The National Woman Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Kema Chikwe has urged Nigerian women to rally support for President Goodluck Jonathan's administration in promoting gender equality in the country.
The UN Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that she spoke during the Nigeria Day to commemorate the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York on Saturday.
Chikwe said that such support should be reciprocal to the government, following the government’s National Gender Policy, which seeks to ensure gender perspective in all sections of development.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in collaboration with the Nigeria Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
“ For the sake that the President is gender sensitive and because of the work that has been done so far in the National Assembly and in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the gender issues are getting more prominence.’’
Chikwe said that government had made gender issues an integral part of all policy at all tiers and has provided 35 per cent benchmark for women’s participation in decision making.
She commended the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina's brilliant presentation at the on-going session of the Commission.
`What was really important in her speech was the aspect of political empowerment but there must be a political will to push the gender issues.
“It is very important because in Nigeria we still have a lot of conflicts on the culture and gender based issues.’’
Chikwe also noted that issues of violence against women and girls were not properly highlighted by the media, stressing that “It is usually being trivialised.’’
Prof. Joy Ogwu, the Nigerian Permanent Representative to the UN, drawing from the Women’s Anthem that was recited at the event, said that the three concepts of equality, development and peace were intrinsically linked.
According to her, in seeking to prevent violence against the women, the elements should come to bear and that the principle of complementarity must also be borne in mind.
?A verse of the anthem reads, “ Women can’t be silent when all around the world people hurt and hungry, children cry. We will sing out now for justice and development and hold the rights of all the people high so sing a song.''
The Director of Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH), Mrs Theresa Okafor in her remarks, noted that in preventing violence against woman, they need to adopt a multi-Sectoral approach that would be peaceful and all inclusive.
“We need to find solutions by incorporating the help of men, women, religion, culture and the family.
“Unfortunately, there is a concerted effort to discredit the role played by these factors, men are considered to be the aggressors to be overcome and this gets confrontational and simply escalates the cycle of violence.
?“Religion is misinterpreted and misrepresented, forgetting that religion talks about human dignity, fraternity, mutuality and complementarity of the sexes.’’
“Conversely there is an orchestrated effort to bring in ambiguous concepts such as ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ and ‘comprehensive sex education’ without carefully considering the devastating impact these can have and how they counter provisions of our education, valued culture and religion.’’
Okafor explained that the presentation by the minister had actually set the pace for what the women know, that would eradicate violence against women without letting any country dictate to Nigeria what would lead to fragmentation and only escalate the cycle of violence.
While calling for stronger punishment on aggressors, she stressed, it was good but that women need to be mindful of the unintended effect whereby an aggressor wishing to escape stronger sentence would kill his victim to wipe off the evidence.
?According to her, it is not enough to see the role the media play as creating awareness but that the media should also stop the objectification of the women, pornography and sexualisation in the media.
“This must be censored,’’ Okafor stated, noting that there should be distinction between cultural values and harmful practices and that culture was the problem.
“ It is effective to look at some other underlying causes of violence so that we can eradicate the root cause of the problem. Taking the family for instance, absence of mother and absence of father and lack of parenting skills are the problems.
“If parents are absent who forms the child in values? Where is the family as the safety net? We also need to look at the role played by alcohol, substance abuse and undiagnosed mental illness as contributing factors.
“We need the collective will of men and women working in concert to solve the problem. Above all, we need to be very discerning in the face of concepts.’’
Founder and Executive Director of GABASAWA Women and Children Empowerment Initiative, Mrs Gloria Yaro, who also spoke said that mental, financial and emotional or socio-cultural empowerment were important in tackling the issue of violence against women.
Yaro who is also a member of the National Council of Child Rights Advocates (NACCRAN), noted that in domestic abuse cases the first obstacle the group fought was a belief system with cultural? roots which validates the abuse the men meted out on their women.
“We strive to counter mind sets in the women such as women believing they must be doing something to ask for the physical abuse they are encountering.’’