Sharia's Rise in Nigeria Incited Stoning Sentences - August 25, 2013
Externally imposed economic austerities helped fuel fundamentalism and the application of Muslim laws, says Karima Bennoune in this excerpt from "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here." One activist and her colleagues helped women navigate such laws and fight back.
"The baobab connotes spiritual strength . . . and fortitude . . . in distressing times."
Ayesha Imam and the women she worked with for years in the Nigerian organization BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights possess those very traits. The group, founded in 1996, fights to protect women's rights in the maze of the Nigerian legal system, with its overlapping religious, secular and customary laws and courts.
[More info about this book at powells.com (new window)] Imam tells me they use tools from whichever system can "recuperate rights," believing it is often possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. "My issue," she underscores, "is not where you come from, but where you arrive at."
With her colleagues, she tried to "deconstruct what is Sharia (Muslim laws). How does it get to be Sharia? Is it divine or is it merely religious?" In the '80s and early '90s, some of the Sharia courts in Nigeria had come up with "what we may call progressive" interpretations, "as opposed to following somebody's idea of how it should have worked in 13th-century Arabia." Imam's efforts to support women living under these Muslim laws brought her, inevitably, to work on fundamentalism.
"Fundamentalism hit us in Nigeria so it was absolutely necessary, because otherwise fundamentalism was going to close us all down, close all the dreams down, close all the hope down," she says.
The backdrop for this, a resurgence of communalism, was sparked in part by the harsh impact of structural adjustment and ensuing battles for resources. Structural adjustment--economic reforms imposed on Nigeria by international financial institutions--also meant there were many unemployed, uneducated young men looking for something to do. For them, "this was an opportunity to have power and assert themselves," as Imam sees it. "They told women in taxis and buses that they had to sit in the back seats." There was "general intimidation."
This in turn led to greater emphasis on Sharia in Muslim majority segments of the population in the late '90s in the north of Nigeria, and then to enactment of new legislation in the early 2000s. "The reaction among the Muslim community was really mixed. Human rights workers and those who identify strongly as democrats argued that we need secular law. The laws being brought in under the guise of Muslim laws are conservative, and detract from human rights." Even some religious conservatives opposed Sharianization, Imam recalls, on the grounds that you could not have Sharia before you have economic development so that people can actually live good lives.
According to their worldview, "You can't cut off people's hands for theft if they have no other means of gaining a livelihood."
Any such opponents, however, became targets of "vigilante responses." Death threats, beatings, threats of being burned. In one state where the governor delayed enacting a Sharia Act and set up a committee to study the matter, there were even threats to his family. Imam recalls attending a meeting in Abuja with the governor who started Sharianization. Young men throughout the hall were telling women where they could and could not sit. "Every time a woman got up to speak, they were yelling and drowning her out. It didn't matter if you were wearing a hijab or not." This was new, Imam underlines. When she was a younger feminist, "You didn't get shouted down. You were not in fear of being physically attacked, or being burned or harassed. You'd go to public meetings and people would get up and argue with you and they might laugh."
As fundamentalism began to transform Nigerian lives, Imam and BAOBAB became involved in the cases of women who were facing sentences of stoning. One of the first, that of Fatima Usman, ensued when the woman's father took the man who fathered her baby to court to get child support. "He had no idea he was going to set up his own daughter for the possibility of being stoned to death." (Today Usman remains technically out on bail, as the case has never been finally resolved. Nor, thankfully, has the sentence been carried out.) Most such cases began with vigilante groups forcing the police to prosecute and ended in "lots of people convicted of Zina [unlawful sexual relations] and whipped because they were not married." If people do not appeal, they are taken out and whipped right away, Imam laments. "It was really important to establish the principle that you can appeal. It's your right.
"It's not anti-God to appeal."
However, it was difficult to rally victims of such prosecutions to fight back. "They thought, as Muslims, if they were charged under Muslim laws, they could not defend themselves. It would be tantamount to arguing with God."
I had heard those words before.
While working on the case of a 13-year-old mentally disabled girl, Bariya Magazu, who had been charged with Zina and faced public whipping, Imam's team had to spend a week in the girl's village "arguing with her father, her family head and the village head that it was not impious to file an appeal under Sharia law." This is what law as sacrament does to people.
Though Imam succeeded in convincing Bariya's family members, while the appeal was being filed the nonliterate teenage villager who had just given birth was whipped publicly for the sex she had been coerced to have. "Afterwards," Imam wrote in an outraged statement for BAOBAB, "humiliated, bruised, crying and in pain, she was left to make her way home alone." Imam points out to me: "The dominant ideology is that good women are secluded, so to be whipped in public view is a really horrible disgrace."
Imam was also involved in efforts to defend Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman famously sentenced to stoning for adultery in 2002 (and later acquitted). Imam was critical of parts of the Western response to the case, which ignored women's rights advocates on the ground. Some Western advocates asked for a pardon, which was neither possible nor politically feasible. Local activists instead chose legal appeals that would immediately stay execution.
"If you don't have an appeal, they can take action and you might win the principle, but it's a little late for the person involved," she says. Another reason the local women's rights defenders opposed pardons is that, "technically, you are saying, 'Yes, we did wrong, but please forgive us anyway.' The point we wanted to make was that there hadn't been any wrongdoing."
The women of BAOBAB also raised money to support defendants who were unable to earn a living while being prosecuted: "Having to hop off to court all the time, they can't work in the fields, they can't go sell their stuff." Worse still, "the stress of it is horrendous." So the activists try to offer the psychological support needed to overcome the defendants' feelings that they are challenging their own religion. BAOBAB's contribution was "to make it known that you could fight and you could win. The more we did that, the more people were willing to fight against it and the less people felt like, 'I am a Muslim, I cannot criticize'."
Every one of the Sharianization stoning sentences has been successfully appealed with the support of women's human rights defenders, resulting in acquittals (or nonperformance of sentence, as in Usman's case), and there have reportedly been no new cases since Lawal's acquittal, though the laws remain on the books. In the battle between stone and tree, it is the BAOBAB that has prevailed.
