All over the world International Women’s Day celebrated on the 8th of March every year, as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. The Executive Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative, Loretta Ahuokpeme, identifies this day as one dedicated to honoring the achievements of women across the globe in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres throughout history.
For her, it is typically a day for women from different backgrounds and cultures to come together to fight for gender equal opportunity, access and women’s rights. “Gender parity is a statistical measure that looks at women and men through their income, education, and work hours, among other points.
“ This sociological matrix helps researchers understand how society is progressing or retrogressing in specific areas. It’s also an important tool for policy makers striving towards equal opportunities and access.”
Of course, the global celebration of International Women’s Day is a time for reflection on how far women have come, advocacy for what is still needed, and action to continue breaking down barriers. With over a century of history, IWD is a growing movement centered on unity and strength.
And that strength can be drawn from Women supporting their kind in all facets of life. Be it in farm work, health related matters, technology, homes, religion, workplaces, business and above all, representations in communities, local government, states and national decision making levels. Women have always been known to stick together over the years. What changed along the line?
Women have very strong social ties and a mind to achieve anything they agree to do which is why we must work together to eliminate all forms of discrimination, marginalisation and segregation against us and exclusion of women in peace building.
Violence against women is real and women are the drivers of this violence by keeping quiet in the face of such acts or supporting and insisting that those activities be carried out to the latter. Men made these cultural and traditional laws and policies and women are the custodian and drivers of them. From harmful widowhood practices, early marriage, female genital mutilation, to rape, gender discrimination in homes
For us to achieve gender equal opportunities and access, we must stand together by believing in the same things and working towards the elimination of all cultural, religious and social harmful activities towards women. We must promote women representation in all fronts because it is only women that can present women issues better and press that our issues be given serious attention.
Women at the rural areas must be adequately engaged and advocated to for the desired effects and impact. Laws, conventions and policies must be broken down and translated into local dialects and explained to all for women to understand how our roles have to be improved and to men for them to understand the laws against those harmful practices.
Women Political aspirants must advocate to other women in position of authorities as well as women in business who can give financial backing to their aspirations and ambitions. We must also start thinking about crowdfunding and sourcing for our women political aspirants who are genuinely ready to serve. Women in Politics and positions of authority must also adopt women mentees so that at the end of their tenures or when they expire by way of natural end, there will be people walking into their shoes to take over and continue from where they stopped.
For the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Mrs Lilian Ogabu-Okonkwo, this year’s international women’s day which marks 25 years of Beijing Declaration and action, is the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere .
It also marks the 5 years milestone in the drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 and the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR1325 on Women Peace and Security adopted in 2000.
Reacting to this years theme; “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Right, she said there is need for everyone to galvanize efforts to mobilize nation and global action as to achieve gender equality and human rights of all women and girls.
Okonkwo pointed out that the celebration is used to reflect on progress made by women as well as to call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in life.
However, she regretted that despite all moves, achievement is yet to be recorded in the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing platform for action, adding that real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and children.
In all, the Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre , sees the “need for women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamics, reshape the conversation, and make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded to, not overlooked and ignored.”
Okonkwo believes that for positive change to be achieved, every woman ought to break barriers, smashe stereotypes, disrupts the system and speak up for equality, demands justice and fights for human rights, among others.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
COVID-19: Be Creative In Foods, Others’ Packaging, Women
Women have been admonished to be creative and begin to do proper packaging of foods and other household consumables and products for sales in the markets or to targeted customers in order to attract good patronage, especially at this critical time when the novel Coronavirus is ravaging the world.
They were also told that they would only attract customers and get constant calls for home deliveries if they observe best practices, and ensure that due protocols in personal hygiene were adhered to at all times.
Speaking during a recent programme organised by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, in Port Harcourt, the Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Uche Chukwu said that part of ways to cushion the sufferings of women, especially those that were bread-winners was for them to do proper product sales packaging in efforts to boost market penetration and increase customer confidence.
Chukwu stressed that women were most hit by the COVID-19 lockdown because they form the bulk of traders and small business owners, saying that following the shutdown of most markets across the country, women were facing severe stress in meeting their expectations and needs, just as their revenue earnings have plummeted.
