Despite efforts made by Government and relevant stakeholders in the elimination of harmful traditional practices in our society, it has remained unabated.
Harmful traditional practices are the customs, beliefs and ways of life that are capable of causing death, fear, stigma, diseases and other psychological and physical pain or damage to the affects persons.
As days, weeks, months and years go by, one form of the practices is recorded.
Every community or ethnic group has its own practices that have been transmitted from one generation to another. While some of the practices are beneficial to some persons, some are harmful to the victims, especially women and children.
Female Genital Mutilation which has been described as harmful to the girl-child is still practiced in some localities. This is a form of female circumcision where a part of the female genital organ is cut at tender age.
In some communities, it is also performed in adolescents and women during marriage. Experts say if not properly handled, the victim can bleed to death. Where it is practised, it is believed that it is performed to reduce sexual desire and to maintain virginity until a girl is married.
For over four decades, modernisation and public enlightenment by Ministry of health and other stakeholders in the health sector have been emphasising on the dangers inherent.
Recently, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)Rivers State, called for the abolition of female genital mutilation in some communities in Abua/Odual Local Government Area of Rivers State, describing such thing as unlawful practice.
Some persons promised they would “Drop The Razor’ in Omoku community in Abua/Odual Local Government Area while partnering FIDA to abolish female genital mutilation practice on pregnant women in Rivers State.
Chairperson of FIDA, Rivers State chapter, Adata Bio-Briggs, who made the call while marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation with a sensitization campaign at Omokwa community in Abua/Odual, emphasized that female circumcision is against the law.
She described such traditional harmful practice that is only done on pregnant women when they are about to deliver as barbaric and said it could cause several maternal mortality in the area.
She urged chiefs and leaders of the community in Abua/Odual to stop female genital mutilation, as any one caught in the practice would be sentenced to four years imprisonment.
The spokesperson on behalf of the community, John Israel assured FIDA that the community was ready to partner government at every level to abolish female genital mutilation and other harmful practices that are against the law.
Another speaker during the event, Joseph Aboh, emphasized the need to abolish female genital mutilation and said that women have suffered so much from such harmful practise.
Circumcision of young males between the ages of six and 10 before getting into manhood is still practised in some tribes. They undergo pains during the process.
Childhood marriage which is a practice of giving out a girl for marriage at a very tender age of 11-15 should be condemned. As soon as the girl is forced in the union, she starts bearing children immediately. When you give a girl out to a man she never knew or loved, she may suffer psychological problems later in his hands.
The reason some people give is maintenance of virginity of the girl and attraction of high bride price. There is this preference for male children and that the girl should quickly leave the house for the males who will restore the family name.
In terms of virginity, a girl can decide to keep herself till above 20 years depending on what she desires in life. The girl may not have developed physically yet to go through the pains in child bearing, complications are always associated with it, thus leading to maternal and infant mortality.
It is unfortunate that child labour is still practised in Nigeria despite government’s efforts in introducing free and compulsory education at the basic level. It is common in a situation where a guardian lives with another person’s child, be it a boy or girl. When her children are sent to school, the woman will send the child out to hawk in the streets, demanding him/her to make some money for her upkeep.
Maltreating widows is one big challenge that has to be checked continuously in our communities. In fact, this cuts across many ethnic group in Nigeria. When a man or one’s husband dies, the wife’s movement is restricted and mandated to sit on the floor. After the burial of her late husband, another widow will shave her hair with razor blade and for a couple of months puts on either black or white attire to show a sign of mourning.
Before now, in some places, widows were forced to drink water used in bathing their late husband’s body if there were suspicion that she had a hand in the death. Although this has been tackled in some areas.
Another painful thing here is being forced out of her late husband’s house to enable them have access to his property, whether they have children or not. Sometimes she is asked to submit the key key of a car to the in-laws. They even ask for deposit in the bank account.
I have seen a situation where a widow was chased with clubs in a bid to deny her access to her late husband’s properties even as their marriage was contracted at the Court Registry
This causes problems between her and the in-laws and the trauma and the emotional problem resulting from this cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
In fact, the issue of maltreating widows is the most challenging. In some communities and cultures, a widow is meant to remarry the brother of her late husband, otherwise she quits and I think there is a religious beliefs that practises this. This is a violation of the woman’s fundamental human rights.
Preference for male child is a tradition that rooted in inheritance practice. It is assumed that the male is the one that takes care after the father had departed while the female girl is given out for marriage. In some cultures, it is described as the “seat” of woman in the matrimonial home. It is also believed that if a woman does not bear a male child she is seen as a visitor, there is the likelihood that the husband may marry another wife.