The Nigerian’s perspective of the WLUML’s global campaign to end the brutal practice of stoning
Sequel to the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where states were called upon to abide by their international human rights obligations and ban the act of stoning in countries where this still exists in law and practice. To this end, the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) in collaboration with its global partners launched a campaign with the ultimate goal to end the brutal practice of stoning globally.
In the short-term by November 25, 2013, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this campaign seeks to garner a critical mass of 10,000 supporters worldwide to sign the online petition, advocating for a UN resolution against stoning on Change.org. In the medium-to-long term, the campaign’s goal is to completely ban stoning in countries where it still exists in law and criminalize those who engage in this heinous practice worldwide.
In line with this mandate, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, as one of the joint partners in the WLUML global campaign to stop stoning, highlights this act from the Nigerian’s perspective. Stoning as a legalised form of punishment in Nigeria for sexual offences (such as adultery and fornication - Zina) can be traced back to the institution of Sharia penal code in the northern region since 1960, some of the punishments in its penal code includes 100 lashes (flogging) for engaging in any sexual relationship if the individual is unmarried.
In 1999, the Zamfara State governor at the time, reintroduced and expanded Sharia penal codes in the state. This action of implementing Sharia penal code was replicated by eleven other northern governors in their respective states, namely Kano, Katsina, Niger, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Gombe, Sokoto, Jigawa, Yobe, and Kebbi. Stoning is the prescribed penalty in all these states as the punishment for women convicted of “illicit sexual affair”.
Stoning is an ancient form of capital punishment. There are historical reports of stoning from ancient Greece but the act of stoning is still retained by some religion till date, yet the act precede most religion. Stoning is often powered and executed based on misinterpretation of religious text and on cultural grounds; of which women are the most susceptible. Till date, stoning as an act of punishment for sexual offences (Zina) has never been implemented in Nigeria, although we have had near case occurrences which include:
In 2002, Safiya Hussaini was the first woman to be sentenced to stoning in Sokoto State for giving birth to a child as a single woman. Her sentence was overturned on her first appeal.
In 2002, Aminal Lawal was the second woman to be sentenced to stoning in Katsina State for adultery and conceiving a child out of wedlock. The father of the child was not persecuted for lack of evidence and deemed innocent by the court with a DNA test. Her conviction was later overturned.
The sheer possibility of the cruel punishment of stoning being executed in Nigeria is in itself a tormenting thought. Now is the time for Nigerians as well as citizens from any country where such an act exist in law and practice, to join this campaign against stoning and urge the UN to take action on abolishing stoning in law.
BAOBAB Decries Violation Of Girl Child Rights - July 26, 2013
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) has condemned in strong terms the recent fallout of the Nigerian constitutional amendment process in the Senate to retain the provision of Section 29(4) (b) which says that any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.
A statement signed by the Acting Director, Anne Lawal, stated that, “This provision would imply that a female child even at birth, if married, is deemed to be of full age.”
It said that it is particularly disheartening considering that the high rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria is primarily due to the prevalence of Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) / Rectovaginal fistula (RVF).
It stated: “BAOBAB sees this clause as a clear violation of the rights of the girl child and various international treaties such as:
“The Child Rights Act 2003: Section 21 & 22 which prohibits child marriage and betrothal
Convention of Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Article 16 (2) which says the betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
“Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa Article 6 (b) which provides that the minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years.”
BAOBAB called on the National Assembly, Senate and the Nigerian government remove the contentious provision of Section 29(4) (b) from the Constitution and fulfill its obligations of implementing international treaties which Nigeria signed and ratified that would protect rights of the girl child such as The Child Rights Act, CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter.
With a heavy heart and deepest sorrow we, the entire staff of BAOBAB For Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) announce the sudden demise of Sindi Medar Gould the former Executive Director of BAOBAB, Sindi Medar-Gould a citizen of St Lucia in the Caribbean, was a great feminist, facilitator, researcher & activist for women’s human rights in Nigeria and globally. She contributed a great deal to the emancipation and empowerment of women and girl children. Sindi’s last appointment was with the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development & Peace (WLP), as a Senior Consultant and Global Trainer. Sindi also worked with various women human rights organizations and movement. She touched many lives and helped to give women a reason to live a life with hope for a better tomorrow. She would be greatly missed and remembered as a great leader. Farewell Sindi!!!
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights
More families now aware of ills of child marriage – Anne Lawal - April 1, 2012
Mrs. Anne Lawal is the Senior Programme Officer of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, a non-governmental organization in the
forefront of promoting the rights of women and girls. She spoke with Vista Woman recently in commemoration of the year 2012
International Women’s Day, highlighting progress made on issues affecting women and girls. Her words:
To bring to fore the struggles of women, Baobab joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day, observed every year on March 8. This was necessary because of the disadvantages women face due to the disproportionate distribution of resources and gender roles in society.
According to the United Nations, the majority of the world’s 1.5 billion who live on less than one dollar a day are women. Women also constitute victims/survivors of violence both in domestic and public spheres. Violence against women, including rape, incest, battering, etc. continue to reoccur!
There is therefore an urgent need to introduce and implement more effective interventions to both redress and combat such incidents. Some people tend to accuse rape victims as being the cause of their being raped, but the truth is that there is no excuse for rape. Whatever a woman chooses to wear is no reason why any man should exploit her sexually. That was why the Lagos state government understood when civil societies came together to advise them to put a stop to the arrest of women whom they described as ‘indecently dressed’.
The theme for the 2012 celebrations is ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’. This is very apt given the recent increase in incidents of rape and incest as reported in many national newspapers as well as in annual reports, compiled by local and international organizations on Nigeria as well as on a number of other countries. We all need to work together to end inhumane acts of violence against women and young girls to ensure that our society is free from all sorts of such violence.
As part of our efforts to inspire young girls for positive change, Baobab has implemented various interventions which include educational empowerment for vulnerable young girls in the northern part of Nigeria, national talent competitions on essay writing and arts as well as mentoring programmes for young women interested in vying for leadership and political positions.
