Women Can Now Sit at the Table in Obodo-Ugwa

Communications February 3, 2021 0

By Kevwe Oghide

The Dawn of a New Day

On the 23rd of September 2020, the women of Obodo-Ugwa, Delta State, took their seats comfortably for the first time at the Community Development Committee (CDC) meeting where issues of rural governance and development were deliberated.

Up until that day, men dominated these meetings and made social & economic decisions on behalf of women. The culture and tradition forbade women from joining meetings that men presided over. If women had concerns, they were expected to tell their husbands or male representatives in the household. Discussing these concerns at community development meetings now comes at the discretion of the male representatives, otherwise women’s opinions and challenges never saw the light of day.

Profiling Obodo-Ugwa

Obodo Ugwa Ogume is a small village with a population of about 4000 people in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State that produces oil, making it an attraction to Oil and Gas companies. Since it is an oil exploration site, it goes without saying that it’s also a location where gas is flared—a menace that has heightened environmental degradation, caused ill health, poisoned water, polluted farm crops and worse, adversely impacted the fragile phenomenon of the village.

Not only is the livelihood of villagers thwarted but despite being a huge contributor to the Nigerian Economy and an enricher of the pockets of Oil & Gas executives, Obodo- Ugwa has also been denied structural development.

The people of Obodo-Ugwa can be classified as marginalised, vulnerable people whose voices have been ignored and their human rights violated.

Conflict & Fragility Issues: How OXFAM and CODE are changing the status quo

OXFAM Nigeria and Connected Development, two not-for-profit Organisations, kicked-off a Conflict and Fragility Project in the Oil region of Delta State to advocate for the responsiveness of Oil companies to host communities. The campaign addressed the risks associated with the lack of adherence to business principles of operations by actors in the Oil & Gas value chain while engaging with host communities in the Niger-Delta. This often results in conflict and fragility issues. 

The campaign envisioned an improved adherence to business principles as contained in the United Nations Guiding Principles [UNGP]. This adherence seeks to improve human rights practices and corporate social responsibility of operators in the oil and gas sector towards their host communities. It urges commodity traders to operate in an accountable, transparent and human-rights-sensitive manner. This can significantly ensure that a mutually beneficial relationship between oil firms and host communities exists.

One of the outcomes of the campaign was to stimulate gender inclusion in local extractive governance to spur an inclusive and effective community development. CODE & OXFAM, known for their advancement of the causes of women’s rights, accelerated action to advocate for gender inclusion in Obodo-Ugwa.

Women Participation and Community Development

Things are starting to look up for Obodo-Ugwa. OXFAM and CODE, on different occasions, organised town hall meetings and advocacy calls where key stakeholders from the Oil & Gas sector such as regulators and oil explorers and community chiefs and leaders deliberated on a way forward.

Recognising the importance of promoting inclusiveness, CODE and OXFAM further intensified efforts to advocate gender inclusion and gender-responsive public services in the community so that women can have a place in local governance structures. Gender inclusion and women participation in communities should be beyond primitive gender role of caring for just the home and family. Women should be empowered to actively participate in politics, economy, social and cultural aspects of life. For women to be able to fully exercise their human rights, gender perspectives have to be mainstreamed in all inclusive social policies.

2 weeks before the inauguration of a new community development committee, CODE’s Programs Associate, Onyekachi Onuoha received a call from the Chairman of the CDC, inviting CODE to witness the result of its advocacy. Community elders now seek to include women in CDC meetings and have women take up executive roles.

Here we are at Obodo-Ugwa witnessing a first-of-its-kind where there is a female vice president of the CDC and a female Finance head. The recognition of women’s participation will have far-reaching impacts in building the community into an inclusive society.

Although traditional norms and value systems in rural areas especially are still limiting the participation of women in community development, CODE, during its advocacy activities in grassroots communities often mainstreams gender-responsiveness and gender equality in its interactions and engagements to ensure communities are informed of the importance of including women in decision-making processes.

Testimonies

“Women do not sit with men at village meetings except when they are summoned. This is a dream come true! Seeing my fellow women as not just members but executives on the Community Development Committee gives me joy! Ehn ehn, now we can say what our needs are without discussing first with our husbands. The village market that they are building was because women complained of long-distance travel to buy food items. I am glad this happened in my time.,” Obodo Ugwa resident, Veronica Obi, beamed.

“This is the first time in the history of the Obodo Ugwa CDC that women will be allowed to participate- not only that- quantum progress has been recorded because 3 women were also added to the CDC executive board- a vice president, a women leader and the CDC Secretary.” – CDC Chairman, Anslem Oyibo.

“Women have now been given management roles. They will oversee the market building and the school completion. They get to make decisions on behalf of the village. This has never happened. I am glad to witness it.” — Community Chief, Chief Friday Okoro.

“We are happy about this development. Look around, women and men were equally represented in this committee. We now have to prove our responsibility. I have plans to request the provision of loan and grants to support women’s initiative. I hope to see that happen. There is so much we can do and conquer.” CDC Vice chairman, Patricia Oluomo stated.

