Gender-based violence (GBV) increases during every type of emergency- whether economic crises, conflict or disease outbreaks. Pre-existing toxic social norms and gender inequalities, economic and social stress amplified by the COVID- 19 pandemic restrictions have led to an increase in reported cases of GBV. Many women are ‘locked down’ at home with their abusers while being cut off from normal support services.
The Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) has therefore observed with so much concern the rise in rape and domestic violence incidences in Nigeria. CEHRD condemns gender-based violence in its entirety especially rape and domestic abuses. The high incidence of rape now that families are sheltering together against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country is condemnable. According to the Nigeria Police report, between January to May 2020, seven hundred and seventeen (717) cases of gender-based violence were recorded. In Rivers state, civil society organizations working on gender have reported over thirty-two (32) cases of domestic and sexual violence while in Bayelsa state, there has been over fifty-eight (58) cases. We believed the reported incidences are grossly higher because the vast majority of cases are not reported due to stigmatization, distrust in the justice system as well as fear of reprisal.
Children are precious gifts that should be protected. Thus, it is worrisome to note that they are also victims. A society that fails to protect her children has also failed to protect its future. We, therefore, urge all citizens to collectively say no to all forms of gender-based violence. Public education on GBV is a requisite tool but we also need to solidify family bonds so that our children and families are able to report violations and also flag off potential predators.
CEHRD urges us as society to have a rethink in our expectations of gender roles. We do so by grooming women who are unafraid to change the narrative. This means training the girl child to think and act without the limitations that culturally prescribed role of gender entrenches. Women must support themselves by encouraging each other and collectively demand for their rights – gender equality. Everyone has a role to play if we will curb this evil of GBV. Law enforcement agencies must ensure that their actions do not further victimize GBV victims. They must enforce the law irrespective of the victim family belief or class of the violators.
The Federal and States government and CSO stakeholders should therefore as a matter of urgency:
· Ensure that all the States in Nigeria domesticate and enforce Violence Against Persons’ Prohibitions (VAPP) Act
· Provide counselling services and other effective remedies to victim of sexual and domestic violence
· Ensure that GBV response services, including justice services are designated as essential and remain open and accessible
· Conduct a rapid GBV-COVID-19 assessment to understand the changing context and any gaps in capacity or services
· Promote the inclusion of organizations that works on gender issues development plan, implementation and monitoring
· Promote and protect human rights throughout COVID-19 pandemic response value chain.
· Ensure emergency COVID-19 related policies and legislation uphold international human rights standards
· Ensure that individuals, especially women can safely avert abusive situations by providing accessible support, advice and reporting mechanism
· Support partnerships and coordination between the Police, the health sector and civil society in providing safe space and justice to victims of sexual and domestic violence
· Ensure that cases such as rape and domestic violence are classified as urgent cases by Courts that have restricted operations due to lockdown.
Gender Officer, CEHRD
About CEHRD’s Gender Programme
CEHRD gender programme aims to integrate equity into policies and practices. Through trainings, CEHRD supports community women to change culturally prescribed roles and become equal partners in development. CEHRD also support institutions like the police and health workers through trainings and workshops. CEHRD institutional support is to ensure that response are gender sensitive and protects and respect human rights. CEHRD is an active campaigner for the domestication of the Violence against Person Prohibition (VAPP).
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development joins the world to commemorate this year’s world ocean day. The day is set aside by the United Nations to sensitize and educate the global community on the health and challenges of the ocean and its extraordinary rich biodiversity. This year’s theme is tagged “innovation for sustainable ocean”. The theme is expected to lay the foundation for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will run from 2021-2030. The decade would be used to strengthen international cooperation and scientific research, and innovative technologies that will connect ocean science with the needs of the society.
Evidence exists that ocean huge biodiversity has the solution to various health risks and environmental challenges faced by mankind – yet land-based human activities constitute the major destroyers of ocean life. It is interesting to note that benthic organisms are used to speed up the detection of COVID 19. Yet, not much is being done to secure the oceans bottom ecosystems that provide solutions to virtually every health and environmental risks faced by our societies.