Our work with young girls in northern Nigeria has been particularly productive in the area of child marriage. I can’t really say that we have been able to put an end to child marriage in the north, but the fact is that more families are now aware of the dangers and ills of child marriage through our sensitization programmes. Now, the latest trend is that some families, due to awareness, now make the husband marrying their child to sign an agreement that he would send the girl to school. So, things are changing gradually.
We are aware that there are certain aspects of the Bible and Quran that have been misconstrued to oppress women. Therefore, we have programmes where we try to dialogue with religious and traditional rulers.
On behalf of Baobab, I would like to use this occasion to call on the Nigerian government to speed up actions on its obligation under all national, regional and international instruments signed and ratified such as Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the rights of women in Africa, Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and others.
BAOBAB recognizes that the enforcement of these laws as well as the stipulations of non-discrimination in the Nigerian constitution will further protect our women and young girls, and expedite the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
One of the reasons why major acts of violence persist is because these laws are yet to be implemented! Government really has to speed up actions because in a society like Nigeria where we have women constituting over 50% of the total population, development, will continue to be hampered if they (women) are not given their rightful place!’
“16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence” November 25th – December 10th 2011
Theme: “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women.”
Gender-based violence is a universal reality existing in all societies regardless of economic status, class, culture or any other diversity. So many women have, and are experiencing this form of violence which has adversely affected their well being as well as productivity in their homes, communities and places of work. This problem in a country like Nigeria is mainly due to the very patriarchal nature of the society and obnoxious cultural beliefs, which suppress women and leaves them to suffer in silence. These inhumane acts have continued to prevent women from achieving their maximum potentials and compromise their physical and psychological integrity.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence is an international campaign that was started by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) in 1991. The 16 Days runs from November 25, (International Day against Violence against Women) to December 10, (International Human Rights Day) to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1, which is World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in 1989, when 14 women students were massacred by a lone gun-man opposed to the affirmative action policies promoted by feminists at the University of Montreal.
Since it began, the 16 Days of Activism has been used as an organising strategy by women’s groups to call for the elimination of violence against women by raising awareness about gender based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels; strengthening local work around violence against women; establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women; providing a forum in which organisers can develop and share effective strategies; demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organising against violence against women and creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women.
BAOBAB for Women’s human Rights in line with one of its objectives to partner with like-minded organizations, is joining other groups across the world to mark the 2011 “16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.”
The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women’.
In line with this theme, the following activities have been planned for the period.
1. Media Conversation
BAOBAB plans to invite some members of the Media (both electronic and print) for a briefing on the concept of the “16 Days…” campaign, and for a post briefing conversation around gender based violence in Nigeria, the role of the social responsibility of the media and follow-up action. The media will also be invited to interview a few of the teenage students who will be in attendance regarding their role in addressing gender based violence in Nigeria.
Date: November 25th 2011
Venue: BAOBAB’s Conference Hall
2. Peer Educators’ training on GBV and leadership training for young boys and girls, respectively, between the ages of 13 -17 years.
Society has changed over the years. One of the most significant changes that will have a great impact in the development process and leadership is the involvement of adolescents in leadership. With the influence of globalization and modern social media, teens of today desire different things from teens of yesterday. These drives pull or attract teens to negative activities or towards a desirable goal or objective. The power of peer influence and helping teenagers cope with the universal, everyday problems and pressures of becoming adults which involves team building is the essential foundation of a strong, diverse and democratic society. BAOBAB recognizes the strategic importance of mentoring leaders while they are young especially as leadership skills can be learned by those who might never imagine themselves playing such prominent role in the world.
In view of this, BAOBAB will organize a two (2) day Peer Educators’ training on GBV for young boys and a three (3) day transformative leadership training for young girls both in Lagos state.
Date: 25th and 26th November 2011 (Training for teenage boys)
28th -30th November 2011 (Training for teenage girls)
Venue: BAOBAB’s conference hall
3. Men and Boys against Violence against Women (MABVAW) solidarity walk.
Globally, there is more recognition of the need to involve men and boys in the campaign to end violence against women. Since 2005, BAOBAB has translated this strategy of involving men and boys to address gender based violence to local advocacy mobilizing and action. Our first gender sensitization training and debate was organized in 2005, with the male relatives and friends of BAOBAB in attendance. We have since then organized different groups of men and boys in gender awareness workshops, popular theatre, ‘men-only’ led street campaigns on anti-gender based violence, and open debates. These men have been committed to lead the campaign against violence against women. We have also been doing on-line advocacy to provoke strategic discussion on involving men and boys to address violence against women. The general feedback we received, spurred us on to institutionalize this strategy and extend it nationally and possibly regionally.
This year, BAOBAB will organize a solidarity campaign walk around the Ogudu environs where men and boys will disseminate stickers with varied anti gender based violence messages and other IEC materials as well as sensitize people on issues of violence against women.
Date: 9th of December 2011
Venue: Take of point is BAOBAB’s office
4. In-house debate on Violence Against Women and Globalization
As a means of updating BAOBAB personnel knowledge base, BAOBAB will organize a debate on “Globalization and Gender based Violence.”
Venue: BAOBAB’s conference hall
Date: 8th December 2011
5. Community Based Outreach activities
BAOBAB’s volunteer outreach teams in 15 States of Nigeria will also organize various social advocacy activities (e.g. media briefing, street campaigns etc) to raise awareness against GBV.
BAOBAB believes that these activities will further enhance public knowledge of GBV and opportunities/avenues for access to justice for the violated–all geared towards ensuring that ‘Women’s Human Rights become an integral part of everyday life’
6. Expected Outcomes
An increased awareness by the general public, the media, law enforcement and other state agents towards addressing cases of violence against women and girls –especially domestic violence
Increased awareness amongst men and boys on women’s human rights in general, and different dimensions of violence against women in particular
Beneficiaries committing to initiate programmes e.g. teenage girls and boys initiating social clubs in schools and religious institutions, to campaign
Significant reduction of incidents of VAW
Increase and strengthen the network of men and boys who campaign against VAW
Money, religion & patriarchy pose problems for female politicians – Favour Irabor- September 4, 2011
It’s over four months now since the last general elections, but Nigerian women politicians and even stakeholders are yet to recuperate from the shock of its outcome. Unlike previous elections, women vied enmass for various political offices, but few of them got in! As a response to this fall which has also translated into an abysmal reduction in the representation of women in political offices(apart from the ministerial offices), the question of ‘what went wrong?’ has continued to take centre-stage at most women gatherings. Here, women’s human rights activist, a lawyer, (Ms) Favour Irabor, Programme Officer, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, reviews the circumstances surrounding Nigerian women in politics as she calls on stakeholders to urgently begin preparations for the 2015 elections.