POLICY BRIEF: ENDING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

Communications January 25, 2021 0

Project States: FCT, Adamawa, Sokoto, Lagos, Ebonyi, Cross River.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is arguably one of the most prevalent human rights violation in the world and is currently a “Shadow Pandemic” – resulting in life threatening consequences on women and girls, negatively impacting their life opportunities. This human rights violation is firmly rooted in gender inequality experienced by women globally. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by GBV.

GBV is manifested through a multitude of actions, including the forced marriage of young girls, trafficking in persons, FGM, rape and attempted rape, purdah, violence directed at individuals with different sexual orientation, sexual violence, verbal abuse and laws and regulations that limit women’s and girls’ rights and access to services in relation to men’s. These practices are not only violations of the human rights of the individuals affected but are also an instrumentalist approach to sustain the status quo and the hierarchy of gender identities. Women living in poverty are particularly vulnerable, as they face high levels of structural violence, including difficulty accessing health and legal services needed to address the effects of interpersonal GBV.

Prevailing Factors that Exacerbate Gender-Based Violence:

  1. Weak and non-existent policy and legal frameworks, and their implementation thereof;
  2. Existing discriminatory laws and policies that repress the rights of women;
  3. Socio-cultural and religious beliefs;
  4. Effects of sexist social trends and pop culture.

Lack of awareness of the human rights has reduced the insights and urgency needed to combating the persuasive nature of Gender based violence and to achieve that, there has to be: 

  • Increase in information about sexual and Gender based violence.
  • Greater advocacy in the support of legal reforms to discourage GBV.
  • More efforts to ensure Enforcement of existing laws on violence.

Policy Asks and Recommendations 

  1. Enactment and Implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition [VAPP] Act.
  2. Enactment and Implementation of the Child Rights Act.
  3. Adoption/Development of an Action Plan to End Gender Based Violence.
  4. Inclusion of gender responsive budgeting in appropriation laws.
  5. Establishment and funding of Sexual Assault Referral Centres across the Federation.
  6. Implementation of a robust database of perpetrators.
  7. Increased sensitization on mainstreaming gender sensitivity and equality.

FollowTheMoney will focus on strengthening the capacity of women and girls in the benefitting communities/wards within the spotlight initiative focal state as advocates and instruments in monitoring the adoption of the State and National Action Plan on eliminating Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria. 

This project is supported by the United Nations Spotlight Initiative

Can We Truly Achieve Social Justice in Nigeria?

Communications February 19, 2020 0

By Anne Alagbe

The idea of social justice continues to be far-reaching especially in a country like Nigeria. We still grapple with fair treatment and advocating for equality seems to be daunting. There is a component of social injustice at every level in the country.

Children in Bagega, Zamfara State

Unemployment in Nigeria remains at a staggering high of 23.10%. The roads are dotted with street sellers, trying to sell anything they can from groundnuts to crossword books for children. Okada bikers and Keke drivers recklessly put themselves at risk while facing the brutality of the roads in order to earn a living for themselves and their families. Then, there are the saleswomen who wake up early to sell their merchandise in the markets persistently negotiating prices with their customers in order to provide money to feed their children. One may wonder where justice is in such a broken system. A system which benefits the rich and consistently puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The theme of this year’s Social Justice Day is ‘Closing The Inequalities Gap To Achieve Social Justice’. It may appear impossible a task to achieve here in Nigeria with all the chaos taking place, the hundreds if not thousands of people in the towns of Lagos who have now been rendered jobless due to the ban of Keke and Okada bikes– a strong avenue for crime and other atrocities to thrive, if you ask me. With actions like this, one may wonder if Nigeria can boldly speak of Social Justice for all.

Women speak up in Waru Community, Borno

According to an article written by the UN, ‘Social Justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.’ The truth is, in order to truly achieve this ‘peaceful’ and ‘prosperous coexistence’ in the country, much more than empty government promises, citizens need to be prioritised more than selfish interests. There must be a complete and utter revamping of a system which has consistently been broken, alongside the reprogramming of a mindset that can ensure people begin to trust the leaders.

Social Justice Day advocates for poverty eradication and fair treatment in employment and support for social integration. This is a goal that we should thrive to achieve, however, with the statistics showing that one in five workers still live in moderate or extreme poverty coupled with stagnant wages and gender inequality, socio-economic growth is hindered greatly.

Dilapidated School in Damagum, Yobe State

Despite the disorder which is currently taking place and how uncertain things may look, Social Justice can be achieved if tackled with a sense of urgency and a determination to completely transform the status quo. One of the main ways to achieve this is ensuring citizens are able to access basic human facilities such as clean potable water, decent healthcare facilities, good quality education for all, well-paid jobs made available amongst many others. Corruption from the top being state governments not using the full funds that they were received to fulfil the needs of its citizens, corruption of policemen and army officials waving their guns around at drivers whilst coarsely asking for money, and may God help the unfortunate soul who refuses to pull out a few hundred Naira’– all must be frowned against and tackled. 

We will truly be able to advance Social Justice once all barriers, including tribalism, ethnicity and religious discriminations are obliterated, promoting a wholesome society where everyone has an equal opportunity and an equal right to succeed.