The bill for prohibition of harmful practices against women at the National Assembly is a welcome development.
Severally, there have been talks, seminars, workshops, fora, arguments, bills and laws abolishing issues that concern women, especially violence. But a lot has not been achieved to curtail the menace.
Violence against girls and women has been on the increase. From time to time, it is either girls are denied access to father’s property or a widow is denied inheritance to husband’s properties. Even when laws are put in place about things that will help women have their rights, some persons feel that culture and tradition do not permit.
We are aware that some women are rich and may not want to partake in the share of their late parents’ property, but there are vulnerable ones who need to be empowered, through perhaps, late parents’ property inheritance.
Some of the obnoxious laws were made before now without the consent of women. There was no representative to either argue for or against so as to be beneficial to women generally. Some of the laws were so primitive that even when civilisation came, became difficult to change. Very unfortunately, it is the women that execute the laws made by men in their absence. Women are suffering it.
If the bill abolishing certain practices against women and girls will be passed into law by the National Assembly, it will be better for them. For long, laws against female genital mutilation and circumcision have existed but some communities with their culture and tradition have refused to put a stop to it with reasons best known to them.
Circumcision of a full-grown girl or lady may not be the only way of attaining maturity. It is a harmful practice and the pain associated with it cannot be imagined. This illegal operation is not performed in the hospital so the dangers inherent will be much.
For those who still practice it, the menace should be discouraged as that is not a proper way of ushering a girl into womanhood. A lot of women lose their lives due to pains experienced during the process. it was practised in the past when civilisation was not there, it is a different case, nowadays with science and technology proving it wrong, those who still practise not should resist.
It is a right step in the right direction and it is time the National Assembly and all stakeholders intensified efforts in dealing with persons who perpetuate evil against their fellow women.
If the bill will be passed into law by the National Assembly, it is welcome but the fear that comes to mind is implementation. The issue has been dwelt on for decades, but it is still practised as big ceremonies in some communities.
When it comes to inheritance, a girl born into a family, married or unmarried will be denied access to father’s property but if it has to do with the demise of parents or sickness, the woman and the husband will be mandated to provide a cow for the burial rites or offset medical bills.
If the National Assembly makes laws concerning the well-being of women, community heads, molecular leaders, women groups and associations, religious organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) should create more awareness through the media to sensitise rural dwellers.
In this digital era, it should be forbidden that a woman loses her spouse and she is mandated to drink water used on the late husband.
The items in the bill to be passed into law by the National Assembly are in order as it concerns women.
A legal practitioner, Tam Jacobs, said if one forcefully shaves a woman’s hair with the intention that she is mourning her late spouse, she can sue that person for assault.
He said if the woman is forced to drink water used on her late husband’s body, she can also sue for attempted murder.
According to him, several cases of girl-child inheritance have been won and documented in the law court but some cannot claim it.
“Even a widow who is handicapped may not be able to make attempts so NGOs, CSOs should be in the forefront to support them and ensure that the laws are implemented at the grassroots level where they are practised”, he said.
A pharmacist, Eno Amos said any culture that does not add colour and value to life should be abolished.
She added that implementation can be easy in the cities where awareness has been created but expressed fear that it may not be easy in the rural areas where culture is really practised.
A business woman, Agnes Ugwu, said tradition and culture were made by man and not God and wondered why people who claim to be educated still follow the tradition of ancestors who never went to school.
Ignorance also comes to play here. If you have watched a documentary showing female genital mutilation and the gory experience the young women go through, is something else. Some of the perpetrators claim that the practice has existed for ages. Women have to learn more about issues that concern them.
A nurse, Rosy Ekeocha, said it is not about culture but about the behavior of a group of people in the community who force it on others.
According to her, let people change their behaviour and leave culture alone. It doesn’t happen in every family and if any family allows it that’s their business.
She said we are in the 21st century, certain culture and tradition need to be reviewed to ensure that they allign with today’s reality.
Culture is dynamic she said, but that implementation of laws relating to the vulnerable in the society calls for concern.