By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Some of the women who contested shared their challenges with us at Baobab. We also had a programme in which they expressed their concerns, even before the 20ll general elections. One of the issues they pointed out was intra-party politics. This is actually about the intrigues that go on within political parties, and how they are short-changed, sexually harassed, etc. as women. The challenges are quite enormous.
The truth is, the number of women in political offices was actually experiencing an increase until the 2011 general elections. In the First Republic , we had just one female senator – the late Chief (Mrs.)Wuraola Esan, mother of the late former Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University, Prof (Mrs) Jadesola Akande. Mrs.Margaret Ekpo too won election into the House of Representatives.
In the Second Republic , we had just one female senator as well, Franca Afegbua. Then in the 1990s when General Sani Abacha was transiting, we had the likes of Senator Florence Ita-Giwa. We had only three Senators in 1999, and that increased to four in 2003, and to nine in 2007. But from the outcome of the 2011 elections, we now have only seven women in the senate! The number has however been increasing in the House of Representatives.
In Cross River State, for example, as at 2007, they had three women in the National Assembly. Now, they still have three but the drop in terms of the number of women in the Senate and in the House of Representatives(from three to two) is a minus.
The performance of women has actually been very poor since the 60s. The percentage of women that have fared has always been very negligible! Some of them who even contested faced oppositions from the men. I do recall that Onyeka Onwenu lamented over the intrigues that went on in the party and how she lost in the Chairmanship election in her local government area in Imo State.
I recently did an analysis on Sarah Jubril’s performance as well, and I would categorically tell you that money, religion and patriarchy pose problems for women in politics. Patriarchy especially comes to play even in the family and place of work. Some religious heads, especially in Islamic communities, cannot fathom how they will be taking orders from a female Executive Governor! In fact, to most men, it is as if women are coming to challenge what has been the ‘exclusive reserve’ of the malefolk in politics.
In fairness, I must note that more women vied for political offices this time. But very few however won the primaries, and again, fewer won the elections.
That was the first time we had more women coming out! We had two female presidential aspirants. In Lagos State also, we had four females who aspired for Deputy Governorship.
Examining the aspirants also, it has become evident that a lot of them were from politically privileged background. Take the likes of Gbemi Saraki, Iyabo Obasanjo, Daisy Danjuma, to mention but a few. For those without such privileged background, they had the advantage of having been in the corridor of power for a very long time.
The wife of the former Niger State governor too who contested for Senatorial election had been in the corridor of power. Remi Tinubu is another example! So, we can see that most of these women have some kind of affiliations! But this has implications for you and me who have no affiliates! It means we cannot favourably compete at all, no matter how good we may be since we do not have what it takes to get there politically. So, you can see it’s a walk-over for many of them.
However, the most interesting thing about the election was the dynamics that came to play; it departed from the kind of politics that we were used to! We could see that not all persons won elections simply because of their parties’ influence or personal affiliates in their states. Look at Anambra State, for instance, where APGA held sway. Dora Akunyili lost to Chris Ngige! The influence of god-fatherism too wasn’t there so much, and this was obvious in the cases of Kwara and Ogun states . It appears there’s now a kind of awareness among the populace.
Daisy Danjuma too didn’t make it! I mean, all these are a pointer that the days of god-fatherism are going. They can impose somebody on the party, but the populace will determine who gets there eventually by rejecting such candidate and voting in somebody from another party who will perform!
However, it appears it is still an era of money politics because in some polling booths, party agents were giving money to voters to vote for them. This however did not really succeed in influencing the people’s choice of candidates.
The performance of women at the 2011 April polls calls for sober reflection and an urgent need to re-strategize for the 2015 general elections. There is urgent need for internal democracy in the political parties to whittle down male-dominated party executives. There should also be assessment of parties’ primaries with a view to formulating and implementing reforms that will support a more level-playing field.
The establishment of a Women’s Political Institute where parties and all female aspirants and candidates would be equipped with relevant skills that underpin the positions should be desired. The outcome would inform necessary remedial steps aspirants should take to address gaps so as to reposition them for exigency of electoral campaigns and elective offices.
The challenges ahead will truly test the motive of the first lady’s pet project – Women for Change Initiative. Will it take a recess now that President Goodluck Jonathan has won or will it start preparing women for 2015 general elections? The short term goal of getting women to participate in the 2011 general elections seems to have been achieved. However, I am not crediting the Women for Change Initiative for the increased participation of women at the general elections.
This is against the backdrop that women’s groups and other individuals have been on this campaign for a longer time and have been stating 30 percent or something higher. Also, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) has been working over the years to ensure comprehensive political education, and at the same time, creating a space for experienced female politicians to mentor younger women interested in vying for political positions in future.’
Africa Regional Young Women’s Leadership Institute Underway - June 21, 2011
An Africa Regional Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI) yesterday, began in Accra with a call for a vibrant young women’s movement to fight gender stereotypes and empower women to reach their full potential in both private and public life.
Thirty participants are attending the five day-meeting, the first in the series of the regional institute for young women, which is being held on the theme, “Young women re-defining and transforming the leadership agenda in Africa – A strategic approach towards sustainable democracy and development in the region”.
The YWLI is a collaborative project of the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace (WLP)—USA in partnership with its Africa hub, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights—Nigeria.
The objectives of the Institute include, empowering young women across Africa to embrace the principles of horizontal, participatory and truly democratic leadership, and enabling participants to identify and develop a shared vision, and communication, mobilization and advocacy skills, among others, for effective leadership.
The Institute also aims to identify seemingly insurmountable challenges specific to young women’s leadership in the region and to explore ways of overcoming these challenges.
