Many girls today are not educated beyond a certain age. According to UNICEF, 129 million girls are out of school; 32 of primary school age and 97 million of secondary school age. The constitution of Nigeria states that every child, boy or girl, has the right to an education. The Child’s Rights Act (2003). The constitution even mandates free and compulsory education for children aged 6 to 15. (Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004).
However, many girls drop out of school after the junior secondary level because this stipulation does not extend to the senior secondary class and their parents are unable to pay for them to continue. These girls end up on the streets or in husbands’ houses, shortening the value they would have brought to the community.
Education is regarded as the foundation of every community because it is one of the quickest and most efficient ways of promoting economic growth. Women and girls account for half of the world’s population and thus half of its potential.
The extent and quality of a woman’s participation in society are heavily influenced by her educational level. Education enables her to carry out her family, political, and other citizenship responsibilities, as well as exercise her other rights. Since everyone benefits from the result of the woman’s education, whose duty is it to train her? Investing in a girl’s education changes her community, country, and world. Girls who attend school are less likely to marry young and are more likely to live healthy, productive lives. To their families, it enables them to earn income, and participate in decision-making. and build better futures for themselves.
To their society, education strengthens their ability to contribute to the economies, participate in decision making and reduce inequality. They also contribute to a more stable, resilient society that gives all individuals a chance to fulfill their potential.
Politically, it paves the way for political participation and empowers them with the necessary knowledge to actively and effectively oppose oppressive norms and contribute to the development of a nation.
So, once again, who is responsible for training the girl child? Because investing in girls’ secondary education is one of the most transformative development strategies, it is critical to prioritize efforts that enable all girls to complete secondary school and develop the knowledge and skills they need for life and work. As individuals and organizations, we owe it to the girl-child to help her reach her full potential by empowering and advocating for her in any way we can.
Connected Development (CODE) has continued to advocate for girl child education in Nigeria through the Malala Fund. We are advocating for free education not only for the first nine years (junior secondary schools) but also for a twelve-year period (senior secondary schools).
Education is about girls feeling safe in the classrooms and supported in the careers they choose to pursue, including those in which they are frequently underrepresented. Education is a fundamental right that we should be naturally entitled to. Therefore, to answer the earlier question, since the girl contributes invariably to her family, society, and nation when trained, everyone has to train and support her.
Education serves as an avenue of exposure to cultural alternatives and offers an opportunity of being valued members of the society, every generation has a duty to reciprocate by educating the generation that comes after it.
You can find women at the center of every social development initiative in Africa, having been grossly marginalized and left behind by their male counterparts. As the African continent evolves, its Agenda 2063 commits to improving women’s political participation through a more inclusive process for good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
It is a fact that no nation can develop without a thriving woman population and so the Africa we want and will be proud of is one where women have equal opportunities and platforms to participate, engage and influence policies at all levels without intimidation, hindrance, fear, but with full support.
According to Africa’s Barometer 2021, African countries are still far from achieving women’s equal and effective participation in political decision-making. Latest reports state that women constitute only 24 percent of the 12,113 parliamentarians in Africa, 25 per cent in the lower houses, and 20 per cent in the upper houses of parliament. While local government is often hailed as a training ground for women in politics, women constitute a mere 21 percent of councilors in 19 of the countries for which complete data could be obtained.
Despite the widespread adoption of and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, Africa continues to lag behind most of the world when it comes to socioeconomic development. In fact, a recent report by the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa — Africa 2030: Sustainable Development Goals Three-Year Reality Check”—reveals that minimal progress has been made and, in some instances, there is complete stagnation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified pre-existing inequalities creating new constraints to women’s participation in decision-making.
As of 1 February 2021, over 3,5 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Africa with 88,993 deaths. This accounts for approximately 3% of identified cases and 4% of deaths globally. There is limited sex disaggregated data available on cases and deaths due to COVID-19, as some countries disaggregate data, while others do not.
It is therefore pertinent to prioritize and promote initiatives that are systematically designed to promote and stimulate meaningful collaborations, coalitions and networks for improved women participation geared towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa and strategically close up the existing inequality gaps at all levels.
Based on the aforementioned, Engage, Educate and Empower Initiative (EEEI) through the Coalition of Women in Africa for Peace and Development (COWAP) launched an Annual African Women Summit aimed at harnessing the enormous capacity and goodwill of Women in Africa by bringing them under a coalition towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) centered around four thematic areas: Peace and justice, girl child education, ending hunger and ending poverty. COWAP seeks to localize the SDGs by illustratively understanding, elaborating, amplifying and establishing linkages and promoting partnerships and networks for women and girls to strive in the 21st Century at all levels in Africa.
Connected Development (CODE) has over the years supported COWAP in amplifying their work and providing institutional support for the smooth implementation of diverse initiatives launched by EEEI including the AWS.
Kigali Rwanda (The Land of Thousand Hills) hosted the 3rd edition of the African Women Summit at Marriott Hotel Kigali from the 12th to 14th May 2022 with over three hundred (300) delegates from eighteen (18) African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Canada, Namibia, Uganda, and Rwanda).
