Yesterday, March 8, was celebrated across the world as International Women’s Day, to recognize the contributions of women to peace, as well as economic and national development. ENE OSANG reports that besides not meeting needs of women, global attention is on women’s livelihood
In 1975, the United Nations (UN) declared every 8th of March as the day to recognize the contributions of women to peace, economic and national development. Over the years, the International Women’s Day (IWD) has helped to create a platform of advancing the status of women worldwide, although many women needs are yet to be met.
The theme for the year’s celebration is: “Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives” has been described as a call for more action from gender champions to double efforts in the struggle towards making life better for women.
Since after the Beijing Women’s Conference, Nigerian women have made some achievements, though many have argued that these achievements have been slow and uneven and so, they have continued to call for change.
Speaking on the theme, the Jigawa state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Ladi Ibrahim, maintains that it is important to celebrate women’s day because it gives them opportunity to check on their progress and discuss issues affecting them.
Ibrahim lamented the plight of women, particularly those in the rural parts of the state, saying the major challenge to their progress is poverty.
High poverty rate in Jigawa
“In Jigawa state, the level of poverty is very high, and affects the women more. We do a lot of empowerment programme to improve on their status and we are doing our best to reduce the level of poverty as much as we can.
“There are so many other areas of challenge Jigawa state women need to change; there are so many beggars mostly, women and children, cases of rape which affect women and girls more, child abuse, drug addiction and many others, as a result of poverty”.
She said the best intervention for these women was to ensure the enrolment of children both boys and girls in school, to avoid future large number of impoverished people.
Low level of education
“The level of education is very low in the state and if there would be change, the change must begin with educating our children, because there is no level of progress without education.
“If all the female children are enrolled into schools, it will go a long way to change their lives for better because they will grow up into well informed and empowered adults who can take care of their needs.
“The ministry of women affairs is collaborating with the ministry of education to ensure that more children, especially girls, are enrolled in schools and we are carrying out a lot of sensitization and enlightenment campaigns to drive the message down. Girls should go to school at least, up to secondary school level,” she stressed.
“Early marriage, is another area where we need change, though this is not much in Jigawa, all we are pressing for is for girls to be enrolled in school.
“I am from a health sector, I know the problem of early child marriage like VVF, which has affected so many girls in my state. Luckily now, there is a center where they are referred to and operated upon. There are also international donors “Doctors without Borders” who are conducting series of operations on those affected, we appeal to parents to see the need for girl child education, “ she said.
Bauchi women embrace skills
Also speaking on the theme, the Bauchi state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Child Development, Rukeiya Ibrahim Kewa (Esq), said that women in the state are reacting positively to the information and enlightenment they receive.
Kewa said they had been able to enlighten many women on the need to be empowered through training and retraining of women especially on skills acquisition.
“Bauchi state women are improving because we have been training them on skills acquisition, through our center, owned by the ministry and another, by the state government. We train and retrain them but, the major challenge is marketing and we are working on that too.
Pushing for women’s rights
“In terms of pushing for the rights of women, they are coming out to talk on a daily basis, unlike before when women suffered in silence, now, they talk and demand for their rights, especially, what they want government to do for them,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary, Enugu state Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development, Chinyere Oluka, said the theme was in order, adding that the state had always had rural women at heart.
Enugu encourages rural women
“The Enugu state First Lady, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, has always encouraged women particularly those at the rural areas to push for their rights.
“We shall continue to speak for them and we urge all to give women the opportunity to voice out, to work, and earn a decent living without being stigmatized because of their gender. Women should be encouraged to achieve their aims in life,” she added.
The Co-Founder, Onyi-Bala Foundation; a grassroots based NGO which basically caters for the needs of rural women, Mrs. Ummulkhair Hamzat, said a lot desired to be done to elevate the living conditions of women at the rural areas.
Grassroots women and potential
According to her, Women and girls in grassroots have so much potential
yet, the society would not allow them to air their opinions or contribute to community development activities.
“Boys get more attention and privileges in our society today. When we have crisis, women and girls are mostly affected. Take for instance, the insurgence in the north or the adverse effect of climate change, more women have lost their lives and children to this menace,” she decried.
Call for commitment to plight of rural women
She therefore called on government and the international community to show more commitment to the plights of rural women especially in terms of education, noting that not much impact has been recorded in this area.
“In terms of results, due to high level of corrupt practices in the past, Intervention funds allocated for basic education do not get to the communities and are not accounted for.
“We have very good policies but, no one implements them and no one takes responsibilities,” she said.
In finding solutions to the numerous challenges women face, Hamzat maintains that no one can speak for women better than the most affected. She called for all to speak for women, saying, it is not wrong amplifying the voices of the grassroots women and girls in terms of access to equal opportunities and quality education.
The Jigawa state Commissioner for Women Affairs, called for more attention to gender issues, ”these must be given the needed attention”, adding, “when this is tackled a lot of challenges women face would have been solved”.
Gender and equal opportunities
“I was invited for the public hearing on the Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEO) Bill, but, when I was told that the public hearing had been postponed indefinitely I taught it was a joke because this is an important issue.
“We have only two female commissioners out of the 13 commissioners, and two permanent secretaries out of the 30 available in the state, so you can imagine the huge gap.
“Even now that political election is fast approaching hardly they allow women to participate. I want the bill to be passed because it will help women a lot,” she said.
Emphasising that:”It is not fair that the GEO bill is been treated like this, but the reality today, most men cannot take care of the family and that is why women work hard to make sure they support their families, themselves and even relatives but men hardly do this so, it is very important we give this bill attention to make sure it is passed to law and implemented”.
On her part, the Bauchi state Commissioner supported the passage of the bill, saying if passed the crisis will have legal backing .
She however urged women to take their time to plan for the bill, because when it is passed into law it will go a long way to alleviating the suffering of women.
“Justice rushed is justice denied, we shouldn’t rush it but ensure we plan it well,” she advised.