She regretted that most devastated by the lockdown were those, who were not ready to explore other means of survival, and were not ready to tap into their creative and innovative skills to design new ways of adapting to meet their customers’ changing demands and expectations, emphasising that with proper sales packaging, no woman would be affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Chukwu advised women managing restaurants, food-is-ready, or food vendors in markets and shops to take full advantage of the lockdown to expand their network of customers or delve into other meaningful ventures to feed their families.
While listing some of the ventures they can delve into as cooking of all kinds of food, production of hand sanitisers, soaps, face masks, and other household items, added that, “with a sachet of Hypo mixed with detergent, hand sanitiser can be made.”
The permanent secretary further explained that the hand sanitiser can be used for washing of hands, mopping of floors as well as wiping of doors, windows, and cleaning of tables, among others, adding that women should not dwell on the challenges, but device ways out of the situation in order to be able to put food on the table for their children.
The woman activist stressed that women were psychologically prepared to package foods properly at home, and smartly distribute and sell same to those in dire need without flaunting the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
She said: “Women must engage in other meaningful ventures during this period of COVID-19 lockdown in order to avoid harassment and abuse by security operatives deployed to enforce the law. It is too painful to hear that women are being de-humanised by police officers, but there is nothing women activists and groups can do when they flaunt COVID-19 lockdown law.
“There are high demands now on hand sanitisers and face masks. Women should make proper use of this opportunity to think outside the box and start preparing hand sanitisers and cook neatly packaged food for sale since there is hunger all over the land. Those who cannot cook good food can use their money to place orders from others who are endowed for home delivery without violating COVID-19 regulations,” she stressed.
Earlier, the Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, Mrs Emem Okon, had stressed the need for the centre to mainstream COVID-19 into its programme of activities.
Okon added that by so doing, the centre would be able to address some of the immediate and long-term needs of the people of Rivers State, stressing that the government alone cannot do everything for the people.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
COVID-19: Women Front And Centre
One thing is clear about the COVID-19 pandemic, as stock markets tumble, schools and universities close, people stockpile supplies and home becomes a different and crowded space: this is not just a health issue. It is a profound shock to our societies and economies, exposing the deficiencies of public and private arrangements that currently function only if women play multiple and underpaid roles.
With children out of school, mothers at home may still work, but many have also become teachers and caregivers, with consequences for those previously employed in those roles. For the 8.5 million women migrant domestic workers, often on insecure contracts, income loss also affects their dependents back at home. As schools close in more countries, the number of mothers facing this across the world rises and the consequences accumulate.
By the middle of March there were 207,855 confirmed cases in 166 countries, areas or territories. Without data that is disaggregated by sex, however, these numbers give us only part of the story of the impact on women and men. We need far more sex-disaggregated data to tell us how the situation is evolving, including on differing rates of infection, differential economic impacts, differential care burden, and incidence of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Even without this, experience from previous major epidemics points us to specific strengths and vulnerabilities that we can look out for and be proactive to safeguard. Where governments or businesses put income protection in place, this can ease these dilemmas, sustain incomes and avoid driving households into poverty. This response must also include those in the informal economy, where most women who work outside home make their livelihood. Such social protection is best directed specifically to women.
The 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in the West African countries provide essential, gendered public health and socioeconomic lessons. Women in those outbreaks were exposed to both health and economic risks, as they are again now, in ways intrinsically connected with their roles in the community and responsibilities as caregivers within the home and family.
For example, both Ebola and Zika infections are potentially catastrophic for pregnant women. Yet during both previous outbreaks, access to family planning services were very limited, and pregnant and lactating women were excluded from vaccination against the viruses. This underlines the importance of sustained maternal health services to avoid a resurgence of birth-related deaths, and equal access for women to the development and use of all medical products including vaccines once produced.
This is a moment for governments to recognize both the enormity of the contribution women make and the precarity of so many. This includes a focus on sectors where women are over-represented and underpaid, such as daily wage earners, small business owners, those working in cleaning, caring, cashiering and catering sectors and in the informal economy.
Globally, women make up 70 per cent of frontline workers in the health and social sector, like nurses, midwives, cleaners and laundry workers. We need mitigation strategies that specifically target both the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on women and that support and build women’s resilience, as we saw in Liberia and elsewhere. And to make those responses as well designed as possible, women should be fully engaged in their creation, be priority recipients of aid, and partners in building the longer-term solutions.