The event brought together dignitaries such as the First Lady of Nigeria; Her Excellency Aisha Buhari who was ably represented by Amb. Aishatu Aliyu Musa the Nigerian Ambassador to Rwanda, The Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Revenue Authority Sierra Leone; Dr. Mrs. Tuma Adama Gento-Kamara, The First Lady of Benue State; H.E Dr. Eunice Ortom Samuel, First lady of Bauchi State; H.E Hajiya Dr. Aisha Bala Mohammed, The Manager of Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) at African Development Bank; Marieme Esther Dassanou, Former African Union Youth Envoy; Aya Chebbi and members of the international community.
To provide programmatic support and project visibility support for the third edition held in Kigali, Rwanda from the 11th – 15th of May 2022, CODE sponsored me to represent the Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal. Key outcomes from the third edition was the inauguration of a Technical Working Committee made up of (Mrs. Maneng Sunday Patricia- Founder, Girls Empowerment Leadership Association, Thea Weeks- Guest- Lecturer, Facilitator, Motivational Speaker, Dr Antonel Olckers- CEO of DNAbiotec (Pty) Ltd, Dr Louisa Akaiso- Founder WWWA- Women Who Win Africa, Dr.Mrs. Tuma Adama Gento-Kamara- Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Dr. Mrs Tonyo Michael-Olomu- Lecturer, Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa, Aya Chebbi- Former African Union Youth Envoy, Founder & Chair of Nala Feminist, Emmaline Datey- Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, Business Coach, Corporate Trainer, Marieme Esther Dassanou- Manger, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa(AFAWA), African Development Bank Group and Pharmacist Isaac Onoja- CEO of Minds and Emotions Center) to coordinate and plan towards the AWS 2023 edition. Key results emanating from the summit are strong collaborations and partnerships by women groups towards influencing diverse social actions and making their voices count.
Personal learnings from this trip for me was the revolution of Rwanda from the genocide that plagued their land with over 1,000,000million lives sacrificed for the peaceful revolution they now embrace. The story of Rwanda is for every African and their leaders to emulate and take queue from, especially as it pertains to development, reforms, peace and security. Wars and conflicts have their fair cost, and the price of peace is unquantifiable. Rwanda is a living chronicle of a reinvented system that rests on the shoulders of Peace and Unity.
As we plan ahead for the Annual Women Summit 2023, we anticipate that the initiative will garner public and donor support to provide the platform for more women to inspire, collaborate and network towards changing the narrative for improved women participation geared towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.
Lucy James Abagi is a passionate and result-oriented Fundraiser, Development Programmer and Innovator. Over the last five years, she has gathered vast layers of experience in managing diverse development programs, bid writing, responding to diverse solicitations by international donor agencies and writing winning proposals.
“Madam if you like dey under this sun dey do training from morning till night if na rape issue, I go rape, my wife. Her body na my own”
I was utterly dump-founded, livid and startled. I was not sure if I heard right or if my mind was playing a fast one on me. Perhaps from the fatigue of trying to get a suitable motor Park in Enugu State to carry out our Project SABI motor park town-hall.
I thought to myself that this man had some nerve to spew such distasteful words. How dare you openly admit that it is ok to forcefully have carnal knowledge of someone else. More so, your wife! Statements like these, draw you into the reality of the appalling state of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria and how these cases keep increasing in Nigeria despite all efforts to stem the tide. Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, the World Health Organisation has stated. Estimates by WHO indicates that globally about 1 in 3 (30 per cent) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Recently, the United Nations declared Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as a ‘shadow pandemic’ while calling for urgent, comprehensive, and effective actions by duty-bearers to curb the menace.
What CODE and BQA are doing with support from OXFAM Voice to change the status quo
To address these issues, Connected Development (CODE) and Boys Quarters Africa (BQA) with support from OXFAM Voice began a grass-root engagement approach with Men & Boys, on the “Project SABI” to directly impact and empower victims, and especially young people across FCT, Lagos and Enugu, with necessary information on their roles as responders using diverse reporting channels to mobilise mass voices. This project is aimed at seeking new approaches to tackle Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). I bet you are asking why men and boys right? Men and boys are key to promoting gender equality. The focus of this project is on engaging Nigerian men and boys as gender allies in their households and communities. We hope to bring together men and boys to challenge existing gender norms and plant new seeds of thought about the role of women in Nigerian society. Men and boys can shift existing gender norms by engaging with and understanding their privilege.
Over the years CODE has led strategic campaigns that address issues affecting women and girls including gender-responsive budgeting, girl-child education campaigns and campaigns to eliminate all forms of violence targeted toward women and girls. I have been privileged to spearhead most of these gender campaigns but for obvious reasons, project SABI stands out. This specific campaign is urging me to be even more relentless in my fight against Gender-Based Violence, more so, in an insane country like my dearly beloved. Nigeria has sworn to remain a truly complex nation whose growth is double-edged. As we grow in age and population so have we grown in all facets of crime and injustice. I am saddened by the trajectory of this nation and the lack of justice for almost everything and everyone.