This is a big threat to the woman. No matter the sex of a child, the woman should be tolerated, after all, medical experts say it is the man that determines the sex of the child. As male children have their roles to play in a home, so also do the females.
Ministry of education in conjunction with social welfare should ensure that no child is found hawking during school hours or not. If found, should be arrested side by side the guardian and charged to court for explanation.
A widow who lost her spouse should be taken care of. A man whose brother’s wife is a widow today, it might be his wife tommorow. In this particular case, men while alive should be sure proper documentation of their marriage in the court registry to protect their wives dead or alive.
We are not unaware that the media have been on the forefront for awareness creation, a lot more need to done bid we have to eradicate the menace to a greater percentage.
Parents and guardians should send their wards to school as there is free and compulsory education. If we have the kind of education that is desired, we will avoid some of these outdated customs and beliefs that do not add value the families and society.
Non-Governmental organisations and government officials should continue to carry out aggressive sensitisation programmes in the cities. From time to time, government should carry out opinion pool through community leaders/ dwellers to find out if efforts being made are yielding positive results.
The United Nations in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) have come out with a declaration on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The declaration is expected to take care of these gender issues.
Government at all levels should enact laws prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation practices dehumanising especially women and children.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Should Couples Share Family Responsibilities?
Splitting of expenses in homes has existed since the origin of marriage between man and woman- a situation where a man will contribute and a woman will also contribute her own little way in the home.
In years past, when did not they engage in skilled or professional jobs, mothers used to get crops from the farms and prepare food for their households with the fathers supporting with money to pick others things that cannot be got from farm.
Since the men were more engaged in semi-skilled jobs, they were responsible for children school fees, house rents for those who lived in the urban areas where they do not own houses of their own.
These days, some ladies feel that expenses in the homes should not be shared. They feel they should relax and be taken care of since their husbands are the breadwinners. They feel that men should be the sole providers.
Sometimes, they make comments like, I didn’t come to suffer. House responsibilities ranging from school fees, house upkeeps, even a pack of matches and seasoning cubes which are little things a lady should be able to provide in a home are left for the man.
There is this woman who would always wait for her husband to come home and provide every little item in the house, including bills in the neighbourhood.
Some women are in marriage with the mindset that when divorce occurs, they will have to share the property available before she leaves.
Some are lenient in telling their husbands the kind of responsibility they want to take while they claim that they are not ready to take much tasks.
Interestingly, there are men who don’t want their wives to work or do business and are ready to provide whatever demands their wives may make. They don’t like collecting any kobo from their wives instead they prefer to borrow from outside. Even when bills come, they are ready to pay. There is the ego syndrome in some people. Perhaps they do not want a situation where their wives will boast that when there was no money they took care of the home.
One bad thing about couples not sharing responsibilities is that par adventure, the man is not there, the woman will find it difficult to cope with some of the tasks. It is better for women to get used to some of the tasks while the man is there.
A man who expressed his views about this issue, Mr Amos, said that marriage is spiritual. He said since some people go into marriage for going sake. He said they go into marriage because of money so they are not qualified.
According to him, women who are taking care of their homes should be commended. Some women feel that their husbands money is general while the woman’s money is personal.
A banker, Mr Ekong Effiong, said there is no need splitting expenses in home. He is of the opinion that the wife should do what she handle while he takes case of what he can take.
He boasted that he can handle the affairs of his home and will not depend on his wife’s income.
A pharmacist, Mrs. Theresa Jacobs, said that the man should be able to cater for the house and to split expenses. If you split the expenses in the house, what about the pains the woman undergoes in the labour room.
A business woman, Mrs Rose Oni, said togetherness in marriage should not be only in the other room. It should be in all affairs in the home. She said since marriage is for togetherness, expenses at home should be handled between husband and wife.
She said this is not the era where one party handles all expenses.
A commercial bus driver, Nkume Ojim said, every woman is supposed to support her husband. Where is her money supposed to be if not in her husband’s house, he queried.
He said if the man does not have, the woman should support and vice versa.
A nurse, Agatha Mark said that she does not like to share her money with anybody or do a joint account because according to her, her husband will use it to flex outside home.
She maintained that days are gone when mothers were suffering to fend for the home and said that the men are supposed to take care of all expenses.
No matter how live is in any home, if there is no money, things will definitely flow well. Because of the current realities, many men may not be able to meet up.
Couples should practice what will work for them. If from the beginning, couples have agreed to share bills, so be it.
Some women will vow that no man can eat their money, but you may discover that they do it behind to deceived others in the public.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Nigerian Women And 35% Affirmative Action
The 2023 General Elections have come and gone. Inauguration of elected political officers has also taken place, both at the federal and state levels. Legislative matters have taken off. Appointment of Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been concluded and portfolios assigned to them by the Presidency. The Ministers without wasting time have resumed work.
