By Chioma Obinna
Complex challenges abound at every level that have continued to threaten the safety and security of women and girls and even undermine sustainable development objectives.
Ranging from issues such as domestic violence, rape, child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, and widowhood, among others, women have continued to suffer without appropriate justice despite claim by government that perpetrators should be brought to book.
According to the United Nations, despite the fact that women and girls account for half of the world’s population, gender inequality persists everywhere.
In most parts of the world, even in some parts of Nigeria, girls are deprived of access to health care, education or proper nutrition, leading to a higher mortality rate. Globally, nearly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year.
In Nigeria today, gender inequality is influenced by different cultures and beliefs. In most parts of the country, women are considered subordinate to their male counterparts.
Statistics from UNICEF show that with a high rate of 10.5 million out-of-school children, 60 per cent of them are girls.
Regrettably, the situation has continued to limit social progress.
However, some organisations are now recognising that securing women’s rights is a critical step to addressing the violations of the rights of women and girls.
One of such is Rise Up, an organisation with 500 leaders scattered in different countries.
Just last week, the organisation with support from Cummins Foundation held a week-long training on leadership and advocacy for Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, working on women and girls-related issues.
The programme was strictly to train leaders in communities to achieve gender equity through leadership training and advocacy.
Rise Up, a network of 500 leaders had continued to play a crucial role in health, education and equity by enabling girls, youth and women in the communities to transform their own lives,
In the views of the Programme Coordinator, Rise Up, Chantal Hildebrand, they are investing in visionary leaders, and innovative solution to achieve large-scale change through leadership development advocacy, capacity-building, among others.
Hilderbrand said Rise UP have been working to pass over 100 laws, budgets and policies in order to improve the lives of women, girls and youths around the world and aiming to build movement of leaders all pushing for gender equity and social justice.
“These leaders that we brought in are all working around gender based issues, girls education, sexual reproductive health and economic opportunity for women and girls. We hope they take the lessons they learn from this workshop and implement advocacy strategies in this country in order to push gender equity as an agenda moving forward for Nigeria,” she said.
She explained that the training was designed to define and explain issues impacting women and girls in Nigeria, as well as equip the participants with deeper understanding of leadership and advocacy strategies that would enable them design interventions to address issues impacting women and girls in Nigeria with the ultimate goal of transforming their lives.
“This exercise will provide an overall description of the political, cultural and religious practices and policies surrounding girls and women’s rights, gender equity and social justice, and exemplary leadership practices that will contribute to their advocacy successes and also develop clear and well written advocacy strategy proposal and budgets.”
She further explained that Rise Up is an international organisation that works around women and girls advocacy. “We do have programmes in multiple African countries and also in Latin America, Southern Asia and also in the United States. We work mainly with the local CSO leaders and local NGOs as well as women and girls themselves in order to push for equal rights and gender equity, opportunity for women and girls and social justice.”
Speaking, Nigeria Country Director, Rise Up, Mrs Theresa Kaka Effa, stressed the need for women to be independent and have their source of livelihood.
Effa said Rise Up programmes aim to mobilise young girls to speak for themselves, adding that it is important to catch them young so as to see things differently
Effa urged participants to step the training down to people in their communities or areas where they operate, decrying poor awareness on issues impacting women and girls.
“It is necessary for girls to start civic education as early as possible so that women can understand their rights.”
One of the participants, who is also an advocate for women and child rights, Mr. Ezenwa Okoro berated the Nigerian government, maintaining that the country has continued to pay lip service to issues concerning women and girls for too long.
“For Nigeria to move forward, we have to put our women in strategic places where they will be able to contribute their quota to national development. Women empowerment has been on the front burner globally. Nigeria as a country, has been lagging behind,” he stated.
He expressed optimism with the training they received, stating that with the leadership training, CSOs would be equipped with the skills and right competencies to make a mark in the national development specifically empowering women and girls for a better placement in the society.
Also speaking, Programme Director, Child Health Organisation, Mrs. Vickie Uremma Onyekuru, said she believed the training would address issues around women and girls because it is practically-oriented and giving varying approaches in solving a particular problem.
Earlier, the Director, Strategy, Africa Middle East, Cummins Foundation,Ade Obatoyinbo said: ”We partnered with Rise Up due to their expertise in those regions they operate. To make sure we have developed proper empowerment for women and narrow down to the specific goals of the program making sure women are fully empowered.”
He said Cummins Foundation has set out a broad mandate and with the engagement of community partners, those leaders and individual with the intention to figure out those areas of highest need where the potential impact is highest and focus on them with strong focus historically for technical and for secondary education.