By Prince Charles Dickson
Meenah was one of those few that had the luxury of an escaping from one of the camps of dreaded insurgent group, Boko Haram, her family do not want to see her, she has just been delivered of baby boy that could belong to the group’s head.
Sa’adat Mohammed, was raped severally by countless of the group’s members, she told a few colleagues and me how she bled for days. Elizabeth Choji, watched as her husband was practically butchered, and her two sons killed, when their village was attacked in the outskirts of a Kaduna town, she was left with a 5 year old daughter, abandoned and with just no one to say…”there is no to life, she mops lifelessly in a camp where all that the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA does is to provide food without stove, provide utilities but no life pack.
“Last week, I was on my monthly circle and…” before she could conclude, I already knew the story–No sanitary wear, no money to buy, that is if she could get one, and finally a tissue role is a luxury, so she and many other women and young girls are forced to invent very unhygienic measures.
Is this my admonition for this week, yes it is, and it is one that concerns me, you and us–And so when the UN Women gathered a select group of Journalists, it was not for the fun of it–In Moji Makunjola’s words–“Unarmed women and children continue to bear the brunt of massacres that occur in different parts of the country, especially in northern Nigeria. How much are we doing to report these conflicts, and make our readers understand the gender sensitive issues involved?
Over the past two decades, Nigeria has experienced increased levels of insecurity and violence, which has claimed many lives and property. The state of insecurity has affected virtually every aspect of social and economic development; we may debate that with democracy has come change of some sort and off course development in other spheres of the society.
However, with the upsurge in violence especially in the Northern parts of the country, women have so far been especially affected by such violence and insecurity because of their peculiar roles as wives, sisters, daughters, homemakers, and caregivers as well as their relatively poor economic status.
Women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict and disaster. In post conflict and disaster settings, they often suffer from lack of security and are excluded from decision-making and participation in economic, social, and political spheres. National laws and judicial systems also remain discriminatory against them. Crisis could provide an opportunity to break down traditional barriers and roles which often limit women’s contribution to society, and “to build back better” where inequality is not perpetuated. Sadly when the conflict continues and with no end in sight, what do we do as a nation, as a people, and indeed as pen practitioners.
My friend Jide Attah offers the analogy of same story, different perspectives, saying not just journalists but Nigerians we have a responsibility to recognize the precarious situation that women find themselves in the tragedy called Boko Haram and all such conflicts. It could be ‘W’, ‘3’, ‘M’ or ‘E’, it is fundamentally a conflict and women are involved. And Blossom Ubani then asked beyond the rhetoric of condemnations from both local and international agencies and government officials. Can we act as agenda setters to bring to light women’s interest and role in peace building processes that aim to provide rehabilitation for victims of conflict and establish preventive systems?
The UN Women Country Representative Dr. Grace Onigile who spoke with passion summed it up saying, “Recent events in Nigeria show that conflicts must be managed, not ignored and there must be concrete efforts for peace building. Such processes must also be completely inclusive of all interests represented in the country. Without peace there can be no meaningful development and without women’s involvement in the design and implementation of policies and programs on conflict resolution and peace-building such activities will fail to achieve its purpose.”
As practitioners debated on gender concepts as espoused by Peter Mancha who I would refer to him as Sister Peter and don’t ask me why a Peter is a sister–Journalists practically agreed on women’s important role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, cannot be over stretched, the need for their participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision- making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution.
While Danjuma Abdulahi believes it is not a woeful situation, with women’s legal status having improved considerably. Gender equality and equity growing steadily, more needs to be done as women still struggle to avail themselves of their rights and to consolidate and advance their progress.
Moving forward and the task before Talatu Ezurike, before Samson Omale, before Wika Gofwen, is write to increase women’s and girls’ access to health care and education, with particular emphasis on service quality, by creating incentives for qualified female staff to work in rural areas, including by adequate fiscal support for accompanying male family and protecting staff and beneficiaries.
The task before the newly trained press corp group like Ladi Patrick Adams of NAWOJ, and Ojoma Akor is to write and ensure implementation of laws protecting women’s rights. We, me and you, the Politician at the not so hallowed chambers of the National Assembly must work to refraining from passing or modifying legislation that would undermine protections against gender-based violence.
How do you report, and monitor human rights abuses and particularly women’s right is the question Dan Kwada, Stella Nwosu, and Kimberly Nwachukwu must answer in every news story, documentary.
The NUJ with Katdapba Y. Gobum, Alhassan Yahaya must work at enhancing freedom of expression by ensuring that all journalists, including women, can work without political interference, harassment or threats from government officials and pro-government forces.
It is no easy task, restraining forces from violating women’s rights and helping build a society capable of protecting women from violence but we surely can start, we need to re-examine our gender diversity in newsrooms, public places and move ahead. I end with this–“Professional journalists do not set out to reduce conflict. They seek to present accurate and impartial news. But it is often through good reporting that conflict is reduced.” And remember you are in today’s world a Journalist–the effect of your accurate, and impartial news in changing the status of Nigeria’s women–Only time will tell.
Opinion written byPrince Charles Dickson
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