate reactions, the Nyeweli Rumuowhor, His Royal Highness (HRH), Oha Ikechi Igbukwu, expressed joy over the kind gestures shown by brothers and sisters in California.
Igbukwu added that the gesture was a welcome development, remarking that the visit availed the widows another opportunity of togetherness as well as put smiles on their faces.
He noted that he was excited when he received their letter on the planned visit to Rumuwhor, adding that the food items given to the widows was a big relief for Rumuowhor leadership.
Also in his response, the Acting Paramount Ruler of Eli-Brada, Ohar Abel Obilor, thanked the group for remembering widows in Eli-Brada, wishing that they do more. He prayed that God enlarge their coast to continue to reach out to the poor in the society.
Promoting Beauty In Traditional Attires
It is often said that women are more conspicous when it comes to fashion. This is so because they take out time to match colours to suit any occasion. Call it child dedication, wedding ceremonies, thanksgiving of every calibre, women are careful enough to select fabrics and colours that leave admirers wondering what heavenly creation is manifested on earth.
Due to the special attention they attach to fashion at every given moment, women have carved a niche for themselves as better handlers of fashion than their male counterparts. Today, you can hardly identify the true cultural background of some ladies by their attires.
The liberalisation culture of the fashion industry may have aided in the cross breeding attitude recently embibed in the fashion theatre, thereby enabling access to all into originally customised and traditionally based styles.
Leveraging on the current trend in the fashion world, Chioma Ubor (alias ADA OC), who recently tied the traditional nuptial knot with her heartthrob, Pastor Promise Nsiegbe, both of Ikwerre background, decided to do it the Kalabari way.
In her deep dark complexioned skin, every onlooker would have adjuged Chioma Ubor to have either hailed from Kalabari or Abua. Her emergence in a Kalabari attire on her traditional wedding helped to confuse her audience the more into believing that the Omerelu-born Ikwerre daughter was actually a Kalabari.
Although the choice of her traditional wedding attire added colour to the event, for Chioma, it was not just about the dressing, but an opportunity to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Rivers State. Ofcourse, as a fashion designer, being a practitioner in the industry with over a decade experience, it was not a difficult decision to make.
To some people, it is fashion on the parade, if not, why should a typical Ikwerre woman be donned in riverine attire on her traditional wedding day? But for others, it is an advent of urban life to the rural area, or a mere display of her talent as a designer.
However, such pattern of dressing, according to her, was to encourage unity in diversity.
She further explained that fashion is another modern peace weapon with the centrifugal force to bind people together.
She explained that the dynamism associated with fashion is another reason why no particular people or group could claim total ownership of any fashion and its design.
She believed that those who bother to claim ownership of any fashion may have in one way or the other copied it from another tribe centuries ago.
Come to think of that, several tribes in the country have a way of respecting or showing love to any one donned in their respective traditional attires, should such be sighted at any place other than their place of origin.
She explained that for those in business, being cladded in other’s traditional attires has a special way of attracting customers in a systematic way. The fashion designer cum stylist, reasoned that such “intentional mistake”, has the power to bring customers.
In her definition of fashion, Chioma said: “It is any dress style that could give the individual the needed fitness or match, irrespective of the season.”
For her, fashion must not necessarily mean that which is en vogue and worn by sundry members of the public, but that which can give or put the wearers in a relaxed frame of mind each time they are donned on it.
Imagining the exorbitant price of materials and its designs in recent time, Chioma charges ladies, especially brides in the making to consider their financial strength before deciding on a particular style of traditional or white wedding attire to make.
The Ada Omerelu (now Ada Rumuwoji), refused to support the idea of postponing occasions like traditional weddings or child dedication ceremonies on grounds of inability to afford a choice or ‘reigning’ material to match the occasion.
She said such has a way of discouraging men, who, she said are impatient. For her, the best approach to adopt, is to embrace the situation and take bold step by appearing in the very available material or fashion.
Chioma, the designer of her own traditional wedding attire, calls on young ladies to make themselves available and indulge in those trades that have the capacity to address some immediate/ daily need of the family.
She pointed out that her family could not spend much in sewing, since there is a ready hand in the family. Citing children’s school wears, Christmas and other festivities, she said that the only thing that will drain the family funds is the purchase of the materials.