Since the return of democracy two decades ago, women generally have done well wherever they found themselves. At the National Assembly, at the executive, even in the judiciary, they have been showcasing their talents.
When we talk about women’s participation in politics, a lot of them have excelled. The wife of the President, Senator Oluremi Tinubu was at the Red chambers recently. Justice Mary Odili became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) before her retirement. The former Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo was elected into the Senate this year. Prof Ngozi Odu became the Deputy Governor of Rivers State after the 2023 gubernatorial elections.
Our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the General Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She was a former Minister of Finance and later, Foreign Affairs. Mrs. Blessing Nsiegbe was a member of the House of Representatives, who represented the Port Harcourt Constituency II.
Mrs. Victoria Nyeche is a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly. A veteran journalist, Dr. Abike Dabiri Erewa, was a member of the House of Representatives. Later on, she was appointed a presidential aide on diaspora. Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers State was elected into the House of Representatives, representing Rivers and later became an elected Senator. Only a few can be mentioned due to shortage of time and space.
They are competent, creaative, hard working and innovative. They are amazons. With such number and others that cannot be mentioned here, women are asking for more elective and appointive positions. More steps should be taken by all to achieve 35 percent of women participation in politics. Nigerian women have little space in leadership positions.
It is worrisome to note that out of 48 Ministers that were appointed recently, only nine were women. This shows a very low percentage at the Federal Executive Council. The Supreme Court verdict stated that women should be allotted 35percent, but it has not been realised.
The Governor of Kwara State, Abdulrazaak, has tried in the area of empowering women. If Kwara State can implement that, why would others not follow suit? There has to be the political will for others to do the needful.
It would interest you to know that the youngest House of Representatives member is from Kwara State. First, she was endorsed by her political ward, constituency and State. If her people did not endorse her, she would not have been there.
Others are disregarding women and relegating them to the background. States nominate women for the Federal to show action. Any state that does not do it should be reminded.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also has tried to showcase gender equality. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State as well recognised the importance of women in decision making. Those are politicians who understand that men and women can work together.
Former Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is also an exemplary person in that respect. His was second to none. In some western states, we have some female deputy governors who have served and are still serving.
Political will is working in Rwanda. People are going there. In Namibia, the practice is 50 men and 50 women in parliament. All over the world, women are included in politics and those countries which engage women in decision making, their economies are always moving forward. They experience improved economies. In South Africa, it is practised.
Nigeria has never had a female Vice President not to talk about President. Liberia had Johnson Sirleaf as President. There has not been a female Governor, except in Anambra State where Mrs Victoria Etiaba was in acting capacity when the then governor, Peter Obi was absent.
Although there have been female deputy governors. In Rivers State, for example, in the last administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, the slot was for women. Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, was the deputy governor while Prof Ngozi Nma Odu is the deputy governor currently. This is highly commendable as it shows a women-friendly leadership.
Not just that, the former Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike during his tenure ensured that vice chairpersons of the 23 local government areas were women.
Nigerian women will continue to ask for more. Let government promote women employment and increase women participation in politics. Appointment of women as heads of Ministeries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is necessary at this time in the history of Nigeria.
Women should be appointed heads of boards and not just members. Chairpersons and secretaries of political parties can be left for women.
Nigerian women won the case in court over 35 percent Affirmative Action. The United Nations (UN) Declaration on 35percent as well as the laws binding it should be implemented by the Nigerian government. Gender policies should be supported.
If women have to be elected into the parliament, there should be orientation and awareness from the grassroots. International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), and others as a matter of fact should begin to sensitise women in the markets, offices, farms and homes on the need to support their own when elections come. Women in disability need not be left out. NAWOJ particularly should use the media to increase awareness on women.
Curriculum planners should emphasise the inclusion of gender policies in relation to women. If it is there, more emphasis should be made on the teaching. The women are soliciting from the academia for the teaching and learning of gender equality in schools and the gains associated with it.
Government is for everyone. Going by the definition of democracy, ‘It is government of the people, by the people and for the people’, so women should be involved in governance.
There are key areas that should be left for women in terms of ministerial appointments. Health is one of them. It is supposed to be manned by a woman. At the Senate, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, representing Rivers West Senatorial District, is the chairperson, Senate Committee on Health. That is a good one.
