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 affected 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 (FGM) which has been described as harmful to the girl-child is still practised 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 Omokwa 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 sensitisation campaign at Omokwa community in Abua/Odual, emphasised 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,Joseph Aboh, during the event, emphasised the need to abolish female genital mutilation and said that women have suffered so much from such harmful practice.
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 into 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’s 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 groups 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 property 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 quit and I think there is a religious belief that supports this. This is a violation of the woman’s fundamental human rights.
Preference for male child is a tradition that is 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 the ministry of social welfare should ensure that no child was 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 of 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 if 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 poll 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.
Governments at all levels should enact laws prohibiting female genital mutilation practices dehumanising especially women and children.
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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