She maintained that funds are the basic tool needed for family growth and so, must be jealously saved or frugally spent. The stylist further called on ladies to embrace the fashion industry, due to its juicy nature.
In our own clime, adorning oneself in traditional attire is gradually becoming an issue of cross pollination. People dress in traditional attires regardless of cultural background.
Those days, it was rare to see a northerner donned in any attire apart from his or her known traditional attire. But today, it is a common sight to see a southerner fully cladded with northern traditional attire and vice versa, as if to say, “I won’t be left behind”.
Rivers Council Moves To Stop Violence Against Women
Following the realization of the fact that violence against women stops girls from reaching their potentials, Eleme Local Government Council has decided to put an end to gender-based violence.
This was demonstrated in a programme it organised in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs, in order to join the international communities that are working hard to transform attitudes towards perpetrating violence against women and girls.
As part of ways to increase more awareness on the rise in gender-based violence in Nigeria and to put an end to it, the local government Chairman, Hon Philip Okparaji, took campaign to his locality so as to put an end to the dreaded scourge.
Speaking during the programme titled: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) with the theme, “OrangeThe World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”, last Tuesday, at Eleme LGA, the Chairman of the occasion and wife of the Eleme LGA Chairman, Hon Elera Phillip Okparaji, decried the patriarchal culture of the country which she said has become a global issue of discourse among the Eleme people as its negative activities are predominantly carried out on girls and women.
Mrs Okparaji listed some obnoxious practices carried out on girls and women as follows: Female Genital Mutilation, and forcing widows to drink water used in bathing their late husbands, shaving their heads as well as forcing them to get married to their late husbands’ brothers among others.
She appealed to all those still engaged in these obnoxious activities to stop, adding that such practices increase the victims’ chances of being vulnerable to diseases as well as making the young girls more promiscuous.
Mrs Okparaji stated that violence against women robs them of their self esteem. She expressed hope that the marking of the 16 Days of Activism Against violence and rape on women and girls in Eleme would finally put an end to it in the LGA, state, and country at large.
Also speakaing on the topic:” Gender-Based Violence Against Women And Girls, the Role of The Media”, The Treasurer, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State, Mrs Serekara-Nwikhana Susan, explained that the the media have numerous roles to play beginning with creating awareness on the negative implications of GBV and rape on girls and women so as to put an end to them.
Nwikhana stated that guardians to victims and victims themselves must ensure they break the silence by speaking out, adding that when you speak out the evil will be reduced, but refusing to speak out spreads the evil the more as perpetrators go Scot free.
Also speaking on the negative effect of Rape On women and Girls, Chief Dorathy Casca Ogosu one of the resource persons, stated that rape is condemnable crime, which culprit should be made to face 14 years imprisonment as a result of trauma and stigmatisation caused the victim.
Ogosu listed the negative effects of rape as Physical, mental and psychological, adding that the remedy to rape cases is early report to the police for immediate action.
Another resource person from National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mrs Charity Godchild, singled out homes as one major place where girls and young women often experience Gender-Based Violence which ranges from physical punishment to sexual, emotional and psychological harm.
She noted that acceptance of violence as a private affair often prevents others from intervening and prohibits girls and young women from reporting, she reiterated the need to break the silence and speak out against this dreaded scourge.
Charity also mentioned the school as a place where girls experience violence from sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation, adding that this violation of Girls’ Rights, especially when committed by those in position of care or authority, can impact on girls’ ability to continue and complete their education.
The NOA representative added that GBV occurs in all parts of the world, but the risk is higher where violence is normalized and where rigid concepts agenda exist, remarking that in many cultures, violence towards girls and young women is accepted as a social norm, but when it happens to the men it becomes political.
She maintained that this must be challenged as a matter of urgency especially in this part of the world where it is seen as a patriarchal issue, adding that the blame game, shame and stigma faced by victims must be eliminated as soon as possible.
Another speaker on Rape from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Rivers State, Barr Dada Dibiah stressed that girls must never be held responsible for the violence against them as it a sole responsibility of the perpetuator, who must be held accountable according to National or International Legislation.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
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