Remember how Blessing Otunla’s unclad body was found in a brackish ditch in Iddo village, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital? How about the Nigerian gospel singer Osinachi Nwachukwu? Was it not recently that a 22-year-old Oluwabamise Ayanwola, a promising fashion designer’s body was found after she went missing on February 26, 2022? Let us not forget that it has been almost two years since Uwa Omozuwa, a 22-year-old 100 level student of the University of Benin, was raped and killed inside a Redeemed Christian Church of God parish on May 27, 2020.
You see, these barbaric acts have gone on for so long and I ask myself, Are we ever going to get the desired change? I have sisters and adorable nieces that I will detest if they made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Permit me to say ‘my tired is indeed tired’
However, It is time to take greater action therefore, I call on the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders to accelerate efforts to curb Sexual and Gender-Based violence in Nigeria. There is so much work to be done. A holistic and intentional approach by you and I will go a long way in mitigating this menace. Tell the person sitting next to you that it is never alright to rape/ molest anyone and of recent anything. Oops! I said it.
Pearl Utuk leads and supports a range of CODE’s thematic focus in the grassroots communities.
For a decade, Africa’s leading civil society organization Connected Development (CODE) has invested not just on the empowerment of marginalized grassroots communities, but also, in the personal and professional growth of its young, talented and vibrant workforce.
Out of 9,000 applicants, Pearl Utuk who works as a Programme Officer with CODE emerged as one of the 56 carefully selected winners of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for the 2022 cohort.
“Since joining CODE, Utuk has led several projects and campaigns for FollowTheMoney, the social accountability initiative of CODE. She is presently supporting the implementation of COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) which is designed as an intervention to tackle COVID-19 vaccine distribution equity and health sector accountability in 9 African countries”.
“Utuk also leads several projects in the education space targeted at improving both literacy and access to quality and timely education for children from low-income earning families, especially girls’. Her experience with CODE will enable her to maximize the opportunity afforded by the fellowship”
The program which will officially kick off in June 2022 will allow the Fellows travel to the United States of America to participate in six-week Leadership Institutes studying Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management at U.S. colleges and universities. At the conclusion of the Leadership Institutes, the Fellows will attend the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, where Fellows, U.S. government officials, and representatives from businesses and organizations with interest in Africa engage in high-level sessions and workshops.
Commenting on the significance of the Fellowship, Ambassador Leonard stated, “The United States is dedicated to investing in the next generation of young Nigerian leaders reinforcing the strong partnership between both nations. The vision, courage, and drive to innovate of Mandela Washington Fellows will help shape the future of Nigeria for many generations to come.”
Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship exchange program of the U.S. government-sponsored Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) created to further the United States’ commitment to investing in the future of Africa. Each year, U.S. Missions across Sub-Saharan Africa select accomplished leaders, who have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their countries.
Since 2014, over 5,000 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the MWF with 456 Fellows hailing from Nigeria.
Founder/Chief Executive, Connected Development [CODE]
The Mandate of Follow The Money (FTM) is to build citizens’ capacity to stop and uncover corruption in Africa. This mandate has birthed 9 Chapters and is still counting.
The role of citizens in rescuing the continent from institutional and systemic corruption can not be underestimated. As a leading Pan African Movement, follow the money is taking intentional steps in supporting organizations in Africa to adopt its tracking model and strategy in achieving its accountability mandate.
The CTAP initiative provided the opportunity to support 4 FTM international chapters to track the utilization of COVID 19 funds in their countries. Kenya, Malawi, Liberia and Cameroon received some funding for CTAP in their country for a period of 12 months. And BudgIT supported 3 countries (Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone) Since the inception of these projects, massive results have been recorded providing a case for scalability across other African Countries.
In Liberia, the research conducted in Margibi County on the stimulus package for private schools’ teachers revealed that only 15% of teachers in the private schools received their shares of the $1 million, while 85% of the participants did not receive their shares of the $1 million budgetary allocation for private schools’ teachers in the 2020/2021 national budget. We advocated for the release of funds to the right people. We have also engaged stakeholders to ensure accessibility is straightforward for the school teachers to access these funds.
In Kenya, As of December 2020, the Government of Kenya had mobilized Kshs 214 Billion ($ 2,332,600 Million) through loans, for COVID-19 related expenses, out of which Kshs 162 Billion ($1,765,800 Million) was disbursed to Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA’s) of County Governments. Out of the amount allocated to the County Governments, there was underutilization of funds, despite the urgency and needs brought about by the impact of the pandemic on citizens.
Improved participation from government officials– Government officials from several County Governments were key informants in the tracking phase of the Kenya CTAP initiative. These included; Health & Water-Sanitation Chief officers who are in charge of authorizing the expenditure of department budgets, and County Executive Committee members-Health, who are the equivalent of Ministers on the County level. The aforementioned participated in a video interview, discussing the Covid-19 incidence in their respective counties, gaps identified and mitigation strategies for the same, which has been consolidated into a feature documentary produced by the FTM Kenya team at SIDAREC.
