The International Women’s Day takes place on March 8 every year to celebrate women’s rights and inspire people to act in promoting gender equality around the world. The 2021’s edition, was commemorated yesterday, Monday, March 8, with the theme: “A Challenged World Is An Alert World”.
Since March 8, 1975, when the United Nations first celebrated the International Women’s Day, the day has been recognized globally as International Women’s Day to celebrate women and girls. This day is dedicated to celebrating women’s contributions to society, raise awareness about the fight for gender parity, and inspire support for organisations that support and celebrate women globally.
The hashtag for this year’s celebration #ChooseToChallenge highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world, celebrates women in leadership in achieving an equal future and a COVID-19 free world irrespective of gender bias. It also recognizes efforts of women and girls in creating a more equal future and COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
In 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics, put the number of Nigerians who are extremely poor at 82.9 million. Women make up 48.7% of Nigeria’s population, unfortunately more women are living in extreme poverty because of discrimination around ownership of economic resources and assets. Evidence also indicates that nearly 7 in 10 women are unbanked, that is; more than half of Nigerian women are financially excluded.
Across different sectors of national life, women are still being treated as being inferior to their male counterparts. A report by UN Women on the country’s 2019 elections, shows that Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female representation in parliament across Africa. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom ranking of 2019 ranked Nigeria 181 out of 193 countries polled in terms of women’s participation in politics
Hence, poverty is a gender issue and has a gender face. Inequalities persist, across wealth, health, and every other socio-economic and political determinant in Nigeria, fuelled by poverty, cultural practiced, unscripted policies and a lack of political will to domesticate and implement existing policies.
Therefore, Christian Aid Nigeria, believes that, recognising the centrality of gender to these issues on this day, is not only critical to fully appreciating the scale of the challenges, but also the most effective route to achieving shared, sustainable progress and prosperity in Africa’s most populous country.
Since 2003, Christian Aid Nigeria has worked with partners to empower the poorest and most vulnerable populations in project locations to participate and take ownership of their development through critical programme intervention areas. Christian Aid has worked with marginalized and vulnerable populations in communities in 16 states in Nigeria, responding to humanitarian emergencies, improving access to essential health services, and promoting accountable governance and inclusive development.
The organization’s 7-years strategy (2019-2026, “Standing Together”) focuses on programme delivery with a sustained and reinvigorated vision of a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society where poverty is eradicated, and everyone is empowered to live life in all its fullness. The strategy will deliver impact results across three priority areas of intervention including humanitarian and sustainable livelihood, Democracy and Good governance as well as health and human development.
The delivery of Christian Aid intervention areas is guided by the organization’s strategic framework of Poverty, Power and Prophetic Voice (3Ps), this framework recognizes the nexus between poverty and power and the essential of speaking truth to power; which is based on the understanding that to achieve lasting solution to the challenges the world is facing, poverty, power, and people’s ability to speak against injustice must be tackled together.
Gender inequalities are a fundamental cause of poverty and injustice, due to unequal power relations among the sexes. Therefore, women and girls do not enjoy the same status or the same access to and control over resources as men and boys. Addressing these imbalances is critical for achieving sustainable development goal 5 (SDG Goal 5). We believe that gender equality is both social justice and human rights. At Christian Aid, we are committed to addressing these issues in our fight against poverty and injustice.
Since the organisation began our work in Nigeria in 2003, we have improved the opportunities of women and girls to live productive lives in Nigeria by improving access to and completion of basic education, delaying marriage until age 18 and/or the completion of secondary education); facilitated the inclusion of women in decision making structures at community and local government levels by strengthening their capacities to engage, make decisions, negotiate, and lead.
Evidence suggests causal relationships between women living poverty and discriminatory practices on the basis of gender, social/cultural norms that limits women access to empowerment opportunities like education, ownership of economic assets, policies (scripted and unscripted) that guides socio-economic and political relations in Nigeria.
Christian Aid Nigeria works to challenge these systems, structures and discriminatory policies that exclude and limit women by building capacities of men and boys as gender champions, advocating for improved access to education for women and girls, building the capacity of women and girls to actively take part in decisions that concern them; as we say in Christian Aid “No decision about me without me”. We are supporting traditional and Faith actors to review scripted and unscripted discriminatory policies and practices against women.
As Nigeria joins the rest of the global community in commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day, Christian Aid Nigeria is standing together with all stakeholders to challenge all forms of gender-based discriminations that inhibit the freedom and independence of women and girls in Nigeria and the world over.
And in marking this day, the plights of women and girls in Nigeria readily comes to mind as available statistics indicates that despite recent progress recorded in the fight against gender discrimination, the road to gender justice in Nigeria is a long way. At Christian Aid Nigeria, we will continue to exercise leadership and commitment to promoting, mobilising and meaningfully engage with stakeholders and building a movement to challenge the systems that perpetuate poverty, inequality, and injustice.
–Comrade Abantlehe is Programme Communications Volunteer, Christian UK, Nigeria with office at Plot 802, Ebute Ukiwe Street, Utako, Abuja