One of the female Ministers, Dr Betty Edu from Cross River State, was assigned Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. The Health Ministry should have been better handled by her as a female medical practitioner. When you talk about healthcare, women will understand more because of the rigorous processes they undergo during pregnancies and child bearing. They are mostly concerned and affected. The girl child grows into womanhood. The woman carries pregnancy for nine months and gets the baby delivered either through caesarean operation or normal delivery with pains. The pains associated with childbirth and other consequences, she alone undergoes. She nurses and nurtures the baby to adolescence and into adulthood. All maternal and infant mortality issues rest squarely on the woman. So, health issues generally from childhood to adulthood are that of women. Women should man the Health Ministry.
Another area is finance. This is because women manage little resources they have in homes. Women will be able to manage the nation’s resources to boost the economy better.
With the low enrollment of the girl-child in schools due to unwanted pregnancies, child labour, househelps, underage marriage, etc., a female Minister of Education can tackle the problem.
Government has the powers in their hands so they can do it. Gender equality is possible. Men and women can work side by side, that is what Nigeria needs.
So far, Nigerian women are asking for more.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Factors Couples Should Consider Before Having Children
Lately and sadly, some women have formed the habit of killing and maiming both their biological and adopted children. Sometimes, they use rat poisoning and other harmful substances on the children.
Hardly any day passes without hearing that a mother has allegedly carried out such ugly act on a child. Sometimes they use hot water, grounded hot pepper, mutter pestle and all manner of clubs on children.
Some of the reasons range from psychological, emotional, financial and many other factors. No matter how difficult family matters can be, they can be sorted out without hurting the children. It should be condemned that a woman will be so wicked to kill a child she carried for nine months.
This issue concerns women the more so they should have the number of children they can cater for. They should also ensure that they have children with men who will cater for the same children. Women should not have children for the fun of it.
In some local villages, you see a young woman of 20 to 25 years being proud of having even two children outside wedlock. She will go about boasting when some young women are still preparing to go into marriage even at 30.
It will be surprising to note that she does not have or cannot hold any man responsible for those children.
During solemnization of marriages between couples, one of the issues that is always prayed for is having of children as soon as they are joined in Holy matrimony. ‘Your children shall surround your table. You shall see your children’s children and so on’. The church, family and friends expect that after nine months of marriage, the couple is expected to invite the same people for churching of women and dedication of a baby.
Of course, that’s the joy of every family. Any family that does not get a child after a few years of marriage is not always happy. As a woman after marriage, you get some jokes reminding you that in the next one year, pepper soup and the likes should be expected. So, its normal.
When children come, should they be punished for any little provocation? When some women have emotional and psychological problems, they vent their angers on children.
Couples should know the number of children to have. There should be mental readiness. In the case of single motherhood, the woman should be ready to shoulder such responsibility. The case of going into the world to multiply should be ruled out.
It is worrisome to hear that a woman killed her two children because her husband refused to keep money for feeding. Definitely she is the one to lose after going through the pains of child birth.
A lot of factors should be considered by couples such as mental health. The two should be mentally fit before giving birth to children.
Financial capability is very important. You cannot have children you cannot feed. Money must available to run the affairs of the home especially with the high standard of living. Financial adjustments have to be made for couples to tackle family challenges.
There has to be mutual understanding between the man and wife in things that concern the children.
Couples should be ready to carry the responsibility because children come with a lot of responsibilities and accommodation is very necessary.
Some women give birth and subject their children to child labour and send some out as housemaids. Before deciding to have children, there should be thorough thinking. You could have had children when things were going well, but when things begin to go bad, a lot of counselling should come in.
There must be a budget plan for the family. The environment has to be conducive. The issue of genotype is very important so as to avoid having children with sickle cell anaemia (SS). This can be so frustrating to parents. Psychological evaluation must be carried out by couples before marriage.
Economic factors such as Joblessness on one parent to complement each other in contributing to the family. Educational factors must be considered because the children must go to school.
Women should work on their temperament knowing that children can annoy their parents. Providing for the child and being there for the child when he or she needs you is very important. Sometimes when children do not get what want, they tend to be stubborn. But mothers should know how to handle such situations when they arise.
Let’s assume that some factors were considered by couples before marriage on how many children they should have, paradventure things began to go bad, couples can make amendments.
The consideration for support system is a factor that should not be left out in marriage. If anything happens, who do you leave your child for?
People should not have babies when they are not ready. Do not have a child with someone who is not psychologically ready. Women should not endanger the lives of children any longer. One thing is having children and another is catering for them.
One should not have children because others are having and at the end of the day, in the course of little provocation, the child’s life is cut short.
Children did not bring themselves to the planet earth. They were given birth to by man and woman, whether married or unmarried. No amount of provocation should make a woman kill either her biological or foster child.
Women should have the number of children they can cater for in case difficult situations arise.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
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