Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration at the UN headquarters in New York next month, Nigerian women rights’ champions are preparing to join their counterparts from across the globe. In this piece ENE OSANG x-rays the report Nigeria will present at the anniversary.
The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the 4th UN World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA 1995 aka Beijing+25); and its 12 critical areas of concern that deal with Women And Poverty; Education And Training For Women; Women And Health; Violence Against Women; Human Trafficking, Women And Armed Conflict; Women And The Economy; Women; Governance; Power And Decision Making; Institutional Mechanisms For The Advancement Of Women; Human Rights Of Women; Women And The Media; Women and The Environment And The Girl Child.
Similarly, 2020 commemorate 20 years of Security Council Resolution 1325, five years of the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 10 years of establishment of UN Women as an organ and agency of the United Nations committed to the achievement of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and girls everywhere in the world and 75 years of the existence of United Nations.
It also marks 30 years of adoption of the Optional Protocol on People’s Charter and the Rights of Women in Africa.
This declaration became over the last two decades and half, the international blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls globally (GEWE).
The Beijing Conference
The 1995 Beijing Conference in China, provided a unique opportunity for women to become critical parts of the decision making process in matters relating to their economic, political and social advancement all over the world. Nigeria played a globally acknowledged role at that time and is poised to do the same again through this roburst shadow report.
The birth of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) in 1995 was a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women and still remains the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls all over the world.
This landmark was the outcome of the 4th World Conference on Women that drew women from all works of life and from 189 countries across the globe in Beijing, China, in September 1995.
After intense debates and engagements, exchange of information on good practices, lessons learned, and sharing of experiences, the representatives of 189 Governments including Nigeria agreed to commit to the declaration known today as the platform for Action.
25 years after
With the commemoration of the silver jubilee of 1995 Beijing Conference the time has come to review the process and progress of implementations made in the lives of women and girls in Nigeria.
The Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Centa For Organisational Development (COD NIGERIA), Brave Heart Initiative and a host of other women-led and women-based Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) have put up a detailed report which captures the status of Nigeria women titled: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future in Nigeria 2015 – 2020: Roadmap for Accelerated Action, to be presented at the UN headquarters during the CSW meeting.
Prior to this consultations; there has been various dialogues and meetings across the length and breadth of Nigeria between various stakeholders, governments gender architecture, gender focused civil society organizations and women-led groups that culminated in November 29 2019 into a charter of Nigerian women’s demand on their rights also known as Womanifesto 2019.
Consultations were also held in North-east and North-west Geo political zones as well as online consultations.
CSO and NGOs also came together in Abuja on November 26, 2019, for a one day consultative meeting to deliberate and focus on the progress of implementation of BPfA in the North Central Geopolitical Zone.
These meetings/consultations had representatives from Women CSOs and NGOs in attendance and were aimed at galvanising the views of participants on the 12 critical areas of concern after with particular references to what has worked, what failed, and what could be done to improve impact and result.
These consultations coincided with the 16 days activism against the Elimination of Gender Based Violence November 25 – December 10, 2019.
The report is focused on the gaps in the Nigerian government report. Some of these include that Nigeria in May 2018 became the poverty capital country in the world with over 75 million of its population unable to afford one meal or two US dollars per day.
“Apart from providing an independent voice at the UN, this report seeks to x-ray and bring to light issues on women’s human rights at grassroots and states level, country or state party reports may have ignored or glossed over.
With shrinking spaces for civil society engagements, lack of States’ and other development partners’ accountability, and dwindling access to resources to support women’s right agenda, feminist and gender focused NGOs are often excluded from participation, especially those representing minorities, indigenous peoples, persons living with disabilities, youths, rural women and girls,” said the Executive Director, Center for Organisational Development, Lady Nkiru Celine Okoro.
“Many others are discriminated against on the bases of their gender identity, social, economic, political, ethnic or religious status.