Development of a Coalition coordination strategy– The first CTAP coalition building meeting held in April 2021 brought together 11 CSOs namely; Transparency International Kenya (TI-K), Shining Hope For Communities (Shofco), Kelin Kenya, International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBP-K), Uraia Trust, the Institute of Public Finance Kenya (IPF-K) and Association of Grassroots Journalists Kenya (AGJK). This has since grown to include Hivos, Development Gateway, Mzalendo and COVID-Kenya. The strategy paper encompasses a situation analysis (SWOT), communication/advocacy strategy, coalition resourcing strategy, expected outcome/impact and roles and responsibilities of the Coalition members. The document served as a roadmap to guide and consolidate collective advocacy efforts at the sub-national and the national levels in regards to enhancing transparency and accountability in public budgeting and contracting processes and access to information around COVID-19.
In Cameroon, On March 29 2021, the Head of State through the Secretary-General at the Presidency in a letter instructed the Minister of Justice to initiate immediate judicial investigation against co-authors, authors or accomplices in the potential embezzlement of COVID 19 funds. While awaiting the outcome of this governmental investigation of itself ADE/CTAP released Press Statements commending the government for accelerating the call for public administrations to be audited for COVID funds.
Due to our intense advocacy on CTAP, the President of the Republic of Cameroon Paul Biya ordered an audit on the use of funds for the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic at a time when persistent information indicated “serious” financial embezzlement. He directed the Secretary-General, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh who ordered the Minister of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze to release FCFA 32,555,000 to cover the audit costs for the Supreme State Control (CONSUPE) mission at the Ministry of Public Health.
In July 29 2020, after the launch of CTAP in Cameroon, the Ministry of Health, citing “the urgent need for transparency”, published in a two-page press release, summary information on how it had spent FCFA 21,973,799,873 billion ($40,556,387.318 million), claiming that this was its total spending in response to COVID-19 within March to July, 2020. Though insufficient in details, this press release provided a baseline for further investigations on the expenditure of COVID funds in Cameroon.
In Malawi, CTAP Malawi released our research on how COVID funds were spent and exposed how several people from the government had mismanaged COVID-19 funds. Immediately after releasing this report, the president of Malawi Dr Lazarus Chakwera fired the Minister of Labour and arrested 19 officials who were involved in the mismanagement of Covid 19 funds. This was a success for CTAP in Malawi because even after the audit report on the COVID funds had come out and exposed the mismanagement of the funds, nothing was done until the CTAP report was shared in public domain.
In the second phase, We plan to upskill local groups and strengthen the operationalization of coalitions in sharpening conversations and engagement with governments on wider health sector accountability and transparent utilization of COVID 19 funds across more African countries.
As the world woke up to the news of a novel virus, and the World Health Organization classifying it a pandemic, the Africa continent was projected to be the most hit due to the poor state of our health centers coupled with systemic corruption and increasing migration of health personnels in search of better and sustainable remuneration in developed countries.
In Nigeria, the state of health centers are lagging, as recent data shows Nigeria as one of the worst places for a woman to birth a child. In fact, a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, ranked Nigeria the least (80th out of the 80 countries considered) with the study with a score of 4.74 out of 10.
In the early days of the pandemic, most organizations folded up and retrenched staff due to lack of funding as most donor agencies withdrew their resources in order to adequately prepare for the unknown and unanticipated impact of the pandemic.
As an activist with multidimensional skills in turning complex problems into fundable projects, I remember the ideation process that led to the creation of the COVID Transparency and Accountability Project- brand. Instead of resorting to fate and hoping that the mandatory COVID 19 lock down order be removed by the federal government, CODE’s CEO Hamzat Lawal, challenged us to either “innovate or die ” and shared some strategies around tracking COVID 19 funds.
At the aim of CODE’s operations in Abuja Nigeria, HQ staff dribbled in some ideas and so did our Follow the money International chapters. In less than twenty hours, we had two ideas and Immediately, I reviewed the available ideas and confirmed they were novel, fundable and scalable. So I reviewed and a full concept note and innovation was birthed and shared with partners and prospective donors.
Then, an opportunity appeared for a partnership with BudgIT, one of our strong allies in the sector and I quickly finalized on the concept note and shared with BudgIT team for inputs and after series of donor meetings and pitch sessions, we were able to access $500,000 from the Skoll and Conrad Hilton Foundation for the launch of the CTAP project in 7 African Countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroun, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Ghana).
In Nigeria, the CTAP Project under CODE’s deliverables had diverse components including “Tracking the state of Primary Health Care (PHCs) and Vaccine distribution in Nigeria” in order to monitor the state of and vaccine storage in 15 States namely Cross River, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kebbi, Osun States across the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria, and monitor and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach on the distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines in Nigeria. The PHC tracking component was crafted to increase citizens participation in advocating for transparency and accountability in the health care sector by monitoring and reporting the state of PHCs across Nigeria.