We should not behave the way people behaved five dacades ago, after all, we do not dress the way our forefathers dressed. Time has evolved and things are getting better as it concerns women. We are getting more exposed and more enlightened about issues that concern is. Information is moving round as the world is a global village.
Talking about culture nowadays, we wear shoes whereas our forefathers never had any. They walked barefooted
far distances to get family necessities but things are better now as we are mobile.
That should also happen to culture and tradition. There are certain aspects of our culture and tradition which are practised today that have expired long ago. We should get rid off them.
It is expected that the bills abolishing obnoxious practices against women and girls in the society will achieve expected results when passed into law at the floor of the House.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
X-Raying Contributions Of Women In Rivers Dev
Beijing Conference of 1995 which Nigeria was a participant marked a significant turning point for global agenda for gender equality.
The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted unanimously by 189 countries, was an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality.
Some of the major objectives and actions for the advancement of gender equality among others were- women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, women and the economy, women in peace and decision – making.
After the Beijing Conference of 1995, where awareness about women emancipation was created, the campaign for empowering them became more pronounced.
In Nigeria, during the military era under former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, the wife, Mariam, of blessed memory, championed the cause of women emancipation.
As the First Lady at that time, women began to see the light. Ministry of Women Affairs got the best and from the office of the First Lady, an agency known as Better Life for Rural Women was created.
Government at all levels realised the need to involve women in governance, knowing the roles they can play.
Then, it was 30 percent Affirmative Action. Finally, when the civilian administration came, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, many women had appointive and elective positions.
Under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, championed the cause of women through the request for 35 percent Affirmative Action.
Contributions made by Mrs. Patience Jonathan, who became the First Lady of Nigeria went a long way to empower women who have done well. She advocated for 35% Affirmative Action for women during her husband’s tenure, former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Since then, women have got more appointive and elective positions especially in Rivers State.
Indeed, as governance continued, various governments in Rivers State heeded to the call of involving more women in the development of the state.
In fact, the current administration of Governor Nyesom Wike is a women-friendly government to the extent that it has a woman as The Deputy Governor. Indeed, Governor Nyesom Wike Ensured that women contested for and elected at least as the vice chairmen of all the local government councels in the state. There are other women who are either elected or appointed to run the affairs of government and they have done well.
As Rivers State marks 55 years of existence, the contributions of women in the development of the state can never be over-emphasised.
Rivers women have made tremendous efforts in contributing in various fields of endeavour and their contributions have led to the rapid growth through politics, sports, education, judiciary, social, economic, medicare, engineering just to mention a few.
Indeed, since the creation of the state, it has not been a male dominated issue, women too have been given the opportunity to play key roles in their own little way.
Today, one cannot talk about women who made impact in the history of the state without mentioning Hon Justice Mary Odili, who served in Rivera State as a magistrate and as Judge. She also served in the Appeal Court. She rose to the peak of her profession in the Judiciary as a Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC).
Daisy Okocha served as Chief Judge of the state. Since the creation of Rivers State, she was the seventh judge and a woman to serve in that capacity.
Elsie Nwanwuri Thompson was a Judge of the High Court of Rivers State and Deputy Vice President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). She was the first Nigerian to be elected to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
The landmark in the educational sector of Rivers State cannot be complete without looking at the contributions of the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Prof. Rosemund Dieye Green-Osaghogulu (of blessed memory).
Dr Balafama Wilcox served as the Provost of the then College of Arts and Science, now Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic.
Politically, Rivers State for the first time got a female Deputy Governor in the person of Dr Ipalibo Banigo. This was a huge success recorded by the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, who is a gender-friendly person.
Earlier in her career in service to the state, she held double positions of Head of Service and Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
In sports, women were not left out as their contributions to the state served as a source of joy.
Miss Ethel Jacks won the African table tennis championship in 1973 and 1975.
Mercy Akide was a two-time African footballer of the year award winner from 2000 to 2002.
Mrs Inyengiyikabo Okumgba won several medals in swimming both at the national and international levels.