As a nation, Nigeria’s efforts to protect and conserve the marine ecosystem remain extremely weak. The efforts range from legislation to human behavior in the different communities across the nation. There are numerous land-based practices that compromise the integrity of our 853 km Atlantic Ocean coastline to provide ecosystem goods and services that support human existence. They also alter the physico-chemical properties of the ocean environment that makes it function maximally. The human activities which include chemical fishing, indiscriminate dumping of waste, open ocean defecation, sewage disposal amongst others, are daily occurrences that distort ocean life. Also, within the Niger Delta region, oil and gas activities significantly impact ocean life. Numerous oil spills and untreated effluent discharges from industrial and artisanal refining sites delimit fisheries and other ocean lives, some of which are core livelihood structures in our communities; thereby worsening the poverty situation in the region. Uncontrolled discharges from industrial and artisanal refining infrastructures poison the food chain and affect food security. A classic example is the massive fish kill that occurred last month on the coastline of some Niger Delta states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom. Health risks posed by such incidence affect final consumers of fisheries and make the ocean environment toxic.
CEHRD is calling on relevant authorities particularly the federal and state government to develop innovative technologies for addressing land-based waste that ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. Government should develop ocean resource management strategies that would contribute to attaining the sustainable development goal 14 (life under water). Lastly, and most importantly, government should prioritize scientific research to conserve and encourage sustainable exploitation and conservation of ocean resources. It is through research that new methods, ideas and innovative system for ocean conservation and protection, in our context, can be identified, tested and domesticated. CEHRD will continue to sensitize and educate local communities on the benefits of sustainable fishing, ocean protection and conservation, mangrove restoration and contribute to the policies and legislation that will sustain our collective efforts towards sustainable ocean management.
Kabari Sam (PhD)
Head, Environment and Conservation
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
As the world marks the 2020 World Environment Day titled “Time for Nature”, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) decries the degrading state of nature’s goods and services in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta. Given the connection between nature and human development, CEHRD insists that achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) will remain elusive in Nigeria as long as the integrity of life-supporting ecosystem goods and services is compromised by unregulated human activities. It is, therefore, pertinent for all stakeholders (the government, private sector, Civil society, individuals) to take on environmental stewardship responsibility to conserve nature.
Nigeria has ratified almost all necessary conventions, treaties and protocols that support climate action. However, subsequent domestication and implementation is the bane of such instruments. The pattern of poor implementation of policies relating to protecting nature and natural resources, particularly biodiversity is the same across all levels of governance in the country.
We cannot relegate the importance of biodiversity and the life-support role nature plays in human development. We need biodiversity for almost all sectors of the economy including medicine, textiles, pharmacy, food and beverage, construction, and the list continues. Taking the Niger Delta region into focus, the earth can no longer sustain life. The people can neither access potable drinking water nor breath clean air. Existing water sources are loaded with hydrocarbon making it unfit for consumption. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published a report stating the urgent need to provide potable drinking water to communities in Ogoniland where existing water sources contained benzene levels 900 >World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for potable drinking water. The report also outlined the plausible health risks the people in the communities are exposed to, for consuming contaminated water. Nine years after the UNEP report, the communities continue to consume same benzene-laden water. Even in the Covid-19 era, when constant hand washing for 20 seconds has become the new normal, most local communities do not have the luxury to imbibe such simple hygiene, given that clean water is a scarce commodity.
Similarly, the air people in the Niger Delta breathe is impaired and composed majorly of particulate matter (soot) -a major cause of premature death globally. In fact, a recent study undertaken by CEHRD recorded PM2.5 as high as 567μg/m3 (24hrs Mean) in the Port Harcourt Metropolis as against WHO’s guideline of 25 μg/m3 for PM2.5 (24hrs Mean). If this trend subsists, the inhabitants will face an epidemic of respiratory illnesses and consequently transform the town and adjoining communities to cancer hubs.
Gas flaring and artisanal refining activities has contributed significantly to the impairment of air quality in the region. As a result, life expectancy in the Niger Delta is reportedly 10 years less than those in other regions in same country. While this is exacerbated by other contributory factors such as unemployment, behavioural change is key to resolving the sundry issues of biodiversity conservation. It is therefore highly imperative to situate the theme of this year’s World Environment Day in the context of perennial environmental issues within the Niger Delta region.