Ms. Chibogu Obinwa, Acting Executive Director of BAOBAB-WLP Africa, in her welcome address, said, the WLP agenda was committed to encouraging a transformative model of leadership within the Africa region.
This model of leadership, Ms. Chibogu said, will be one that will encourage young women to take up leadership challenges with the advantage of innovative technologies and media to mobilize support, build solidarity, information exchange networks and initiate and sustain a formidable movement of new leaders that will ultimately transform the leadership agenda within the region.
She disclosed that, the WLP had conducted training in over 20 countries in Africa, The middle East, Latin America and Asia, adding that, in the past one year, the partnership contributed to gender equality movement-building by training over 2,300 activists, grassroots entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians and civil servants as well as 250 youth.
Ms. Chibogu expressed the hope that, the meeting will translate into further collaboration towards enhancing women’s visibility and participation in all spheres of development in the region.
Press Conference on the Reported Acts of Torture and Domestic Violence by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Kenya - June 1, 2011.
BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights (BAOBAB) was represented at the Press conference organised by the Gender Based Violence Response Network of Lagos State (GBVRN-Lagos), June 1, 2011 on reported acts of torture, and domestic violence by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Kenya, Dr. Chijioke Wilcox Wigwe, on his wife, Mrs. Teresa Wigwe.
In response to the highly embarrassing incident, the government of Nigeria, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia S.A.N. has announced the recall of the embattled envoy with immediate effect. It is however not clear, if the government plans to prosecute the High Commissioner for torturing, assaulting his wife.
GBVRN-Lagos, of which BAOBAB is a member commend the federal government for the immediate recall of Dr. Wigwe, as this legally means he is off Nigeria’s diplomatic list and as such no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity; Call on the Inspector General of Police to order his immediate arrest, and interrogation as soon as he arrives Nigeria; demand a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the allegations, and prosecution of Dr. Wigwe, if found guilty; And to re-educate diplomats on the position of our laws on various issues such as assault and domestic violence. click here to view a clip of the event.
Interview and BAOBAB's work by Chibogu Obinwa with The Vanguard Newspaper - May 21, 2011
Review of Women's Participation and Performance at the 2011 General Election in Nigeria
The marginalization of Nigerian women in politics and decision making is as old as the Nigerian society and actually predates the advent of colonialism in Southern and Northern Nigeria. It is widely believed that the marginalization of women in political participation and decision making processes has been responsible for the exclusion of the interests of women in governance and development paradigms...click here to read the full article
NIGERIA: World Human Rights Day
Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Human Rights Day last week. Many civil society groups and non governmental organisations
held meetings and events to commemorate the day. At all the events, the conclusions were the same, that the Federal Government urgently needs to do more for
Nigerians to enjoy basic rights, citizens of more developed societies enjoy. In Abuja, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, held its “President 1st Round
table on the Review of the State of Human Rights in Nigeria.”
The event attracted legal practitioners, human rights activists and government functionaries.NBA President, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, who spoke,
particularly on President Goodluck Jonathan, human rights record, said “reference to the administration of President Jonathan must be seen
in the context of a continuum, commencing all the way from the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, leading to that of the
late Umaru Yar’Adua to that of the incumbent. I see the policies as the same, incapable of being differentiated from one another.Secondly, the true test of
leadership is supervision and a process for feedback. The administration lacks both of these measures.” Speaking further he said, “since it is generally
agreed from the basic definition of human rights that its objective is to guarantee human dignity and progress in life, it follows then that those rights
in chapter IV cannot and indeed are not the only rights that the citizens are entitled to. Chapter 2 which deals with fundamental objectives and directive
principles of State policy contains in mandatory language rights and expectations from the State to which the Nigerian citizens are entitled to and which
ought to be enforceable in a court of law. “But these rights and duties are not enforceable according to section 6_(c) of the 1999 Constitution,
which provides thus: that judicial powers vested in the Courts ‘shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or
question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the
Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution.
This provision viewed legally is lacking value and technically useless. What in my humble view it seeks to foreclose is a determination by the Courts as to
whether the act or omission of any person or authority is in conformity with the provisions of chapter 2 of the Constitution. “In other words, it forbids
fault finding against any person or authority that may have acted or not acted under chapter 2. In other words,it seeks to avoid liability and damages for
acts or omissions purportedly undertaken vide chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution. To appreciate the analysis it is appropriate to summarise the contents
of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution. Sections 13 and 14 thereof make it mandatory that it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government,
and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution,”
he added.Referring to a recent ECOWAS court judgment, in the suit by Socio_Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, against the Federal Government and UBEC,
alleging the violation of the right to quality education, the right to dignity, the right of peoples to their wealth and natural resources and to economic and
social development, he said that the decision of the court clearly and indeed explicitly debunks and demystifies the non justiciability of Chapter 2 rights,
duties and responsibilities by government. The Court held that the right to education can be enforced before the Court and dismissed all objections brought by
the Federal Government, through UBEC, that education is “a mere directive policy of the government and not a legal entitlement of the citizens.
Speaking on awaiting trial inmates, he said “at the moment, there are not less than 65, 000 persons detained in prisons and police cells as Awaiting Trial Persons.
Their continued detention carries with it unintended social and economic consequences. Excessive use of pre_trial detention leads to chaotic, overcrowded and
violent conditions where pre_trial detainees, who have not been convicted, are at risk of contracting disease such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis to name a few.
Apart from being a treat to public health, it promotes corruption at all levels of the criminal justice system by way of bribery of court officials and police or
prison officials for a variety of benefits. “Because of inability to pay bribes thousands languish in prison custody. There are other collateral consequences
of excessive use of pre_trial detention. It includes the interruption of educational advancement for the youth, disruption in employment and the ability to earn money,
greater costs of funding social programs. These are but a few of the negative effects of social justice,” he said.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke, SAN, who was represented at the event, however, was of the view that human rights abuses
in the country had reduced. He said, “recent developments in Nigeria do promise a drastic change from a passive human rights regime to an active regime,
which indicates that human rights protection will be given priority. With the return of democratic rule in Nigeria, human rights abuses have been reduced greatly.