Bella Bell-Gam won the good medal in the 1978 All African Games which Algeria hosted as well as other awards. One can see that Rivers women contributed in sports development which is a unifying factor in the state, national and international.
During the Melford Okilo administration of Old Rivers State, the first female Commissioner, Constance Sarowinyo was appointed to oversee the affairs of higher education and later appointed as commissioner for economic development and planning.
She was a member of the then National Committee on FESTAC’77. She was a consultant on Oil Spillage and Environmental Pollution and a one-time member of the 10th governing council of Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), now Rivers State University.
Dr Sarowinyo, in pursuance of the development and growth of Rivers State, worked tirelessly to win the Motto/Logo Award of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
As the frontiers of women were expanding in the growth of Rivers State, Prof Bene Willy Abbey served as the only female commissioner under Group Captain Ernest Adeleye as the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism.
During her time at the helm of affairs the information ministry, the three arms of government media organisations, Rivers State Television (RSTV), Radio Rivers and Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) got the best.
She was a pioneer member of the board of National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD). She also served in West Africa Research and Innovation Management Association.
Not just that, Willy Abbey served in the National University Commission, Rivers State Scholarship Board and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission (ICPC) from 1997 to 1999.
With their level of intelligence, Miss Syster Jack was the first female to win a beauty contest and became Miss Nigeria in 1980. She was crowned the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria to the pride of Rivers State.
Another was Miss Agbani Darego, who made Rivers proud by winning Miss World Crown in 2011 in the 51st version of the Beauty Pageant which took place in South Africa. Miss Rivers Golden Jubilee, Charity Ogwutum also proved herself.
As Rivers State continued to grow after its creation, more women were given the opportunity to serve in various capacities.
Ms Medline Ngo Tador was appointed Commissioner for Information and Culture under Captain Sam Ewang. She also served as Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development between 1997 and 1999.
Mrs Julie Wika was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development.
Under Dr Peter Odili’s administration as governor of Rivers State, Mrs Tolu Ofili was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs in 2003 and served as Senior Special Assistant, Special Duties, in charge of social services in 2000.
Another woman who was in that cabinet was Ms Gloria Fiofori. She served as Commissioner for Women and Youth Affairs.
Her resume became richer as she served as the Director, National Orientation Agency, NOA.
Under that same administration, more women were given opportunity to contribute to the development of Rivers State. Dr Ngozi Odu was appointed Commissioner for Education. As an agency that protects the interest of women nationwide, she was the president of National Council of Women Societies, NCWS.
For the first time in the history of Rivers State, a female was appointed Commissioner for Works, which is termed to be a male – dominated ministry. She is in the person of Okpete Ovai. She obtained an M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.
An erudite scholar and academic, Prof. Mildred Amakiri was appointed Commissioner for Higher Education during Dr Odili’s administration.
One of Rivers daughters who served for a long time in the development of Rivers State was Prof Roseline Konya. She served as chairman, Civil Service Commission during Dr Odili’s administration. One of the impacts she made was reinstating of 200 civil servants whose appointments were erroneously terminated at that time.
She also served as Commissioner for Environment under Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration.
Still under Dr Odili’s administration, a woman was appointed Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. She is Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam. She also served as Secretary to the State Government. She was appointed the Sole Administrator, Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority.
Dame Alice Lawrence Nemi became Commissioner for Education.
Mrs Joeba West was Commissioner for Women Affairs and Patricia Simeon Hart, for Water Resources, Mrs Emmanuela Izunwa were all female commissioners in Rivers State and their impacts were greatly felt by women.
One time Commissioner for Information and Communication was Mrs Ibim Semenitari and later was appointed Acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
In the political history of Rivers State, such name as Betty Apiafi cannot be left out as she was the first female member from Rivers State in the Federal House of Representatives. She represented Abua-Odual/Ahoada East Federal Constituency at the Green Chambers. At present, she is the senator respresenting Rivers West Senitorial District.