Follow The Money team members across the 15 states conducted intense tracking and data gathering using our designed toolkit on the kobotool box. The result of this intense research revealed that only about 20% of PHCs meet the required standards for infrastructure, personnel, service delivery, vaccine storage and vaccine administration. From this analysis, it could be inferred that only two (2) out of every ten (10) PHCs in Nigeria are up to standard. Further discoveries show that 30% of PHCs do not have access to clean and safe water, as some facilities use wells as their source of water and 7% use rain water. However, maternity and ante-natal service showed up as the most readily available and accessed service across Nigeria.
The follow the money team (FTM) teams in each of the 15 States soon after data collection on PHCs commenced Community outreach (CO) in May, 2021. They engaged with community stakeholders such as community head/chiefs, women leaders, men leaders, youth leaders. This activity was targeted at compiling evidence to advocate for the improvement of PHCs by engaging community gatekeepers in garnering community support for the tracking of COVID-19 vaccines, create awareness for the importance of the vaccines, and identify the level of knowledge about services the PHCs render. This activity revealed the disproportionate ratio of PHC to the size of each community and community leaders testified that vaccines were hoarded in some communities by health workers.
The final activity in CTAP tracking was the town hall meeting which held across all project States, it served as a rendezvous for health workers, representatives of local governments area councils, the Executive Secretaries of various States Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), traditional heads, community chiefs, women leaders and men leader, to have a dialogue and map out an action plan for the standardization of PHCs to efficiently service the communities that host them as well as foster their preparedness for future COVID-19 vaccine administration.
To further intensify the campaign and present our findings across these states for policy changes and institutional restructuring across PHC, our team states have further engaged with key stakeholders and partnered with frontline media agencies in amplifying the findings in their states
We reviewed seven cases of COVID-19 related corruption, contacted witnesses, and gathered evidence. We also forwarded petitions to relevant prosecutory bodies. Six petitions were sent to ICPC(Independent Corrupt Practices Commission). ICPC reached out and has opened investigations into some of the cases upon receipt of our petitions. Our team is helping them with relevant facts/evidence in the cases.
During the course of tracking the state of Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), the campaign garnered public and media attention in Osun State, South-West Nigeria, as conversations around the use of torch lights and candles to take delivery of babies in PHCs gathered momentum. According to public sources, the Osun State Government in 2019 received $20.5million from WHO as a grant to revitalize 332 PHCs. Less than two (2) years later, the revitalized PHCs are only visible with painted buildings but not in amenities.
Relying on findings during CTAP, the team influenced Rave 91.7 FM, a radio station with about 5.1 million listenership in Osun State, to carry-out more investigation on two (2) out of the six (6) PHCs we assessed. Find the story here.
Two weeks after the findings were published, those two PHCs received brand new generators. The reporter who conducted the investigations, Emmanuel Ujiagughele, received the Best Reporter Award during the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) event in the State. Follow-up investigations were conducted by HumAngle, a notable reporting media in the State. The HumAngle publication of investigations made reference to FollowTheMoney/CTAP investigations uncovering gaps as well as the unresponsiveness of the State Government in being transparent and accountable for COVID-19 funds.
Another outstanding unanticipated success was entering into a formalized partnership with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), a parastatal under Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health responsible for the development of the primary health care delivery system, storage and distribution of vaccines in Nigeria. This partnership grants FollowTheMoney/CTAP access to all of the Agency’s data necessary for social accountability in the health sector as well as unfettered access to PHCs for joint monitoring and evaluation of health services, COVID-19 vaccine exercises and health intervention programmes across the Federation.
Every year, the Nigerian government chunks out billions of Naira to launch communal social projects targeted to benefit millions of rural lives across different constituencies. Constituency projects are community projects nominated into a budget by a particular legislator. In recent times there have been several controversies around the nomination and implementation of constituency projects as the reality is that any similar project articulated by an agency or ministry for the same community is not seen as a constituency project.
In Nigeria, The national and state assemblies consist of 360 elected members of the House of Representatives, who represent the Nation’s 360 Federal Constituencies 109 Senators. (Three Senators per state and one from FCT) (Okon, 2004). Constituency projects were created to ensure a minimum presence of government in every constituency by having some grass-roots projects sited in each, during the budgeting process. Legislators thus identify projects which they wish to be cited in their constituencies for inclusion in the budget, with a financial ceiling for the budgetary provisions for such projects in each constituency.
According to Premium Times, at the federal level, N100 billion naira is budgeted annually for constituency projects and the annual N100 billion is always shared on an agreed 60:40 percent ratio by the two legislative chambers. The House of Representatives takes the bulk with N60 billion and the senate with N40 billion. By interpretation, the 360 members of the lower chamber have N60 billion to initiate, implement, or complete projects in their constituencies while the 109 members in the senate have N40 billion to do the same.