The insistence of this administration on the rule of law in the administration of criminal justice is aimed at upholding the fundamental rights of all Nigerian and
of every human living in Nigeria.” He noted, however, that today, “Nigeria is at a cross road,” adding that the national desire to punish impunity arising from
terrorist acts, kidnapings and corrupt practices conflicts with the national obligation to protect and enforce human rights. According to him, “in this regard,
human rights activists must realise that human rights regime is not a panacea. We must acknowledge the effects of economics, politics and illiteracy in the
enforcement of human rights in Nigeria. Many Nigerians are not aware of their constitutional guaranteed rights and those who are aware of their rights often times,
lack the capacity to enforce them.” He said that human rights regime must be seen as one of the instruments for improving the lives and standard of living of Nigerians.
Olawale Fapohunda of Legal Resource Consortium, expressed concern over the absence of policy direction with respect to the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria“Another major source of concern that we need to discuss is the situation of the National Human Rights Commission and indeed access to justice institutions in Nigeria. No one
needs to be told about the important role the National Human Rights Commission can potentially play in the lives of the millions of Nigerians who have no access to justice.
Indeed at different fora, the government of Nigeria has committed itself severally to strengthening the institutional and legislative framework of the Human Rights Commission.
This is more so after the local and international condemnation that greeted the removal of Bukari Bello its then Executive Secretary.“No less important is our desire to
transform the Commission from a recommendations only institution to one that is in the forefront of the protection of the Rights of Nigerians. It is tragic that as at today
neither the institutional or legislative framework of the human rights commission has been strengthened,” he said. Other speakers, spoke in the same vein and on the
need for the Federal Government to do more to ensure that Nigerians enjoy their full rights. Meanwhile, in Lagos, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, called on the government
and media to ensure that human rights defenders were protected in the country. Mrs Sindi Medar-Gould, Executive Director of BAOBAB, made the call at the launch of an
International Fact-Finding Mission report to mark Human Rights Day. “It is the obligation of the state and every citizen to ensure safety and security of human rights defenders.
If Nigerians do not ask for their rights, nobody will give it to them. As long as we keep quiet, change will not take place,” she said.
Medar-Gould, therefore, called on everybody to be a change agent in their homes, offices, churches and the mosque.
She also urged the government not only to strengthen the courts but also its institutions to protect human rights’ defenders in the country.Mrs Catherine Adewojo, who spoke
at the event, said the human rights situation in Nigeria had improved significantly since the end of military rule in 1999.Adewojo said findings had shown that legislative
framework was insufficient to ensure adequate protection to the work of human rights defenders. According to her, organisations working on sensitive issues like corruption,
good governance and the Niger Delta are at risk because of their documenting work. Ms Favour Irabor, Coordinator, Legal Defense Interpretation of Laws, Bridge Building,
said women’s human rights should be part of everyday life. She explained that BAOBAB was established to promote and ensure the protection of women’s human rights.
Irabor said that the organisation was collaborating with four organisations, including the World Organisation Against Torture, in its work. She said this was in the belief
that strengthened cooperation and solidarity with and among human rights defenders and their organisations would contribute to breaking their isolation.
BAOBAB: Extending Nigerian women's rights through Sharia law - September 22, 2010
Western feminists are often challenged by gendered cultural practices such as female circumcision, arranged marriage and sentences like public lashing or stoning for women. This often leads to a situation where defenders of women's rights feel like they have to choose "between colonial interference and callous indifference."
BAOBAB, a Nigerian non-governmental organisation (NGO), uses Sharia law to assist Nigerian women and is a wonderful example of how women's rights can be actualised by drawing on the local culture itself, without appealing to external Western human rights norms.
In 1993 the Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML) network began a three year research project in Nigeria, in which various aspects of Muslim law and women's rights in Nigeria were examined. In 1996 the project came to an end after it produced an abundance of research. This research indicated that many women in Northern Nigeria experience human rights restrictions and are unable to defend their rights because of a lack of resources, both in terms of knowledge about their rights and in terms of access to legal resources, such as lawyers. BAOBAB was consequently established to raise awareness about women's rights in Nigeria, to conduct research and to provide information to women about their rights.
In 2000, BAOBAB extended their activities to provide legal defense and support to women who were unfairly charged under Sharia penal codes in Nigeria, and they have since extended these services to minors of both sexes.
Most of the women's cases BAOBAB takes on are appeals against sentences of lashing or stoning for charges of ‘zina' (unlawful sexual activity). The most well-known case has been that of Amina Lawal, who was charged with zina on 15 January 2002 and was sentenced to death by public stoning. BAOBAB provided the resources to appeal the case and she was acquitted in September 2003. What is significant about BAOBAB's appeal of Amina Lawal's and other similar cases, is that this NGO lodges appeals within the Sharia legal system and does not resort to external, non-Muslim, non-Sharia or outright Western human rights standards.
Laws and the human rights approach
BAOBAB's use of Sharia law in appeal cases is not the NGO's only option. They could also appeal to general Nigerian law or to the numerous international human rights agreements that Nigeria is a signatory of.
Despite having alternative legal routes by which to make appeals, BAOBAB has pursued this process through Sharia law - a route less popular with the international community, who perceive this system of law to be frozen in time and closed to debate. S.V. Barrow, for instance, wrote that: "In Islam, these punishments are the will of God as expressed in the Qur'an. As such, no human being can question this authority without risking social ostracism or a possible death sentence for heresy. Thus, violations continue unfettered."
BAOBAB chooses to work with Sharia law in order to work directly with Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria. In 2000, the case of Bariya Ibrahim Magazuu, a 13 year old girl who was sentenced to 180 lashes in public for zina and for providing false testimony received substantial support from NGOs in the global North. The local governor dismissed the international groups and their opinions because they were not Muslim and their opinions were not based in Sharia law. He however agreed to entertain appeals from BAOBAB that originated within Sharia law.
Through this approach, BAOBAB was able to convince the trial judge to drop the sentence to only 100 lashes and to postpone the sentencing until after she had finished breast feeding, which would give BAOBAB an extra year to continue the appeal process. Unfortunately, her sentence was brought forward, with only one day's notice and she received the 100 lashes. It is suspected that the sudden imposition of the sentence was a response to the pressure from international human rights groups and that the local authority was reasserting power over the community.