“We recognise that there are a lot things happening that the government has not reported, and in line with Chimamanda Adichie assertion, “If you don’t speak for yourself, no one will!
“This publication therefore is critical and important at this time, considering the gulf in information and data at grassroots and state level in the country level report.
“We have deliberately sought to produce an inclusive, nonpartisan and objective report by consciously reaching out to the private sector, media, and marginalized groups including youths, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV/Aids throughout the six geopolitical zones comprising Nigeria,” she said.
The report noted that Nigerian economy went into recession having experienced three consecutive negative growths in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It added that a lot of people, especially the middle class lost their youths. Youth unemployment rose to an all time high of 35 per cent with attendant youth restiveness.
Impact of insecurity
Insurgency in the North-east continued to rise and spread to the North-west with a higher intensity leading to sever loss of lives and properties. The farmer header clashed has continued with growing numbers of internally displaced persons.
Though the federal government, military and other stakeholders are intensifying efforts to de-radicalise and re-integrate repentant violent extremists as a strategy to address insecurity, experts have raised concerns over the surge in the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) lacking any form of economic empowerment or formal education saying the trend has high potential to result in vicious cycle of violent extremism.
These experts are particularly worried that people are still being recruited even beyond Nigeria’s northeast and uneducated displaced children who roam the streets are easy target to be lured with peanuts and recruited by perpetrators of armed conflicts and violent extremism.
However, while all these is going on, the National Gender Policy on Agriculture had been launched, the Sex Offenders Register was presented to the general public as an online naming and shaming platform for all those convicted for perpetrating various degrees of sexual violence on women and girls in Nigeria, all in the bid to addressing challenges women and girls face on a daily bases.
Just last week, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, while speaking at a one-day National Forum on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) organised by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and the UN Women with the support of Government of Japan in Abuja said the violence perpetrated against women cuts across health, politics, agriculture, and social-cultural amongst others sectors of the country.
Tallen, who was represented by her Special Assistant, Princess Jummai Idonije, warned that “Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder on the issue of IDPs vis a vis insecurity and all hands must be on deck to address it.
“Insurgency has penetrated deep into the roots of Nigerian society. It therefore, becomes worrisome that more persons have been recruited as agents of mass destruction and the population of young mothers who have up to eight children are displaced and have no source of income.
“Though the narrative is changing by inclusiveness of women in crucial decision making, more targeted effort need to be carried out as the role of women in peace keeping cannot be overemphasized, women play a crucial role in the society,” she stressed.
The minister further noted that economic empowerment is key in countering violent extremism, explaining that when a mother is empowered, they look after their children which will stem the tide of recruiting them as terrorists.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Women Affairs for Borno state, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, expressed worry on the use of the term ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ to describe the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme of the federal government, stating that was ‘erroneous’ considering that majority of the beneficiaries are victims of terrorism.
She said the idea of de-radicalisation and reintegration of members of Boko haram by the Nigerian government has been misunderstood by a larger number of the public, as a result of communication gap between the government and the public.
She further explained that, “Some of the people reintegrated are victims, who had no part to play, but were arrested in the course of security checks by the military as they were caught at the wrong time in a wrong place because they spent time in detention between two to five years, there is need for rehabilitation, counselling and socio- psychological support.
“We are not saying that there are not some people who have partaken in destruction of lives and properties but these people are in the minority and you also have to understand that these set of people joined involuntarily as they are forced to do so,” she explained.
The commissioner called for effective strategic communications and disclosed that the idea was to also create an awareness to other members that if they down arms they have a chance of being accepted into the community but that the term ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ gives wrong signals to members of the public, especially victims of terrorism.
The Executive Secretary, National Humana Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu, in his keynote address, noted that violent extremism is the most widespread human rights abuse and a fundamental barrier to socio-economic and political empowerment of women and girls who are often susceptible to abuse and exploitation.
Represented by Mr. Benedict Agu Ojukwu said crimes against women have been increasing over the years but very few cases are reported.
