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WARDC trains grassroots women on corrupt practices

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A cross section of grassroots women after the quaterly network meeting organised by WARDC in Enugu

Seeks Stringent Action Against Gender Abuse
Grassroots women in Lagos, Enugu and Akwa Ibom states have recounted their efforts at eradicating corrupt practices during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond in their communities.

They identified lack of palliatives, rape, violence against women, widowhood practices and drug abuse as inherent cases that needed urgent attention, which they have made efforts to mitigate.

This was the thrust at a quarterly network meeting of Women Advocates, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) in partnership with ActionAid Nigeria/United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) in implementing the Strengthening Citizens’ Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) project designed to address corruption through change in social norms and public attitudes that support corruption.

These grassroots women cover various spheres in the society. including market association, Spinal Cord Injury Association, International Federation of Nigerian Women Lawyers, Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Enugu chapter, Nigeria Labour Congress, Hair dressers association and Christian women associations. They understand corrupt practices, stand up against this vice and have been able to implement it in their homes, work, and businesses and extend to other women around their locality.

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Founding Director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the project, in the last three years, had seen a reduction in corrupt practices perpetuated at the women associations’ level.

This was so because we relentlessly made efforts to build the capacities of these women, which in turn resulted in change of attitudes that increasingly disapproved corrupt activities.

These associations are now organised to take actions towards resisting corruption and enhancing anti-corruption efforts at their associations and communities’ level.

The project has put in place a Gender and Accountability Anti-Corruption Coalition to strengthen the fight against corruption and bring women at the front burner of the campaign against corruption. We also conducted a national survey on the distribution of palliatives and through this, a national discourse arose for government to be accountable for the money spent on palliatives.

“I am convinced it is a step at eradicating corruption because we can’t fully eradicate it, if we do not involve women in all processes. This is so because women are the highest beneficiaries of the negative impacts of corruption and efforts to eradicate corruption must be inclusive, must target persons across states and across all levels of the society. The project has, therefore, put measures in place in ensuring that rural women and their associations are fully engaged and equipped with the necessary tools to challenge and eradicate corruption.”

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Akiyode-Afolabi added that while COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown by the government saw an increase in corrupt practices, women and girls were mostly hit by the lockdown effects, however, the project kept track of the gender-based abuses and measures were taken and are still being taken at ensuring that justice is done and perpetuators are held accountable for their wrongs.

According to SCRAP-C Project Officer and Lawyer at WARDC, Nkechi Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam, the network meeting was targeted at women to embrace a corrupt-free society, by being ambassadors for integrity, honesty and transparency. Hence, these activities were implemented in Lagos, Borno, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Kaduna and Federal Capital Territory.

She said: “Corruption has eaten into the fabric of the society and it is being perpetrated even at the remotest localities. The organisation, through the project, is trying its best to eradicate corrupt practices through change in attitudes; less will be achieved if all hands are not on deck. Therefore, for us to properly address these gaps, we must start from our homes, communities, associations and ourselves to get it right.”

Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam stressed that more women should desist from corrupt practices and also campaign against social norms that escalate its incidences. Women need to know that the effect of corruption is much felt by them and they are the highest beneficiaries of the negative impacts of corruption in the society.

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Beneficiaries of the training over the last three years shared some of the gains. For NLC representative, Nwokeabia Ifeoma, the project has helped her to be bold and confident to speak up about challenging issues. “Recently, I was in a bus park, I saw a woman who was battered by her husband, I intervened. Anyone, who has gone through the trainings organised by WARDC, will be bold enough to stand for justice. It spurred me to distribute palliatives during the total lockdown and also monitored the areas, where palliatives were distributed to ensure those who deserved got them.

“The challenges of women is not being bold enough to come out of their shell, so we want to ensure that more women are bold enough to confront their challenges because a problem shared is a problem solved.”

Chairperson International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Enugu branch, Sylvia Abandi, said the project has taught her accountability which is key when dealing with groups and associations. She however said that widowhood practices, which are still in practice, should stop as it demeans the dignity and respect. While Amina Ali, a representative of the Federation of Muslim Women Association, Enugu chapter, said the project has afforded her the opportunity to educate women especially from her home state, Borno on the essence of family planning and getting basic education.

In Akwa Ibom, Helen Eyebe representing the Anglican Communion Diocese’ of Uyo said that women and girls should be involved in capacity building to help them understand and value their worth. “If a woman does not know her worth, then she cannot know how to handle the vices she encounters. We want to stop the slogan, ‘she is just a woman’, which makes the society demean womanhood. We want to teach our women and girls to have self esteem by teaching them financial security, right to inheritance and ownership of inheritance.”

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Eyebe added that in building self-esteem, women should have self-confidence, engage in self-evaluation and assessment to again financial security, which assures independence. “Women should learn how to have control of their money and have access to it instead of allowing the men control and run their account. Women should take charge; they have a right to own properties.

“A lot of women don’t know that they have rights to their properties and even their husband’s properties, men would get their wives to become witnesses to their properties when being purchased, and at the end of the day, these women do not have access to the properties. We need women to understand legal terms when buying properties and ensure that their full names are boldly spelt and imprinted in the ownership space, this guarantees their rights to the properties.”

While Udeme Boniface representing Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, (NAWOJ) Akwa Ibom chapter stressed that women should leave their comfort zone and speak up on corrupt practices, they should stop waiting on their husbands, step up and be a voice for themselves especially on domestic violence. “Women should begin to speak up when there are cases of violence, thankfully, the wife of the Akwa Ibom state governor, Martha Emmanuel, is concerned about the domestic violence and rape related issues, we should report and shame whoever victimizes them, that way this trend will reduce.”

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