Although many of their cases are still pending and appeal processes remain lengthy, BAOBAB has experienced impressive success by making appeals through Sharia law and they have had charges reversed on all the appeal cases they have handled to completion. If nothing else, let this NGO's achievements inspire us and show that ‘culture' is not an impenetrable static force, but rather a very fluid, dynamic asset available to utilise for the improvement of women's lives.
Author: Katherine Furman
Company: Consultancy Africa Intelligence (CAI)
Nigerian passport rules are stacked against women - August 8, 2010
Last week, the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, told a Nigerian woman she cannot apply for her children without a letter from the children’s father, and kindly offered to issue the documents as soon as the paternal endorsement is received.
The shocked woman asked the reason for her denial and the reason given by the immigration officer at the consulate was that “in Nigeria, the children belong to the man.” This incident is a pointer to the series of institutional discriminations against women in the country, including the lack of opportunities for men married to Nigerian women to take their wives’ nationality if they so desire, while foreign women married to Nigerian men have no such problem.
Immigration officials at the Lagos Passport Office, Ikoyi, confirmed that the father’s consent is indeed a prerequisite while applying for the passports of minors.
A senior official at the office, who doesn’t want to be named because he did not have clearance to speak on the issue, said this is done to prevent situations where the mother of a child might want to take such a child away from their father without the father’s knowledge, for instance, while divorce is being ironed out.
“I have had cases here where fathers have denied being aware that their children have applied for passports,” he said.
However, Chibogu Obinwa, the senior programme officer of BAOBAB, a women’s human rights advocacy group, thinks the reason given by the Immigration Service cannot hold water.
“It does not take into consideration the circumstances which may have led the woman wanting to take the children out of the marriage,” she said. “It could be that the woman is in an abusive marriage, (to her and the children)”.
Another senior official at the office of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) at Alagbon Close, Lagos, who also requested anonymity, corroborated what the officer said at the Passport Office.
“It is purely for security reasons,” he said. “It is intended to check crimes such as human trafficking and child labour.” When asked if the mother’s consent is required when a father is the one applying for their passport, the immigration official said this may not be necessary since Nigeria is a patrilineal society.
“You must understand that Nigeria is a patrilineal society and the child belongs to the father. In a country like Ghana that is a matrilineal society, this may be possible.”
Jiti Ogunye, a Lagos-based lawyer, expressed displeasure at the practice of government officials in the application of laws, which he said reinforce the patriachal posture of the Nigerian society. Mr Ogunye said such practices are unconstitutional, as they negates the principle of equality of sexes and the abhorrence of discrimination enshrined in the country’s constitution.
“It is unconstitutional, because there should be equality of treatment of both gender by the law and in the application of all laws and regulations in Nigeria, discrimination should be avoided. You can’t discriminate anybody on the account of sex, circumstances of birth, state of origin and religion. The constitutional provision in section 34 of the constitution writes against discrimination.
However, Mr Ogunye believes that while the immigration has the power to request for the father’s consent to corroborate the mother’s claims if she shows up first at the passport office, such treatment should be meted out to the man also if he is the one that shows up first at the passport office. This, he said, will justify the principle of equality as stated in the constitution.
When asked if the immigration is not deliberately negating the tenets of the constitution on equality of sexes, the senior immigration official at the immigration office at Alagbon retorted, “Our job is to implement government policies. It is the job of a court of competent jurisdiction to decide what is constitutional or not.”
A history of discrimination
The Nigerian immigration law has a long history of discrimination against women in its administrative policy on the issuance of international passports. Prior to June 2009, when Priye Iyalla-Amadi, the wife of the famous Nigerian writer, Elechi Amadi, got what is being regarded today as a landmark judgement against the NIS, even adult women were required to get their husband’s consent before they can apply for international passports.
In the case between Priye Iyalla-Amadi versus the NIS, a federal high court in Port Harcourt declared as unconstitutional the policy of the NIS which compelled a married Nigerian woman to produce a letter of consent from her husband as a condition for issuance of international passport.
NEXT can confirm that since the judgement was issued, the NIS has jettisoned the policy that requires married women to get their husband’s consent before they are issued passports.
“I have not been asked to produce any such thing. Not at all,” said Mrs. Osinsanya, an applicant at the Lagos passport office in Ikoyi.
Teenage pregnancies worry Abia officials - August 1, 2010
Increasing rate of teenage pregnancies in Abia State has become a source of worry for officials of the state Women Affairs ministry, leading them to call on mothers and community leaders to help curtail the tide as it was capable of reducing the contribution of women to the development of the state.
A Director in the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Dorothy Ogbonna who spoke at a recent seminar, blamed the problem on the penchant of young girls from the area to see themselves as tools in the hands of men.
“As I am talking to you now, we have three of such cases in the ministry that we are handling and their mothers are there crying out their hearts,” she said.
In recent times, the police and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps had swooped on some maternities and clinics in the state where pregnant girls were kept until they delivered their babies, which are then sold by the proprietors.
The ‘baby factories,’ as they came to be known, became booming business for the heartless medical professionals who capitalized on the poverty and desperation of these teenagers to take care of them throughout their pregnancy, and even allegedly recruited young men who put them in the family way just to sell the babies immediately they were they were born.
Mrs Ogbonna lamented that some of these girls have no plans for themselves and lack self worth, adding that their dress codes, which are often outrageous and seductive, give them out as women of easy virtues.
She said the seminar for undergraduates was timely, as it would help them acquire the much needed leadership skills that women dearly required and called on women groups in the state to pool their resources together to empower young girls economically by establishing skill acquisition centres for them.
At the seminar, organized by “BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights” for female undergraduates in Abia, Mrs Ogbonna said they should see themselves as future leaders who will occupy senior positions which women groups are fighting for.
An official of BAOBAB, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba said the training workshop was the result of research the NGO carried out in the state, which revealed high prevalence of obnoxious widowhood practices and other practices that are inimical to the human rights of women.