First, the grievous issue of mangrove degradation should be prioritized. Oil business and its ancillary activities have destroyed unquantifiable hectares of mangrove in the Niger Delta region. In Bodo City, a coastal community in Rivers State, over 2000 hectares of mangroves were destroyed by two major oils spills about a decade ago. This means, 2000 hectares of mangroves that would have sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere were destroyed without remediation or restoration till date. Second, Nigeria is the world poverty capital, and agriculture seems to be the only viable traditional livelihood that can potently restore the devastated local economy, and provide employment for a critical mass of youths including men and women. However, significant arable landmass in the area is unable to support agriculture due to extensive legacy oil spills sites and impacts of climate change. Similarly, the rivers no longer support the age-long fisheries livelihood of the region as the daily occurrence of hydrocarbon has further delimited fish species and the habitat that support them. Third, because oil spills inhibit the soil microbial community, and that remedial action towards remediation of oil spills sites has been ad-hoc, crop yield has declined tremendously.
Fourth, human behavior towards marine organisms has been detrimental to the inability of the marine environment to continually support life. For example, since the last World Environment Day, over 3 Whales have been publicly butchered in coastal communities in Bayelsa state, despite being protected species. This sort of unacceptable behaviour threatens biodiversity and limits the ability of nature to support life and human development.
We must therefore incorporate nature-based solution into global climate action to address the problems facing biodiversity. New policies and political directions must consider nature, and its abilities to continue to support life on earth. For instance, issues related to oil spills and gas flaring should no longer be delayed or deprioritized as seen in our national policy. Both activities should be treated as environmental crimes and stringent measures applied where they occur. Thus, the first would be for Nigeria to muster the political will to end gas flaring NOW.
Climate action in the Nigerian context should mean to end gas flaring, oil spills, indiscriminate dumping of waste, artisanal oil refining, oil theft, and the release of industrial waste in our rivers. The ad-hoc approach to remediating oil-polluted sites, as currently practiced is a pathway towards bigger environmental and socio-economic issues. Without mixing words, the hydrocarbon pollution remediation project (HYPREP) is one of Government’s climate actions towards restoring nature and supporting biodiversity restoration. However, the activities and programmes of HYPREP in the last 3 years have not met the expectations of the supposed beneficiaries. It is the desire of stakeholders that government takes responsibility to ensure that HYPREP creates sustainable jobs for the teaming youths in the Niger Delta, develop the necessary infrastructure for sustainable waste management, develop the capacity of local communities, demonstrate capacity to clean, remediate and restore legacy sites in Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta. Above all, it is expected that HYPREP would immediately provide potable drinking water to communities in Ogoniland.
CEHRD and other civil society organizations has been at the forefront sensitizing the local population and building capacity of community members on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Part of CEHRD’s climate action campaign is the establishment of Environment clubs in secondary schools in the Niger Delta, where students are trained as environmental vanguards for climate action. In addition, CEHRD has undertaken mangrove restoration, tree planting exercise in many communities across the delta. On this note, CEHRD admonishes the Local, State and Federal Governments to immediately initiate steps towards:
i. Local government should enact by-laws to establish mangrove protected areas (MPA)
ii. Undertake extensive air quality baseline studies and take measures to enhance air quality in the region
iii. Use the mass media and civil society organizations to drive behavioural change towards nature
iv. Entrench tree planting as a life style in local communities across the country
v. Develop and implement a blue-print for infrastructural development towards ending gas flaring in Nigeria
vi. Provide alternate livelihood packages for youths involved in artisanal refining
vii. Develop capacity across stakeholder groups in climate action
viii. Develop sustainable waste management mechanisms
ix. Provide avenues for waste recycling
x. Provide stringent penalty for gas flaring
xi. Pay adequate attention to climate change by means of developing a focal agency to address climate change issues
xii. Develop adequate policies and bye-laws where applicable to ensure attitudinal change towards the environment.
