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.
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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