Most of these projects are earmarked to provide diverse solutions and support ranging from provision of healthcare services, educational interventions and learning facilities, construction, rehabilitation and renovation of school facilities, women and youth empowerment programs. Here’s the problem: the structural framework including the nomination, implementation and monitoring of this project are not in the public space. Most intriguing findings gathered from years of community work is the non-awareness and involvement of citizens/benefitting population at all levels of these projects, non-transparent selection criteria and beneficiaries of these projects and the lack of sustainable impact due to the different stages of discrepancies in the execution process.
Connected Development with support from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur over the past four years has activated citizen-led monitoring interventions in Kaduna State. The first three years of the ON Nigeria project focused on tracking UBE funding in kaduna State through the activation of school monitoring teams who track projects across 20 communities worth 569 million Naira (USD 1.5 million) leading to a shift in Kaduna State education policy through the adoption of our project nomination and monitoring tools by the state government and an ultimate increase in school enrollment across focus schools and impacting an estimated 200,000 lives.
Due to the recorded impact, the foundation scaled our innovation to another 2 years focused on tracking Constituency projects across 3 senatorial districts (Southern, Central and Northern) in Kaduna State. We commenced the ‘Deepening Citizens Interest in Government’s Spendings and Addressing Accompanying Corrupt Practices Project Phase 2 (DeSPAAC 2.0 ) in Kaduna State, Under the On Nigeria 2.0 Joinbodi Cohort in December 2020. Specifically, This project is aimed at increasing citizens’ interests in government spendings and expenditures around constituency projects across the State through tracking and monitoring government projects in 18 communities across the three senatorial districts in the State namely; Kaduna North, Kaduna South and Kaduna Central. In the first year of this project phase, We adopted diverse designs and utilized different strategies ranging from conducting series of advocacy visit to stakeholders representing Kaduna State in the National and State House of Assemblies, activating community monitoring team who through our capacity building have activated 23 campaigns, hosted series of community outreaches and town hall meeting across the three senatorial zones in the State.
Representing my CEO, Hamzat Lawal, I led CODE’s team members across the 3 senatorial district for a state-wide town hall meeting aimed at strengthening the knowledge of over 176 participants and stakeholders including (traditional leaders, the district heads, religious leaders, Executive Secretary from the KADSUBEB, the School Based Management Committee (SBMC) Chairmen, the Ward Development Committee (WDC) Chairmen and secretaries, the representatives of various MDAs) on the project nomination and monitoring tool developed during the stakeholders retreat in Abuja, as well as the procedure for engaging state and national legislatures on constituency projects.
One interesting angle this story recorded was from the SBMC Chairman of Sabon Gari LGA, he stated that “it is clear that our representatives only come to us when they need our votes, and reject us when we need them”. All observations made pointed towards the need for social accountability. Hence, the importance of an efficient communication mechanism which citizens could use in communicating with their representatives.
In order to amplify government designed tools for reporting projects implementation in Kaduna State, the participants were guided through the process of downloading the Eyes and Ears App with which citizens can use in giving updates on any project being implemented within a 2km radius. Interesting to note that the representative of the Kaduna State Planning and Budget Commission (PBC), Tara Jeremiah, urged SBMCs and others to go to SUBEB or the Ministry of Education, through the office of the Project Unit to request for information in their bid for demanding accountability.
Town hall meetings are effective advocacy strategies that provide platforms for dialogue between the supply side of government and the citizens demand side. After our series of townhall meetings the following major outcome were harvested
The lawmaker representing Kaduna South Federal Constituency (APC – Kaduna) in the House of Representatives, Mukhtar Ahmed hosted a town hall meeting to respond to issues raised by his constituency.
In the three zones of Kaduna state, the Ward Development Committee in Chikaji, Sabon-Gari, Zaria rejected the building as an attempt was made to hand over the project of primary health care center in Chikaji, Sabon-Gari Zaria worth 50,000,000 by Senator Sule Abdu Kwari; Senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial District which was incomplete and despite all the defeats noticed in the building. This result shows that the community members are becoming more aware of the power they hold as citizens and demanding accountability at all levels.
The first year of The DeeSPAC campaign has ensured the implementation of projects in areas of Health, Education, Wash, and Environment in Kaduna State, providing citizens with the right approach and tools for engaging their lawmakers.
Specifically, CODE has strengthened the capacity of 118 Community Monitoring Teams (CMTs) and the legislators; jointly monitored project implementation across 23 projects in 30 communities reaching a population of over 791,000 people across the 3 senatorial zones of Kaduna state worth 1.2Billion Naira; enhanced the prosecutory capacity of the ICPC through bridging the gap between the anti-graft agent and the communities; increased community awareness on citizens’ engagement with government through the OGP; developed a constituency Project nomination/monitoring tools in collaboration with legislators and other critical stakeholders; as well as enhanced citizens’ engagement in constituency project implementation in the state through Follow The Money Radio Kaduna (on-going) and town hall meetings. Project implementation has been completed in 12 projects, ongoing in 5 and abandoned/ not started in the remaining 6.
