By EBUN SESSOU
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to mark the International Women’s Day 2014, Nigerian women have been enjoined to become agents of change to themselves and their families.
According to this year’s theme, “Inspiring Change”, Nigerian women have been called to reflect on opportunities and challenges facing them especially during the nation’s centenary celebration.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, every year. It is a day to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.
In a statement, the Programme Officer, Development Communications, DevComs, Network disclosed that, inspite of the increasing participation of women in government, it is worrisome that the rate of violence against women and the persistent deaths of women due to complications of pregnancies and childbirth still remain a major debacle for many women as many African countries are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to reduce maternal deaths.
She explained that, “In September 2000, Nigeria along with over 188 other countries vowed to reduce by half her maternal mortality rate by the year 2015.
“Similarly, in April 2001, heads of state of African Union countries met in Abuja where they pledged to set a target of at least 15percent of their annual budget to improve the health sector.
“However our leaders’ attitudes and commitment towards improvement does not guarantee the much anticipated reduction in maternal deaths. Nigeria’s budget in 2013 was 9.4precent less than the recommended rate agreed upon during the Abuja declaration hosted on Nigeria’s soil.
“The country’s health budget during the period was 5.6precent as against the recommended 15percent suggested by the African Leaders.”
The result is a slow progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.
”Nigeria is ranked amongst the countries where pregnancy is unsafe to carry. According to World Bank data, Nigeria ranks 9th worst in the world with 630 deaths per 100,000 from 10 years data collected from 1990-2010.
”Illiteracy and poverty are chief among the social factors responsible for low access to maternal health care and facilities, leading to high maternal mortality in the affected regions.
”Despite our high fertility rate of 5.5 (NDHS 2013) and a fast increasing estimated population of about 170 million, the contraceptive prevalence rate for all modern methods is 10precent of currently married women NDHS 2013. This and an unmet need for family planning commodities,20percent both contribute to several unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths which would have been averted”.
Speaking about the international Women’s Day 2014, the Advocacy Advisor, Nigerian Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Mrs. Charity Ibeawuchi says Family Planning (FP) can reduce maternal mortality by 30percent if utilized appropriately.
According to her, “there is a need for women to take positive steps to limit and space child births, as a way of reducing maternal mortality and advancing women’s and family health.
“Adequate provision of modern FP methods and quality services is a major responsibility of governments. ‘Women should not be denied access to services, even at their door-steps”.
With collective voices, rendered by the public – especially women, media and civil society groups, more women will be saved and more actions taken by the policy makers to increase health budget and infrastructure to create women friendly policies and make maternal health services absolutely free for all women in Nigeria.