As the world marks the international Women’s Day, the African Union Economic, Social a d Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC Nigeria) has called on the federal government of Nigeria to implement strategies that would empower the rural Nigerian Woman.
The Council in a statement by the Nigeria representative Dr. Tunji Asaolu and the special adviser, diaspora, Mrs Chinwe Maduike, Thursday said the government should mobilise rural women leaders, organisations, and grassroots groups to claim their rights;
Strengthening local/national initiatives in rural communities and creating new women’s groups to rise for compliance.
“The government should also raise awareness of the multifaceted problems still facing rural women communities; educating for advocacy and providing empowerment tools; linking rural women and their communities to the wider International communities; ringing to light the inequalities and lack of progress in many rural areas, its multifaceted aspects of poverty, and the need to generate sufficient government and public support for improving life in rural areas; and reating new synergies at many levels between diverse actors (youth and women included) to empower communities.”
ASAOLU said in line with agenda 2063, the promotion of gender equality for the African Woman has been given high priority by the African Union and that this has been effectively implemented through result-oriented actions both within the secretariat and in member states with a wide range of International partners.
And that rural women across African remain amongst the most marginalised in terms of exclusion from political and economic power and that they often face numerous violations of their human rights as a result of intersectional discrimination, poverty and lack of access to essential services.
“Yet, many African rural women are also at the front lines of human rights advocacy, fighting for a better life for themselves, their families and communities. The obstacles that they face are often formidable, and the issues they raise often put them at risk of violence and abuse.
“In rural Africa, the role played by women is enormous, they produce up to 70% of the food grown on small farms. Yet, they receive only 30% of the support available. Reducing this gap and levelling the field for women isn’t just fair, it is crucial for the continent’s future: women invest 90% of their income into their family, providing their children with education, medical care and a better future. Rural women represent two-thirds of all illiterate people in Africa.
“Rural African women still own as little as 25% of the land, despite being the backbone of the agricultural sector. Ownership of agricultural assets such as land increases agricultural output which has a critical impact on food security and self-sufficiency. To empower more African rural women, our governments have to come up with a more transformative framework that will accelerate the desired change in the lives of women and girls, investing in women’s education, health, property rights, access to and control over financial resources, knowledge and information, all are fundamental. Women at all levels have to be at the fore front of the agriculture global value chains and markets found by their various government for their produce.
“African Union ECOSOCC Nigeria is commits to make that difference. But we can only make that difference when everyone is part of it: Governments, the private sector and civil society. We also advocate for new gender policies that are women friendly so that more of our rural women can be empowered,” he said
He said further that African Union, ECOSOCC has been working hard on all fronts to actively promote gender equality and women’s rights and empowerment.
And that the Women’s Day celebration is also an opportunity to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: while ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
“AU ECOSOCC recognises rural African women as a particularly disadvantaged group in need of additional rights. All African Union ECOSOCC AU projects strongly stipulate and are geared towards ensuring that they like their urban counterparts should enjoy a wide array of rights: education, health care, and a selection of civil and political rights.
“Our female focused projects aim to enumerate the rights of the rural women related to participation in agriculture and development. These projects also include the right for rural women to organise self-help groups and cooperatives for the purpose of obtaining “equal access to economic opportunities through employment or self-employment in Nigeria”. Our projects also looks to implement a wide range of socioeconomic rights for all Women.
“These include rights to various types of infrastructure, including water, sanitation, transport, and housing to name a few.
We do know for a fact that rural women human rights defenders are often at risk of violence when working, for example, to protect victims, transform local customs or secure natural resource rights.’ Land grabbing, unfair land distribution, development projects, environmental degradation, extractive industries, and climate change have all placed increased stress on many rural communities in Nigeria/Africa,” he explained.
Contributing on efforts of the Council to improve the lots of women in Nigeria, Chinwe said in many cases, increasing contestation around land has resulted in mass displacement, which has particularly detrimental impacts for rural women.
Saying rural women have been at the forefront of many of the efforts to resist unfair demands to concede their lands, and many have met with extreme and sometime even fatal violence.
“We work with our International partners in various African countries, to improve women’s rights and development organisations, grassroots groups, and the media to mobilise communities, connect women, men, girls, and boys to work for continued change and ensure that especially rural women rise and claim their right to developments, equality, and peace.
“Our projects and female focused initiatives have largely being about creating widespread multi-sectoral interest and increased action by women’s groups and networks to gain the support from partners, local authorities, donors, and academics to bring their priorities and practices to the forefront of policy and programming for the reduction of vulnerabilities to disasters, climate change, and poverty. It serves as an additional platform for mobilisation and education of the public at large,” she explained.