Also elected as the 2nd woman who represented Port Harcourt Federal Constituency in the Green Chambers was Hon. Blessing Nsiegbe and was re-elected a second time.
Talking about Rivers State House of Assembly, the likes of Mrs Anthonia Membere, (blessed memory), Mrs Linda Stewart, Hon. Felicia Tane, Irene Inimgba as well as Victoria Nyeche, they have made valuable contribution sto their constituencies and remarkable growth of Rivers State in their various endeavours.
Before now, women were appointed caretaker committee chairmen of local government areas of Rivers State.
Currently, under Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration, the vice chairmen of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State are women. That shows how important the roles of women in socio-political development are.
Of course, no society, State or nation can develop without women.
Women like Dr Constance Tamuno was the first female Registrar. She was acting Registrar of University of Port Harcourt.
In the entertainment arena, Rivers Daughters have played their roles as expected. When you talk about stars like Ibinabo Fiberesima. She was the President, Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN.
Another Actress and Ex-Glo Ambassador, Monalisa Chinda has brought joy to Rivers State by showcasing her talents.
An entertainment guru, Hilda Dokubo must be mentioned as a former Special Adviser on Youth Affairs in Rivers State and must be mentioned when you talk about Rivers women who have excelled in their profession.
An Environmental Human Right Activist, Ann-Kio Briggs, has been championing the course of youths in the state.
There is no doubt that women who have contributed and are still contributing to the growth of the state are all educated. When a woman does not acquire formal education nowadays, she will not be at the helm of affairs.
Women need to be trained in the areas of Medicine, Engineering, Law etc., so as to represent themselves.For the women to move higher in the future, they need to be assisted financially, in terms of scholarships because some want to acquire formal education but may not have anybody for sponsorship. Some end up as housewives once they get married. When they are encouraged to go to school, definitely they will use the knowledge acquired from school to contribute more to their families and society at large.
It is high time women started supporting their fellow women, voting them during elections, if we want more women at the top.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Deborah’s Death, One, Too Many
Deborah Samuel was a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State of Nigeria. The female Christian faithful, had also tested violence against women. This time, not from a spouse but course mates.
Parents had laboured day and night to ensure that she became a graduate so as to be empowered in the future. To have found herself in a tertiary institution means that the sky might not even be her limit. But what I may call enmity on womanhood had caused her death. It is surprising that it is happening in the four walls of an educational institution.
Lately, violence against women and girls has been on the increase. That of Deborah is one, too many. Since women are the weaker sex, what can they do?
Belonging to the WhatsApp group in a class to share and learn together may not be wrong after all. But the manner in which her course mates who belong to the same group took laws into their hands should be condemned.
Should social media platforms where groups share ideas and jokes become war zone? Should not people do simple arguments that should not lead to unnecessary death.
It was reported that Deborah and her Moslem course mates had a simple argument and before you knew it, it led to her death.
While they were in class, as a result of the argument, they allegedly pulled her out of the class, stoned and burnt her alive. They claimed she was blasphemous to Allah.
It cannot be imagined that even in a school, a student can be set ablaze by her fellow students in a tertiary institution without interference by security guards. Where were the security guards when the ugly incident occurred. Does it mean that they were in support of Deborah’s death.
Although after the incident, the Sokoto State Government ordered the closure of the institution and the release of the students who were arrested for burning the female Christian student to death.
Also, a 24-hour curfew was imposed in Sokoto State by its government over riots due to the killing. Religious tolerance should be the watchword for every Nigerian citizen irrespective of the type of worship.
Let us assume that Deborah made abusive statements against the practice of Islam, she should have been cautioned. I have not seen where Christians reacted so quickly to blasphemy against another faith. Christians are always peaceful in their obedience and practice to their religion.
When a Christian worship centre is burnt, there will not be war, but if otherwise, assume what will happen. The types of religion that are practised in Nigeria should signify peace. Clerics need to continue to teach what peace means properly among the various religions being practised in the country.
Report has it that when the institution’s security got hint of the situation, she was taken to the security post, where they were over-powered by the mob. If the security in that college wanted to save Deborah, why did they not invite security agents who would have come to disperse the crowd and save the girl?