CEHRD believes that a pragmatic framework towards energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as globally practiced would benefit the country, and enhance nature rejuvenation. This implies appropriate policies, economic diversification, changing oil money mentality, and a deliberate actionable policy towards creating a knowledge-based economy.
Kabari Sam (PhD)
Head, Environment and Conservation
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
About World Environment Day
This year’s World Environment Day tagged Time for Nature. In the last 48yrs, the world has consistently commemorated the Environment Day on June 5 every year, setting the agenda for awareness and action to ensure environmental conservation, protection and restoration. Each year’s commemoration has been tagged an interesting theme focused on a pressing environmental need. In this eventful year 2020, the World Environment Day is tagged “Time for Nature”. This year’s theme is consequently imperative as over 1million plant and animal species across the world face extinction with many others endangered. This indicates a limiting measure for biodiversity to support life on earth. Amongst the planets in the universe, the presence of water and oxygen on earth made it suitable for life. These features characterize an ecosystem that can support human development. This year’s world environment theme is focused on Nature’s role to provide essential infrastructure that supports life on earth and human development. This role, particularly of ensuring quality oxygen for humans and clean water for life, will elude humans, if we continue to indulge activities that hasten extinction of other life forms and destroy biodiversity.
The Launch of the Women in Governance Network (WIGN) was a success in Bayelsa State. Over 150 women from various communities in Bayelsa state participated in the event. The torch has been lit and given to them to go into their communities, mobilise and mentor other women. This is with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Abuja.
The WIGN is a platform designed by CEHRD to bring together women in politics and promote their inclusion and participation in politics. The network encourages women to support each other in politics, irrespective of parties’ affiliations.
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) joins the world to commemorate this year’s World Earth Day tagged Climate Action. This year’s commemoration is remarkable for two main reasons. First, this is the 50th year since the marking of the World Earth Day. Second, the coincidence with the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought almost every country to her knees and affected virtually every sector of human endeavour.
Climate change presents the biggest challenge to human existence on the planet earth. This is because it is threatening every life-supporting system, and would make the earth unlivable for humanity in the nearest future –if drastic mitigating steps are taken. We cannot over emphasize the need for increased global commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. To achieve this, countries must develop achievable steps, though ambitious, towards maintaining the global average temperature rise by less than 2 degree Celsius pre-industrial levels. As ambitious as this seems, every country has a role to play in ensuring the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change is achieved.
At the national level, Nigeria has demonstrated commitment to mitigate and adapt climate change impacts by ratifying the Paris Agreement. This has been followed by a National Climate Change Policy framework with lofty objectives such as ensuring effective national response to climate change impacts, low carbon economy, implementation of mitigation measures and enhancing increased knowledge towards building a climate resilient society. However, there is more to be done. First, climate action would imply that adequate actions towards climate change mitigation and adaptation are outlined in policy documents and that such actions are understood and demonstrated via citizens’ attitude. Second, climate action would also imply that the state and all levels of governance including traditional governance structures understand the impacts of climate change and appreciates measures to mitigate and adapt them. Third, beyond the proposal outlined in policy documents, clear actions in practical terms should demonstrated at individual and communal levels to show climate change and its impacts are real and that we have got to the point where we cannot wish the climate scourge away.
As a country, despite our commitment to climate action, we are primarily dependent on fossil fuels –a major climate change driver. Nigeria is one of the countries with notable increase in gas flaring as at 2017. Nothing drastic has changed since then, rather activities contributing to gas flaring has quadrupled. In fact, Nigeria jettisoned its policy to end gas flaring by 2020 –a major source of carbon dioxide, which drives global warming. In spite of the shift in dates to end gas flaring, there is no blue-print towards developing the needed infrastructure for gas harmonization and commercialization. Oil industry operators still prefer to flare gas, as penalties are peanuts. At the
State level, climate action is not on the policy radar as indicated in the ‘zero policy’ towards achieving the aim of the National Climate Change Policy Framework. At the community level, artisanal refining, which contributes substantial amount of carbon dioxide in the Niger Delta is increasing alarmingly. Every state suffers hotter weather conditions, in addition to desertification in the north, gully erosion in the east, ocean upsurge in the west and south, and poor agricultural yield and destruction of expanse of mangrove forest in the south.