We are learning more every day from the arc of the pandemic in China. We have been working closely there with country leadership as part of the UN collective response. Joint campaigns have reached 1 billion people, with communications that raise awareness through public health information, combat stigma and discrimination, reflect women’s specific needs, promote women’s leadership and contributions and develop recovery plans that link equality, health and the economy.
All of us engaged in this effort, whether public or private sector, need to take a coordinated, people-centred approach to rapidly building health system capacity in both developed and developing countries, making a conscious effort to put women front and centre. For example, creating better access to appropriate personal protective equipment for home-based caregivers, and removing obstacles to their work, by promoting flexible working arrangements, and ensuring supplies of menstrual hygiene products. These needs are even more important for areas under lockdown or quarantine. So too are considerations of gender-based violence that are exacerbated by these conditions, but may not receive the attention they need, in the drive to respond to the pandemic.
Violence against women is already an epidemic in all societies, without exception. Every day, on average, 137 women are killed by a member of their own family. We also know that levels of domestic violence and sexual exploitation spike when households are placed under the increased strains that come from security, health and money worries, and cramped and confined living conditions. We see this frequently among displaced populations in crowded refugee camps; and reported domestic violence has tripled recently in some countries practising social distancing.
COVID-19 provides us with an opportunity for radical, positive action to redress long-standing inequalities in multiple areas of women’s lives. There is scope for not just endurance, but recovery and growth. I ask governments and all other service providers including the private sector to take this opportunity to plan their response to COVID-19 as they have never done before, and fully take a gender perspective into account, proactively building gender expertise into response teams and embedding gender dimensions within response plans. For example, include surge funding for women’s shelters so they can provide for women who need to escape violent relationships, and aim economic support and bail outs specifically at retail sectors, hospitality and small businesses where women are predominantly employed on precarious contracts, if any, and are most vulnerable to forced cost-saving.
Rape, Assault Allegation: NAWOJ Wants Unbiased Investigation
The Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) has called on the Kogi State Government to ensure accelerated and unbiased investigation of the alleged act of assault and rape committed by the state’s Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr Abdumumuni Danga.
The association made the call in a statement signed by its National President, Mrs Ifeyinwa Omowole, in Abuja, and made available to The Tide, last Monday
It would be recalled that in a video, which had gone viral on social media recently, a beauty queen, Elizabeth Oyeniyi, alleged that Danga abducted, assaulted and forcefully had sex with her over a Facebook post.
According to the victim, she had earlier appealed to the commissioner to assist his family member, who is also a friend of the victim, on her Facebook wall in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Oyeniyi, however, explained that the commissioner got enraged with the post and ordered some boys to pick her and his sister from Okene to Lokoja where the commissioner personally flogged them and raped her.
She further alleged that her phone was smashed and the commissioner intimidated her to recant her Facebook claims through a make-believe video in which she apologised and spoke nicely of him.
Although, the state governor has reportedly suspended the commissioner and ordered an investigation into the matter, human rights organisations, civil society groups, including the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), have all called for justice.
However, NAWOJ in its statement, urged Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to ensure that objective and unbiased investigation is carried out promptly on the allegation and the accused adequately punished, if found guilty.
“While the media is awash with false information that the commissioner had been suspended, NAWOJ reliably learnt that the commissioner was yet to be suspended and no punishment had been meted out to him.
“Although a probe has been initiated by the state Governor, Yahaya Bello, NAWOJ wishes to urge the panel and the governor to fast-track the probe and not unduly delay it.
“It is worthy of note that many days after this allegation, the said commissioner is yet to deny the allegation against him, pointing to the fact that he may be guilty as alleged.
“NAWOJ also notes that although the victim has already indicated interest to seek legal redress, the onus still lies on the state government, if it is not complicit, to take a decisive action against the erring commissioner.
“Governor Yahaya Bello must take a clear stance to be against violence and assault on women by taking a decisive action against the commissioner, an action that would serve as a deterrent to others with similar traits,” the statement read in part.
The association, therefore, called on the state governor to ensure that the accused is made to step-down as a public office holder so that he does not intimidate the victim or her family.
It added that other women groups and lawyers would be rallied to ensure that Oyeniyi gets justice.
“We can no longer have people in authority who should be custodians of the law breaking same laws with impunity and yet attempting to hold onto supposedly honourable positions,” it stated.
Stories by Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
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