When will people stop taking laws into their hands? If the aggrieved students felt that Deborah was blasphemous, they should have sued her to Sharia Court where she would have defended herself.
Human beings have no right to judge others on blasphemy. Whichever religion one practises, that person’s faith should be personal. If they felt that Deborah had offended the supreme head of their belief, they are not the ones to judge. Whether in Christianity or Islam, nobody has the right to judge. This is because there is judgement day when every man must give account of his or her work on earth.
Now that they have killed Deborah, if proven by the court, are they not guilty? Even before God, Jesus or Mohammed, are they taught to kill a fellow human?
If you think a person has uttered blasphemous words, allow God to judge. We cannot continue to lose young women whose future is bright. We cannot continue to lose nation builders. We are talking about gender sensitivity and women emancipation, some persons are ignorant of the fact that more women need to be empowered.
A lot of persons and groups have condemned the manner in which Deborah was killed. It should not just be condemnation, but action should be taken to ensure that those behind such dastardly act are brought to book. When they are dealt with according to the law, others who may be nursing further bad intentions will learn their lesson. It will also serve as a deterrent to others.
I thought Nigerian Christian and Muslims are brothers and sisters. People of various faith should live in harmony.
Like Sheikh Ahmad Gumi said: “Nigeria is not an Islamic state, Muslims in the country have an agreement with people of other faiths to live together peacefully and anyone who kills them on religious guise has committed a grievous sin”.
Deborah has gone. Sympathy goes to her parents and others left behind. Whether anybody protests or not, what can be done?
Christians who find themselves within the domain especially where the ugly incident occurred must comfort themselves and display a sense of maturity.
People should not be killing in the name of religion and at every little provocation. Those who killed Deborah also disobey and insult Allah.
Like the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama said,: “Religion means to wish others well to show compassion, mutual support and cooperation for what sues for peace, justice and equity”.
He said love is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, rich in mercy and reaches out to all.
To Christians, retaliation may not be the answer but giving peace a chance is better while investigation and action by both government and security agencies continue.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
NGO Urges Edo Women To Mitigate GBV
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Global Women for Quality and Sustainable Development Initiative (GWSD) has urged women in leadership positions in Edo State to use their various offices to mitigate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the society.
Executive Director of GWSD, Mrs Mariam Kadiri-Ezolome, stated this during a capacity building on stimulating women for leadership positions, held in Benin on Monday.
The Tide’s source reports that the training was aimed at mitigating GBV through protection.
Kadiri-Ezolome said GBV would be alleviated in the society, if more women were empowered and speak out against it.
“As women leaders, you should relate more with women at the grassroots; know what they are going through and see that they are empowered to bridge the gender gaps in the society.
“Women leaders should give other women, especially at community level, the voice to speak out against GBV.
“Also, some women don’t know what GBV is and as women in leadership, it is expected that we create awareness about it,” she said.
Speaking on violence against women during elections, the Founder, Echoes of Women in Africa, Mrs Louisa Eikhomun-Agbonkhese, said that electoral violence were mostly targeted at women and girls, thus preventing them from exercising their franchise.
Eikhomun-Agbonkhese added that women were sometimes scared to speak out against GBV in the political space due to fear of the leadership structure.
In her remarks, Executive Director, Women, Youths and Children Advancement Programme, Mrs Agatha Osieke, said women should equip themselves with relevant skills to enable them rise above GBV.
“You should know what you are seeking for: that you want to bring positive change. You need relevant skills, research, negotiation, listening and more.
“Women need to come up with a roadmap to change the narrative that women are not ready to hold political positions,” she said.
The source reports that GWSD is a non-profit organisation dealing with issues concerning women, youths and people in the community.
The group also provides varied services, geared toward improving the quality of life of its beneficiaries for sustainable development.
The source also reports that the capacity building was organised by GWSD and funded by European Union, in partnership with Agent for Citizens Driven Transformation, through the British Council.
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