At the (Niger Delta) regional level, artisanal crude oil refining has become a lucrative business for unemployed youths in spite of its grave environmental consequences. This singular activity emits unquantifiable levels of carbon dioxide on daily basis with attendant public health implications. Similarly, simple waste segregation and recycling are not practiced in the region, making methane (a global warming driver) emission a daily occurrence in the region.
Residents of Rivers State, for example, suffer the double impacts of climate change and oil spills, as a consequence of open waste dumping, unprofessional use of fertilizers, burning of fossil fuels, individual power generation, artisanal oil refining (kpofire), deforestation, mangrove degradation and oil spills amongst others. As a result, locals are sandwiched between two extremes. This has been demonstrated in the consistent flooding experienced consecutively since 2012 in parts of the State, reduced farm yield due to drier soils, communal crisis, insecurity, flooding, and unexplainable diseases. There is no better time to take reactive but sustainable actions than now.
CEHRD and other civil society organizations has been at the forefront sensitizing the local population and building capacity of community members on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Part of CEHRD’s climate action campaign is the establishment of school clubs in secondary schools in the Niger Delta, where students are trained as environmental vanguards for climate action. In addition, CEHRD has undertaken tree planting exercise in many communities across the delta. On this note, CEHRD admonishes the Local, State and Federal Governments to immediately initiate steps towards:
i. To entrench tree planting as a life style in local communities across the country
ii. Develop and implement a blue-print for infrastructural development towards ending gas flaring in Nigeria
iii. Provide alternate livelihood packages for youths involved in artisanal refining
iv. Provide effective town planning services
v. Develop capacity in climate change action
vi. Develop sustainable waste management mechanisms
vii. Provide avenues for waste recycling
viii. Provide stringent penalty for gas flaring
ix. Pay adequate attention to climate change by means of developing a focal agency to address climate change issues
x. Develop adequate policies and bye-laws where applicable to ensure attitudinal change towards the environment.
Above all, CEHRD believes that a pragmatic framework towards energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as globally practiced would benefit the country. This implies appropriate policies, economic diversification, changing oil money mentality, and a deliberate actionable policy towards creating a knowledge-based economy.
Kabari Sam (PhD)
Head, Environment and Conservation
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
For interview requests:
Please contact Michael Chidozie, Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer of CEHRD to speak to Kabari Sam (PhD), Head, Environment and Conservation or any officials of the organization to speak on the above or any other issue.
Address: CEHRD, Legacy Centre, 6 Abuja Lane, Off Worgu Street, D/Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
We at the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD, join the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s World Health Day. The World Health Day is a significant international day of commemoration as it is seen as an opportunity by the World Health Organization to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year. Since its inception at the first Health Assembly in 1948, the commemoration has aimed to create awareness of specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern. Incidentally, this year’s commemoration day is unique as there is a global cry and attention over the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s theme “to support nurses and midwives” seeks to recognize the vital role of nurses and other health workers. Unarguably, one cannot over emphasize the role of nurses and other health workers in the task of promoting and maintaining health. However, the 2020 commemoration day comes at a time when the world is craving for the services of doctors, nurses and other health workers. This raises concern for the number, and capacity of available health workers and the motivation of same. In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, one may be worried if world giants like the United State of America, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany could be overwhelmed by a single strain of virus. If these world powers are brought to their knees by the virus, developing countries like Nigeria where health infrastructure and facilities are at the infantry stage are now faced with serious threat.
As such, the fate of Nigeria should be of great concern if these great countries could literally cry out for help. Why? These countries have strong existing health systems and structures with good number of health workers and relevant expertise, well-motivated remuneration with very supportive environmental conditions. Despite these favourable conditions, they were still overwhelmed by COVID-19. COVID 19 testing for example, these world powers screen a minimum of three thousand persons per day for COVID-19 accounting for the dramatic rise in positive cases identified. How many persons are tested per day in Nigeria? Certainly far less, hence our slow but progressive increase in the number of positive cases. It must be emphasized that timing is KEY in the treatment and recovery process. An asymptomatic positive case has a better treatment outcome than a symptomatic case. Hence, the pace of our screening process should be reviewed and re-organized to step up the testing process. This is a facility deficit issue, and developing countries like Nigeria must wake up to it. This is the time to invest funds that served medical tourism purposes to improve our health systems and the health work force.
