Fresh impetus for women development
THE years within which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were supposed to be achieved are over and stakeholders had begun to look at the post-MDGs.
In its stead, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is gradually taking centre stage and is due to be unveiled at the United Nations general assembly in September.
2015 is a year when new development goals will be set and the idea is to set out a plan to end extreme poverty by 2030.
One key area of the SDGs is to empower women and the Africa Union had declared 2015 the year of empowerment for women.
The ambition to eradicate extreme poverty in Africa by 2030 is a huge one, a none partisan advocacy organization ONE that sees the feat attainable said the goals will only be realised if efforts are core issues in both the poorest countries as well as the imperatives to boost the prospects of girls and women, who are disproportionately affected.
With an estimate of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, ONE is in the fore front of raising public awareness and press political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases; increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty fighting programs.
In the lead up to two very important events holding this year, the AU Heads of State Summit in June in Addis where Africa finance ministers are expected to chart the course of financing projects on women and establish new frontiers in access to funding.
The other is the UN Summit in September meant to pronounce the new involving agenda which is about eradicating extreme poverty in 2030.
ONE said it is imperative to start its campaign on time in order for Africa women to be informed and place demand on their leaders. The idea is that if extreme poverty can be halved by the MDGs in 2015, then achieving its eradication in another 15 years is workable.
At a gender policy forum held in Abuja recently, a panel of discussant unanimously agreed that sustainable policy direction is the only sure way to ensure that women are placed at their rightful pedestal in the scheme of things. During the session anchored by Moji Makanjuola, the panelists made up of mainly women said they have had enough of being in the shadows of their male counterparts..
ONE Africa’s Executive Director, Dr Sipho Moyo, explained that women would continue to be disadvantaged from economic, political and social perspectives except urgent steps were taken.
Moyo said apart from advocacy, policy makers need to be lobbied on key issues that can help to reduce poverty, for the sake of the masses who bear the brunt of bad policies. She said her organisation focuses on health, agriculture, education and on governance, especially accountability around national budgets and natural resources.
She said that in line with the African Union’s declaration of this year as the year of empowerment of women, the organization desires to set agenda for governments of African countries to attain a level where poverty around women will be minimised through the formulation of policies that would have a direct positive impact on the women.
This, Moyo, said can only be achieved by empowering women adding that once they are empowered, all other things will naturally align themselves because women are very resourceful and prudent.
‘’There is need for the citizens across the African continent to know that there is a new sustainable agenda that is coming up in 2015. There were little or no awareness in 2000 when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda was set. The technology then was not as what we have now in terms of people having access to information. So this year, we want people to be aware so that they can hold their leaders accountable.” She said
She said there is no way citizens can hold those who decide their fate accountable if they themselves are oblivious of the happenings around them.
She said there is a need for a data revolution, if the citizens would succeed in holding leaders accountable.
Moyo explained that a lot of people do not know how to go about the process of tasking their leaders because data are not available to them to make reference to whether or not such leaders are living up to their promises or not.
‘’This is part of the vicious circle. Data are not good enough; the statistical offices are not independent because most of them are donor dependent. They rely on donor agencies for their funding. There should be investment in improving the data, wether it means deploying experts in all the service points across Africa in schools, clinics and so on. These points will serve as points of service delivery. We also want to make sure that a proper financing structure is put in place. We want clear financing strategy, clear financing framework”
‘’On the donor side, we are asking the development partners that 50 percent of their official development assistant should go to the poorest countries. These are countries where children are not likely to be in schools, where a woman is likely to die at child birth, where women are most likely not employed, the poorest countries are where women are at greatly disadvantaged’’
She said Nigeria cannot be categorised as one of the poorest countries in Africa because the country is one of the biggest economy in Africa.
Citing the Maputo declaration where African leaders signed undertaking that 10 percent of their countries’ national budgets would be earmarked for agriculture, she said some countries have not yet gotten to make the promise a reality ten years later.
‘It is very easy for these leaders to make commitments, but the compliance is the real issue. At the upcoming AU summit, we would definitely have all of them say they are committed to women empowerment.
‘’The key issue here is to put good policies on ground that would encourage the private sector to work with government. They need to be assured that government policies are supportive before they can be committed to investing their fund.
Away from the usual hand outs of cheap wrappers and food items dole out to women by politicians and their wives, African women are demanding for concrete interventions that would improve their lots in the form of policies and commitment to its implementation.
They want to make sure that the Abuja forum will bring to the fore their demands on African leaders and make them formulate policies that would empower women.
She said all the issues raised would be wrap around two key personalities who the women believe can set the agenda and push it to a point of implementation in order for them to enjoy improvement in all the areas already identified as posing challenges to them.
The personalities are the German Chancellor Angela Markel who is also the chairperson of the G7 and the chairperson of the Africa Union commission Dlamini Zuma who will be leading the AU summit in June.
The Director General, Women Development Centre, Lady Onyeka Onwenu, averred that women have not been treated fairly in the political space of Nigeria. She advocated more opportunities for women in elective and not selective positions.
Presenting a shadow letter directed at issues raised in the document submitted by the government on what it has done between 2010 and 2013, in some key sectors, Dr Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, of the women advocate research and documentation centre, Lagos, explained that the shadow letter was not meant to disagree with government on its claims but to point out the gaps between what the document claimed and the reality on ground and how to close the gaps.
She said Nigeria is second to India in the whole world on cases of death of women due to complications arising from child birth. Akiode-Afolabi said government had continued to maintain that mortality ratio has decreased in the country but proofs on ground indicated otherwise. She said it is the responsibility of government to ensure that women and girls have access to maternal health care. She cited the case of a woman who died in LUTH as a result of her being detained because she could not pay the hospital bill.
‘’I am aware that there should be a facility in the hospital in term of funding which she could apply for and pay back over time, but she was denied. She was supposed to see her doctor within the hospital but was not allowed to do so, and she died in the process.
Another issue is when a woman needed blood transfusion, they will insist her husband should come and donate and the process demands that all manner of tests are run on the donor to ensure his blood is okay.
But because men run away from being tested for HIV/AIDS especially, they will refuse and that portends danger for women because when a woman cannot convince her husband to go for such tests, she begins to consider other options which includes going to traditional birth attendants’’.
She said the huge amount of money that has been donated to family planning program in the country cannot really be felt as women in some rural communities still give birth to more than the children they could cater for
She said cases of rape most times could not be pursued as a result of the kind of questions the victims would be asked in the court. Consequently, most people shy away from prosecuting the offenders. She said the signed Child Rights Acts too has not recorded much progress in terms of implementation because some states had shifted the age limit of a child that could possibly get married to between 13 and 18. She said issues are also raised on the mutilation of the girl child which no one can specifically convince anyone on its benefit.
To all the issues raised in the shadow letter, Akiode-Afolabi said the only solution would be for women to form a formidable block in the National Assembly where the laws are being passed.
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