In designing this project, we drafted activities that feed all value chains, spurring citizens to take actions through knowledge acquisition of constituency projects and stakeholders engagement strategy while redirecting the lawmakers to re-engineer their approach thereby adopting community driven approach in the nomination and implementation of project hitherto ensuring the needs of the people are well captured and prioritized.
Follow the link to the status of constituency project in Kaduna State. We urge more citizens, community based organizations and civil society campaigns to utilize this information in championing community action towards ensuring accountability and transparency in governance.
Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is offering two small grants, each up to $4500, to local civil society partners with interest and capacity to conduct grassroots government accountability campaigns.
Recipients of grants will receive support, training, and mentoring from CIPE and its Nigeria-based partner Connected Development (CODE), together with its associated media program, Follow The Money (FTM).
Donor: The Center for International Private Enterprise
Partner: Connected Development / FollowTheMoney
CIPE seeks to support local anti-corruption partners in two countries to conduct high-impact grassroots social media campaigns to combat corruption and increase government accountability. CODE/FTM’s modern advocacy approach is organised around the theme of investigating government funds set aside to benefit the public. The approach builds on traditional grassroots organising and leverages technology, social media, and freedom of information laws. CODE/FTM’s work has shown that even a single activist can swiftly shine a light on government inaction and be amplified by hundreds of supportive followers.
CIPE and CODE are looking for partners with experience or interest in using national freedom of information laws to obtain information about specific projects and then using that information to carry out grassroots awareness-raising campaigns. Applicants should have some background in grassroots mobilisation and social media campaigning.
Grant recipients will receive financial support, virtual and — travel restrictions allowing — in-person training from CODE and CIPE experts as they learn, apply, and execute an FTM grassroots campaign. Grant recipients will also have the opportunity to participate in an end-of-project event to review the results of the completed campaigns.
Activism is a vigorous action channel to create a change or shift in policies. Activism is a process not just an action, it consists of different actions. When there needs to be a change in a system, activism is always the medium for change. Using Nigeria as a case study, Nigeria has moved from different phases of policies and changes and one very active medium of these changes has been Activism. You are often not ready to make a change if you are not an activist.
Activism can be carried out in different ways depending on the issues and the effects or impact it wants to create. Let us look at a few of them that can be used in our daily activities.
TYPES OF ACTIVISM
Self Advocacy: This is a one-man-led action designed to effectively communicate one’s interest, desires, or rights.
Group Advocacy: This is a structured action or set of activities involving a group of people with common interest and desires channeled at influencing public policies and laws.
Citizen Driven Advocacy: Enables people within a specific local community to amplify their voices and make decisions on diverse social issues that affect their lives.
Activism is a legal medium or process to change policies and laws. In the case of Nigeria, I have deployed citizen-driven advocacy to effect communal social change as a development worker. Let me share my experiences with you in my journey as a citizen advocate.
Nigeria is a great nation, but millions of its citizens cannot resonate with the reality of a failed country. As there are no reasons why over 86 percent of its gifted population live below #500 ($1). Nigeria is a wealthy nation, but hunted by the inability to be intentional with its selection of leaders to preside and manage the enormous natural and human resources. Every election year we are overpowered by the same reality of sticking to leaders who have lost their conscience and lack the capacity to ensure equality of access to basic social amenities.
Young men and women have raised their voices in different aspects of protest. The most recent was the #Endsars Protest. This protest was properly organized without any form of violence and deep in my heart, I desired that the voices of youths would be heard.
For over a week, the movement received fortifications and support. We were as close as our minds convinced us that we were. Our youths were ready to change the narratives until our leaders killed and smashed our hopes. Nailing the future of its youth population bulge on the pillars of the Nigerian Flag.
As a development worker, I have avoided the media platform because of spontaneous inner anger that is driven by series of field interventions that I have engaged in, having actively participated in and led about 200 development campaigns across 8 Africa countries and over 200 rural communities, gathering first-hand data on massive inequality and human deprivation of basic social amenities and thus an opportunity to air my view on any media platform be it radio or TV will result in an explosive rant. Anger lies in the bosom of every Nigerian citizen.
No matter how secure you are, the crippling state of the Nigerian system catches up with you either directly or indirectly. Most households have lost lives to poor health care services, stray bullets have killed countless uprising talents.
Education which is expected to be the hope and foundation for building a sustainable and globally competitive nation has been denied the growing mass of young people in Nigeria.
With a deep-seated passion to drive change at all levels, especially across marginalized communities, I channeled my anger into finding solutions by designing programs to support diverse initiatives in order to cushion the effect of poor leadership, accountability and transparency across communities in Nigeria and Africa.
As part of citizen-driven advocacy strategy, I deploy program design skills to strategically map out guidelines that project and frame an idea into tiny segments that will aid the timely achievement of the project impact within agreed cost. As simple as this may sound, this takes a lot of ideation and design thinking protocols. Most innovative people lack this skill and usually have a broad result that they seek to achieve without a well charted out step by step approach.