In Nigeria, in addition to elementary medical facilities and manpower, the triad of ignorance, illiteracy and poverty may compound the COVID-19 pandemic if the containment measures fail. Globally, regular hand washing, use of alcohol based hand sanitizers, avoidance of crowded environment, minimizing contact and use of face mask etc are acceptable precautionary measures. There are protocols to the application of these precautionary measures. For example, face mask should be changed after 24 hours. Regrettably, many now use the mask for weeks, in worse cases, citizens use same mask in the market, church and other public places and return with same mask to their homes, exposing members of their household at risk of the disease.
In times like this, when fear is obvious and real, approach to combating COVID-19 should be all inclusive. Government’s sincerity to protecting lives and properties should be paramount and the view of other stakeholders including the Nigeria Medical Association, Joint Health Workers Union and Civil Society groups etc should be considered. For instance, the planned invitation of Chinese Doctors by the Federal Government of Nigeria, is a thought that a critical stakeholder such as the Nigeria Medical Association considers unhealthy. Foreigners from endemic countries poses more danger than help. What our Government should prioritize now is to strengthen our health systems and motivate the work force. In Nigeria, a medical doctor is entitled to hazard allowance of five thousand Naira monthly. Compare this to the newspaper allowance of a Nigeria lawmaker that is over a million naira monthly.
The Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), having monitored the situation in Nigeria, with particular reference to Rivers State in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, hereby recommends as follows:
1) Government at all levels should recognize the significant roles of nurses and other health workers in line with the theme of 2020 world health day. They should be well motivated, and good working environment created for them.
2) Nigerians should be encouraged to adhere to all standard precautionary measures such as regular washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers, avoidance of crowded environment
3) Government policies should consider precautionary measures in line with socio-economic and environmental peculiarities in the face of the pandemic in Rivers State
4) Governments at all levels should drive the lock down order with welfare packages
5) The Federal Government should review the current COVID-19 testing modalities; decentralize the process to accommodate more persons that have had contact.
6) Agencies of Government should respect the right of Nigerians in the face of COVID-19 lock down.
DR. NABIE, NUBARI FRANCIS
Head, Health and Community Development
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
CEHRD continued with its Gender Based Civic and Citizenship Education in each of the 3 senatorial districts in Rivers State for members of Women in Governance Network (WIGN). The second training was held on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at Sam Royal Hotel, Ahoada, Rivers State for another 40 members of WIGN.The training built the confidence of the grassroot women, exposed them on their basic human rights and limitations and encouraged them to actively participate in politics. CEHRD's has established a Mentorship programme for the members of WIGN to enable them fulfil their short and long term goals and contribute to the development of their communities and Rivers State. This is part of activities under the framework for inclusive self-reliance and equal rights in the Niger delta, a project supported by the embassy of the kingdom of the Netherlands, Abuja. The WIGN is a platform designed by CEHRD to bring together women in politics and promote their inclusion and participation in politics.
CEHRD organised a Gender Based Civic and Citizenship Education at Ulakwo Town Hall, Etche, Rivers State for 40 members of Women in Governance Network (WIGN).The training built the confidence of the grassroot women, exposed them on their basic human rights and limitations and encouraged them to actively participate in politics. The meeting identified 18 persons who showed interest in vying for political positions in the next general elections in Rivers State. These women will be mentored under the CEHRD's Mentorship programme to enable them fulfil their short and long term goals and contribute to the development of their communities and the Rivers State. This is part of activities under the framework for inclusive self-reliance and equal rights in the Niger delta, a project supported by the embassy of the kingdom of the Netherlands, Abuja. The WIGN is a platform designed by CEHRD to bring together women in politics and promote their inclusion and participation in politics.