He said despite the National Policy Framework and Action Plan on CVE, much is still left to be done, however, stressing that until women are liberated form violent extremism, all efforts at peace, security and sustainable development will be undermined.
Also speaking, a security analyst and CEO, Global Sentinel, Senator Iroegbu said women have a strategic role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders, partly because they can play an emotive role in reaching out to extremist offenders to change their violent behaviour.
Iroegbu who is the Editor, PRNigeria, added that Women’s roles in homes and communities can pick up early signs of radicalisation in their children.
He also pointed out that strategic communication is key and women and the mass media have important roles to play noting that women dominate the social media space which the extremist also employ to lure followers.
He therefore urged women to use social media to disseminate counter extremism messages, charging the media too to portray the roles women have to play as Peace builders and mediators in conflict by amplifying their voices rather than just portraying them as victims.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of National Human Right Commission ( NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu, stated that violent extremism is the most wide spread human rights abuse which is a fundamental barrier to socio economic and political empowerment of women and girls.
Ojukwu, who was represented by the Senior Assistant to the Executive Secretary Human Rights Commission and Head Monitoring Department, Benedict Agu, bemoaned the alarming increase on violence against women and girls adding that they have the right to live free from violence and attaining their full potential.
“The abuse and exploitation of the rights of women and girls are contrary to the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, amongst other international instruments.
“These instruments provide for the protection of women rights and prevention of violent extremism without any discrimination, in other words they affirm women need to be protected on equal terms with men,” he said.
The unique opportunity presented by Beijing+25 review to address critical structural and systemic obstacles in realising gender justice and women’s human rights cannot be over emphasised.
Okoro, who co-coordinated the Shadow Report said, “It provides us a rare privilege to share our collective framework of analysis, our challenges to gender justice, our realities and struggles in our diverse constituencies of women, girls and females living with disabilities.”
The report proffered solutions to issues affecting women such as Women and Poverty, Education and Training for Women, Women and Health, Violence Against Women, Human Rights of Women, The Girl Child, Women and Armed Conflict Women and Environment, to mention a few.
A report released by Good Governance Programme Coordinator, Oxfam-Nigeria, Mr. Celestine Okwudili Odo, titled: Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers, stated that: “Extreme inequality undermines Nigerian economy and ferments social unrest.”
Odo added that, “Inequality is the root cause of insurgency and violent conflicts in the North-eastern states of the country. It is the bases for religious and other social unrests.”
According to UNICEF/ODI Social Protection Diagnostic Study 2011, Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world where the number of people living in active poverty increased, from 69 million in 2004 to 112 million in 2010, a rise of 69 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of millionaire increased by 44 per cent during the same period, due to high levels of corruption and excessive influence big business and some wealthy elites have over government and policy making in Nigeria.
It is argued that the poor hardly benefit from Nigeria’s wealth.
Oxfam’s report also revealed that women are not being captured in the benefits of economic growth because they tended to be employed in low-skilled, low-paid informal jobs.
“Women in Nigeria represent between 60 per cent and 79 per cent of Nigeria’s rural labour force but are five times less likely to own their own land than men.
“Women are also less likely to have had a decent education; over three quarters of the poorest women in Nigeria have never been to any schools.
“Most of its population resides in the rural areas and over 52.6 per cent of Nigerians are still poor; the majority of these are women. Nigeria literarily burns. Insecurity has laid the country low; major highways are avoided by travellers for fear of being kidnapped.
Interestingly, kidnapping has become the country’s fastest-growing and most lucrative business. A government panel found that bandits collected over N3 billion in ransom from 2011 to May 2019, widowed 4,983 women, orphaned 25,050 children and displaced 190,340 persons in Zamfara State alone.
“In the first four months of 2019, said the police, 1,071 persons were killed; kidnapping, banditry and communal strife have emptied farms and destroyed the livelihoods of many in parts of the country.”