It also incorporates project implementation and decision-making skills. From experience, I have learnt that decision-making is the most valuable skill for every project manager. To successfully design result-oriented programs, It is important to acquire a project management skill that will comprehensively provide you with hands-on experience in other relatable fields.
One major way to advocate for change beyond participating in organized protest is for every Nigerian youth and citizen to be actively involved in casting one’s vote during elections. Voting is a vital right an individual enjoys as a citizen of a community, goes a long way to influence the leadership positions across communities.
“Activism, My Way” is a series that is designed to share with you my journey as a development worker, how I have successfully designed and implemented over 20 development projects, how I strive to live a balanced life, as a working wife and mother, how I stay fit and sane while contributing my quota to changing the world.
In my follow-up articles, I will take you through my design processes including implementation and field experiences with accompanying human angle stories from benefiting communities.
Everyone at every point in time needs to get involved in activism whether at personal or citizen level to effect change in their lives and communities. I look forward to hearing from you on how you have become an activist.
Source: social care institute for excellence
*** Lucy Jamess Abagi is a passionate and result-oriented Fundraiser, Development Programmer and Innovator. Over the last five years, she has gathered vast layers of experience in managing diverse development programs, bid writing, responding to diverse solicitations by international donor agencies and writing winning proposals.
In 2017, I challenged myself and other sisters to do two things on every International Women’s Day (IWD): celebrate a sister whose strength has borne you through the years, and write an open letter of affirmation to one male champion who has been a firm handhold and foothold in this journey through life. In the year that he will celebrate his 60th birthday, (born on 18 December 1962), I am celebrating Salihu Mohammed Lukman (SML), my husband, and a role-model life partner for a feminist like me. I wish him happiness on this IWD.
Where have the years gone? I know: they went into the making of us. SML and I have known each other forever 30 years, 26 of which we have been married. Over the years, we have encouraged each other to be better versions of ourselves. We have argued, debated, and disagreed, too. How boring would life be without the spats! But weal was resolved, in the end, to solve our issues by ourselves.
SML has taught me that there is no easy way to be a good man. It takes effort and the consciousness of what is the better road to travel. It also takes acknowledgment of one’s mistakes and keeping one’s pledges to do better.
We have matured together from our ‘okada’ riding days. Our many milestones include our first homes, our first child, and our first degrees. Through it, all, our friendship and common values have grown stronger. SML is a stellar feminist spouse.
They ask what do feminists want in a marital relationship? Well, not too much. Feminists treasure husbands and partners who let us be us. We want our spouses to toughen us and help us negotiate better and walk in our own paths. So doing, they enable us to conquer obstacles and discover new horizons and achieve beyond what we had imagined.
Feminists love spouses that do not feel threatened by our success. When sometimes they tell us maybe you should not do that, we do anyway. Sometimes we are right and at some other times, they are right. Regardless of who is right, our mutual respect endures.
We love spouses who seethe gem in us and don’t allow religion, ethnicity, race, or age to be a barrier to the expression of our love. Such spouses listen to our advocacy; they understand that what we want is a better society and a better world–not only for ourselves but also for our children and generations unborn.
Our husbands are our most important partners. While much of society, including some of those elected to protect women, still struggle to grapple with apparent or nuanced gendered relationships, our husbands love and respect us, appreciate our openness, and want us to succeed. They demonstrate their support in the place that matters most: our home–where they don’t see it as odd to cook for us, bath the children, and change a diaper as occasions demand.
In the spirit of this partnership, feminist wives know it is alright to spend our income on the family. It is no business of outsiders how we make ends meet at home. Who buys the bread and who pays the rent are unimportant to the partnership. What are important are equity, fairness, friendship, and solidarity?
If you are male and wondering how to be a happy man, know that masculinity can also oppress you. In moments when you need to let out the emotions and cry, society may prevent you from enjoying the health derivable from doing so because you are a man. Sometimes your humanity may be at stake when you need to pick up your own plate, lay your bed, cook for your own family, but you don’t because you don’t want to be called a woman wrapper. ‘But it is alright for a man to cry, care for his family, and share in the household chores. In any case, when you were born, you were wrapped in a woman’s wrapper as your mother cuddled you and gave you your first experience of life’s nurture
In closing, I would like to speak to when a feminist is married to an activist I am. SML speaks truth to power. Through his many open letters, he gives power to truth. I may sometimes worry about the letters and quibble over their timing, but I always understand the principle and the logic being expressed without trepidation. Through their thoughts, our teachers and mentors had raised us on their shoulders to have a clear view of the world; they prepared us to navigate the labyrinth that is life. Whether working from within or from without, we are change-makers. SML and I will always strive to positively impact our world.
I would like to affirm my husband for embodying these values and to say, with love, Happy 60th Year, in advance. Allah ya ja kwana. (I pray that his life is long) and continues to be a beacon of hope and courage and a powerful symbol of possibility for the many watching, including our children. Happy International Women’s Day 2022 to you all.
08 March 2022
Gender Equality Today For A Sustainable Tomorrow #BreakTheBias