IWD 2017: ‘Women’s Participation In Decision-making, Livelihood Endeavours Yet To Be Prioritised’

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Ominous statics revealed by the United Nations report that African women and girls accounted for 62 per cent of all global deaths from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Similarly, an estimated 130 million girls and women alive today have reportedly undergone female genital mutilation, mainly in Africa. And if current trends continue, almost half of the world’s child brides in 2050 will expectedly be African.
Against this backdrop, and as part of this year’s interventions to commemorate International Women’s day on March 8 in Nigeria, Women Groups have pushed for more recognition of women’s right in the country.
Spurred by the theme ‘Be Bold For Change’, advocates in Lagos organised a women’s march to address lapses in issues affecting women in the State and Nationally.
According to Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi of the Women Advocate Research And Documentation Centre (WARDC) and Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin of Women Arise for Change Initiative, both National organisations who spoke on behalf of the coalition in Lagos, this year’s gathering was dedicated to reaffirming issues of concerns for women and also to follow up with the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Mr Akinwumi Ambode on the Gender Pact signed on Wednesday, 8th of April 2015.
The pact, a 12 point demand, seeks to improve the state of women’s rights in relation to health, education, economy and poverty alleviation, vulnerable groups, decision making, environment, agriculture, child abuse and violence against women and security.
In a statement released by the Group, “Women and human right activists are still concerned about the development in some sectors such as health, women’s participation, economic empowerment and other areas. The theme ‘Be Bold for Change’ creates an impetus for women groups to resolve that, we cannot remain silent in the face of oppression that have continued to affect our daily lives. The Women’s March, with a clarion call ‘Women Move Now’ will serve as a platform to celebrate women’s contributions to communities and cultures in Lagos state, raising awareness of the different issues that women face in their own context, and pushing for gender equality in the State and the need for the state to adopt a Gender Policy.”
They added that, “We recognise that progress on gender equality has been slow in Nigeria, the girl-child education, women’s participation in decision-making and livelihood endeavours is yet to be prioritised. We affirm that the low level of women’s participation and representation in governance and political processes in Nigeria accounts for the significant perpetuation of the social conditions of abuse and discrimination that Nigerian women suffer.  We recognise that this has been acknowledged in the mid-point report on the MDGs, where the Nigerian government cited social and economic inhibitions, coupled with women’s apathy to political participation as key obstacles to achieving gender equality in the country. We are concerned that although women account for nearly 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population in 2006, women hold less than 7 percent of the principal elective positions at the federal and state levels.”
Some key issues restated include:  An End Violence Against Women (VAW) where statics outlines that 1 in 3 women in Nigeria have reportedly experienced physical or sexual violence- mostly by intimate partners – VAW impact on lives of women ( health and socio economic);
Improvement in primary health facilities in every local government, including free quality maternal care services – and sexual & reproductive health advice & services to prevent/treat HIV, Cervical Cancer;
The adoption of a comprehensive framework to monitor gender responsiveness of the Universal Basic Education Programme (UBE) in line with the Education for All (EFA) initiative – Including support for pregnant girls to complete education;
The establish a gender responsive mechanized agricultural system and also take appropriate steps to provide adequate food security in the state – including Land Ownership Rights for women;
Protection of women in workplaces; Establish special credit scheme, for small, medium and large scale women entrepreneurs to support women’s economic empowerment, and
Protection of vulnerable member of society with committed approach to addressing the well-being of widows, orphans, street kids and other vulnerable groups through targeted policies and programmes. Improvement/effective implementation of policy and investment for protection of abused children/end child abuse.
In Abuja, at a symposium organized by the ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, the Minister, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan tasked women to examine barriers that impede work on proffering relevant solutions to redressing persistent challenges, and encouraged a workable outcome that would “achieve a gender equitable society using international and national instruments, and legislative provisions including the VAPP Act 2015, the Child Rights Act, and the National  Action Plan on UNSCR1325”.
Meanwhile, Said Djinnit, a United Nations special Envoy has encouraged that women play a critical role in the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation stating that their participation “is essential as it brings broader and more sustainable benefits to communities and nation.”
Djinnit added that women remain under-represented in political dialogues, negotiations and in peacebuilding initiatives. He stressed that national and regional institutions also have an essential role to play in advancing women’s effective participation in political and peace processes. “Real progress on women’s participation in political and peace processes will only happen if there is sufficient political will and resources allocated.”
Consequently, the UN Human Rights Office has launched, together with the African Union and UN Women, a report into women’s rights in Africa. It is the first in a planned series about women’s human rights on the continent that will address various thematic issues.
The report highlights that globally, where women are able to exercise their rights to access to education, skills, and jobs, there is a surge in prosperity, positive health outcomes, and greater freedom and well-being, not only of women but of the whole society.
It disclosed that in many countries, gaps in protecting women’s rights are compounded by political instability and conflict,  stressing  that women should not be seen only as victims but, for example, as active agents in formal and informal peace building processes.
Among its recommendations, the report calls on African governments to encourage women’s full and productive employment, to recognize the importance of unpaid care and domestic work, and to ensure women can access and control their own economic and financial resources.
Similarly, Activist Dr Otive Igbuzor held up the UN revelations in his remarks, urging Nigerian women not to see the day as a ‘symbolic celebration’.  While speaking on measures for advocating for the adoption of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, proposed to address targeted discriminatory practises faced by women, he urged, “We must go beyond symbolic celebrations and address the misconceptions fuelled by misinterpretations of religious books, patriarchy, greed and ignorance. Where there is inequality, it is not only women that pay the price.”
He endorsed, “The way forward is for all of us, both men and women to be ‘bold and catalyst for change’.  At the present rate, the Planet 50:50 by 2030 campaign cannot be met. For women to be bold is to challenge stereotypes, and for men to be bold is to stand up to be

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