With pleasure and gratitude, CEHRD hosted the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Harry van Dijke and the embassy Second Secretary, Chelsey Buurman today at the CEHRD's Ken Saro-Wiwa Hall of Fame. It was a unique and rare opportunity to discuss topical environmental issues in the Niger Delta region, particularly the Ogoni cleanup. The robust interactive session was attended by representatives of Port Harcourt, Abuja and Bayelsa based Civil Society Organisations who are members of NACGOND and the CORDAID Strategic Partnership (CORDAID SP).
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) joins the world to mark today’s International women’s day. Today, the 8th day of March 2020 is a special day because it calls us to fight for a world where women are valued as humans and are able to reach their full potential. It is a collective fight as meaningful development can only be possible in a society where people irrespective of their gender can equally contribute their quota.
Twenty-five years after the Beijing Platform for action was convened for the advancement and wellbeing of women generally, there have been some achievements made in some of the 12 critical areas of concerns reached at the conference by both state and non-state actors in Africa and in Nigeria. In the area of Education for instance, far more women and girls are getting educated owing to the Universal Basic Education programme that is aimed at making education accessible for members of the society. The gender parity in this regard seems to be reducing especially in primary school enrolment.
However, women, over the years, have been excluded from politics and governance. Generally, they are undervalued and unappreciated due to an artificial cultural and social construction called gender. This year’s theme: “I am a Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Right for a Better Future” aims at rejuvenating women’s efforts all over the world in their little efforts in seeking for equity and equality. A lot of peculiar and important women issues have been completely left out or may probably have been relegated by mostly state actors. There have not been any deliberate programme by the government to address issues of girls who will likely be out of school as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Such programme as to assist them go back to school after their entanglement. There is no doubt the benefit and impacts of education on woman generally will eventually translate to an organized society.
It is obvious that women, especially in Africa, Nigeria and the Niger Delta are more vulnerable to poverty, violence and diseases. They suffer more abuses and violations physically, psychologically and emotionally. They are hardly able to address issues of discrimination as a result of where their gender has placed them and the harsh economic situation which they suffer the most.
Nigeria is bereft of programmes specifically tailored to the needs of women and girls. In the Niger Delta in the event of conflict between militia groups and security agencies women and girls suffer more. In the North East, when Boko Haram and other insurgents violently hit the women also suffer both in the hands of the insurgents and the Nigerian military who are deployed to curtail the menace of insurgency. It is often said that when two elephants’ fights, it’s the grass that suffers. Women and girls become easy prey for both militia groups and security agencies in the course of their actions. The issues of rape and other violence against women are becoming prevalent by the day. The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta did not address issues of women in armed conflict. Neither has the government addressed the issues raised by the vulnerable women at the IDP camps in the North East.
A recent research by CEHRD has revealed that women bear the heaviest brunt of environmental pollution. Expert health opinion has proven that the impact of environmental pollution affects women medically than men, hence the rising cases of maternal health and other terminal diseases among women in the Niger Delta.
CEHRD is concerned about the fact that women are not yet involved even decisions that impact on them. Unjust constructed gender roles have taking them off the domain of politics and governance. Patriarchy has made it the exclusive preserve of the men. It has also thrown them into poverty and reduced them to less humans.
The harsh tag “Each for equal” calls us to champion the fight for equality by opening up the space for discussion on equality. It also calls for engagement on societal bias which constrains women into things rather than humans thereby limiting their horizons and potentials. “Each for equal” also enjoins us to celebrate great women achievers who are paving the way for women to understand that gender roles are constructed and women can be anything they set their mind to become. We therefore celebrate her Excellency Ipalibo Banigo, the Deputy governor of Rivers State, Vice Chairmen in the 23 LGAs of Rivers State as well as in Bayelsa State and Nigeria; women politicians and political actors, Permanent Secretaries, Commissioner, Ministers and Heads of Services. As we celebrate you, we hope you will provide the ladder for other women to be celebrated. To do this, we must broaden our perceptions, through a willingness to act.
We therefore seek to breach the gaps in women’s development by giving them a voice and platforms to realize their potentials. We call for gender justice in all its ramifications. First, women should be empowered. Second, women must be part of decision making and thirdly, the society must end violence against women. If women are empowered, if they are part of decision making, naturally violence against women will reduce. We will live in a better society when there is gender equity and gender equality.