Coalition seeks sustenance of women empowerment, inclusion

THE sustenance of the gains of the Beijing Declaration made in September 1995 and ways of improving the rights of women and girls, were the topical issues at a one-day dialogue on Beijing critical areas and advancing the post 2015 agenda, organised by a coalition of human rights organisations dedicated to enhancing the human rights situation in Nigeria, Group of 6 (G6), in Lagos last week.

Although political declaration on the fourth world conference on women emphasise an effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, regrettably, not much has been achieved.

Participants at the discourse drawn from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), funding agencies, the media and representatives of government stressed the need for sustenance of the gains of various reviews, since the declaration made 20 years ago, in order to advance the cause of women and girls in the country.

They came out with advocacy plans and strategies for engaging the government at various levels to ensure the implementation of the declaration.

They further called for improved collaboration to ensure accountability including the bottom up, adequate advocacy, generation of evidence and accurate date to trigger sustained implementation of the rights of women, girls and vulnerable men as well as ways to effectively engage government in the implementation of policies that advances the rights of women and girls.

The discourse, a member of the coalition, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba said, was to generate a coordinated plan for advancing women’s rights through the review of the 2015 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Outcome Political Declaration and deliberations on the Post 2015 Agenda.

These efforts and actions, she said, will improve implementation of the new development strategies when it eventually takes effect as well as mobilise and foster a stronger citizen engagement in the Beijing implementation and the post 2015 development agenda.

According to her, the commitment of various governments in designing development frameworks that replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has seen reviews of separate but intertwining global and regional policy frameworks.

These efforts namely, (ICPD Beyond 2014, Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA), Beijing Programme of Action (PoA), she said, has provided an opportunity to assess the progress made in the advancement of the rights of women and girls.

“At the last CSW 59, various governments through the political declaration reaffirmed the Beijing declaration made in September 1995 agreeing that progress has been slow in the effort to advance the rights of women and girls.”

“In Nigeria, the advancement of the rights of women and girls has suffered several setbacks in spite of civil society effort.” “Over the years governments have failed to see the link between women’s human rights and development. Consequently, many women’s human rights initiatives remain under-resourced and lacking adequate implementation.”

“Arguably, this has continued to significantly hamper development and people’s well-being,” she added. For a renowned gender advocate and chairperson, Hadis Foundation, Amina Salihu, the dialogue was a very useful space for gender champions, that is, men and women who are working together to advance opportunities for girls, women and boys, for them to think and work together and look at what they have achieved and to look at where else there are gaps and look at what can be done and come out with a development framework.

“I think it is a useful exercise, to answer questions like where are the partners? Where are the opportunities? What have we gained? So we are not always talking about problems, we are seeing them as challenges and further committing ourselves to the next level.”

She, however, called on the President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that women are included in the new government, saying such inclusion will help avoid conflict and make our citizenship reactive and trusty. According to her, inclusion helps us use our resources well and ensure that no person is left behind.

“That is what the MDGs say, whether you are poor or rich, you have to ensure that everybody is loved as a Nigerian and that your country loves you and you can die for your country”, she added. According to her, government is about justice, if you cannot ensure that every member of the country has access to opportunity to development, then it is not a good government.

“Synergy is very difficult to achieve when you have not applied enough energy to something, hence you don’t have shared understanding.” “So far as we are talking about getting Nigerians to a certain level of development by 2020 and women make up a comfortable population of the country.

If they do not go to school enough, they do not have access to business and credit, no access to self- development in business, you cannot achieve that.”

“The whole gamut of human rights and access is talking about women. We have women NGOs, civil society organisations that are aware about women, they are not up to 30 per cent of the entire NGO community, whereas everyone should.

“Synergy is important but one has to build it by having shared understanding by putting a greater good before our own individual pursuits by saying, I have come this far what more can I do?”

“ Synergy in terms of government and NGOs have to be actual working together in terms of saying, these budgets have been set aside for schools, let this money go to schools.”

“We need different layers of synergy and not just civil societies alone, we need colleagues from the media asking the right questions about government, asking the right questions of civil societies, we have to hold ourselves and each other to account, that is the way to get progress, that is the way to get more people talking about women rights”, she added.

The Group of 6 is made up of Echoes of Women in Africa (ECOWA), Gender and Development Action (GADA), Partnership for Justice (PJ),Vision Spring Initiatives (VSI), Women, Law and Development Centre (WLDCN) and Women’s Right and Health Project (WRAHP), with support from Justice for ALL (J4A), CSO partners, media and other strategic stakeholders.

The G6 was established as a mechanism to support the efforts of government, civil society groups and other strategic partners in the pursuit of human rights in Nigeria through engaging in advocacy, campaigns, trainings and documenting practices as they affect women, girls and marginalised men in Nigeria.

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