“Women,” she said, “often do not hold leadership positions both at the work place and the community. This is caused by poverty, burden of work, culture, conservative religious interpretation, gender stereotypes that often lead to women’s low self -esteem and subsequent undervaluing of their leadership potentials.
In a bid to promote and protect the human rights of women, especially with regard to their participation in governance, a group of nongovernmental organisations under the umbrella of the National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA), have proposed the passing of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill in Lagos State.
The bill, which has been successfully passed in Anambra and Imo States, and is about to receive public hearing in Ogun State, seeks to give effect to Chapters II and IV of the country’s 1999 Constitution. Among other things, the bill proposes a minimum of 35 percent representation of women in political and public offices. In the field of employment, the bill proposes the right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security, and all benefits and conditions of service including training and retraining opportunities also, among others. The bill also touches the rights of women in the field of education where it proposes the elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging co-education and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim.
Empowerment for women
At a meeting of the NGOs in Lagos at the weekend to draw up a Lagos State action plan for the passage of the bill, Adaobi Egboka, the Executive Programmes Manager of Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), stated that the bill seeks to promote women liberation in all aspects of the society. “What we hope to achieve with the passage of the bill is women empowerment,” she said. “We are not particular about women struggle. We are hoping that the bill will enable women in areas of political participation, education, and almost in all ramifications.” Recounting the successful passage of the bill in other states of the federation, Mrs Egboka said that she was optimistic the bill will be well accepted in Lagos State. “The bill has been successfully passed in Anambra State. It has been passed in Imo State and in other states we have it at least beyond committee stage. LEDAP is the Lagos State Co-ordinator of the bill and we are working with other NGOs to ensure its success in Lagos.”
Favour Irabor, the Programme Officer of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, said the bill was necessary to protect the rights of women and to have a basis to defend women in the court of law. “If such a law is passed, we’ll have a platform to start working on,” she said. “In the present constitution, the rights of women are not well protected. The language of the constitution is gender-biased and some provisions did not really articulate the interest of women. When there is an equal opportunity bill passed into law, it takes care of the needs of women that the law presently does not take care of.”
Tackling gender bias
Speaking on the problems of gender and equal opportunities in our society, Kate Ibeanusi, the Programme Officer with Project Alert, noted that most of the problems women face regarding their rights have been in denial for too long. “There are several problems with gender and equal opportunities even though a lot of us are still pretending that they don’t exist,” she said. “Some people still believe that women are less capable to have enough reasoning to think. People feel that a woman does not have the capacity to think independently and so it affects the way women get jobs, affects political positioning, and affects virtually everything women do.”
Women, according to Onyinye Nneji, the Programme Officer of Gender And Development Action, always have to fight for their rights because we live in a society that has for long marginalised them in relation to the men. “When people see the name gender, they feel that women have come up with an idea that is against the man,” she said. “The society has placed the man on top, the women are just coming up. Most of these gender issues, the women have to fight for them because they didn’t have that opportunity at the time the men started.”
As part of BOBAB for Women’s Human Rights advocacy on women’s human rights, the organization paid a visit to the Next Newspapers on April 29th, 2010. The team that went for the visit comprised of Sindi Medar-Gould, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Linda Aina and Sunday Idowu (an intern with BAOBAB).
The aim of the visit was to show our appreciation to the management and staff of the Next Newspapers for the support given to our work over the years. It was also to present BAOBAB to Next Newspapers in terms of what we are doing and to also discuss how we can further enhance our relationship to move Nigerian women to greater heights.
BAOBAB’s team was welcomed by Olayinka Oyegbile an Associate Managing Editor who introduced other members of Next’s team. The other team members were Ajikobi David and Sunday Adedeji.
Linda Aina did a brief introduction of BAOBAB and introduced members of the team. BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights started as a result of a three year research on women and laws project. At the end of the research it was discovered that the rights of women were violated and then decided to start the organization BAOBAB with the aim of promoting and protecting the rights of women. BAOBAB has 14 outreach teams in fourteen states of Nigeria who identify the various issues of violence against women and also develop strategies in addressing them.
April - May 2010
Stop Violent Punishments against Women Radio Campaign
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights as part of her activities under the’ Stop Killing and Stoning of Women’ Campaign of the ‘Women Redefining and Reclaiming Culture’ Programme of the International Solidarity Network of Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE) recently held four live Phone in Programmes on radio in four geo political Zones in Nigeria. The locations were Borno, Oyo, Enugu and Kano.
The radio programmes in the three states were organized with the following objectives:
Open up discussions on the need for repeal of existing laws on stoning and better legislative and policy protection for women from killing and assault in the name of culture and religion.
Have a better understanding of the various misconceptions and ‘facts’ behind stoning and killing of women.
Design media strategies to address killing of women in Nigeria based on religious and cultural interpretations.
Establish the foundation for networking with like minded individuals in the media and through the media on the campaign.
After the introductory part of the one hour programme, more than half of the remaining minutes was dedicated to comments, views, questions from members of the public. The radio programmes were organized solely around the various forms of punishments women experience in the name of culture and religion such as stoning for cultural and religious reasons, widowhood rite, wife battery, rape, etc. and the need to stop the continued perpetration of these acts which are dehumanizing to women.
Most of the listeners who called in commended the initiative and requested for more of such programmes to be held in the future. They also agreed with the fact that there is violence against women in the name of culture and religion.
In the course of the live phone in programmes some of the callers identified the following also as forms of punishments to women stating that the pains experienced as a result is sufficient to cause emotional pains that could send them to their early graves gradually. This included denial of maintenance for wife and children, wife abandonment, disinheritance and restriction on what a woman can inherit, etc.
The presenters on the radio programmes utilized the space to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to domesticate all international instruments it signed several years back like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The fact that women are not second class citizens hence the need to stop all forms of violence in the name of culture and religion was emphasized. The past intervention efforts of BAOBAB and her Outreach Teams specifically in Borno and Oyo States were reiterated. The contact details of the teams were also left for further follow up that might arise. The beneficiary of the workshop on ‘Stopping Violent Punishments Against Women’ held in May 2009 who participated in the Enugu Radio programme will respond to any follow up issues that might arise after the radio programme in Enugu.
Group calls on government to protect females - March 9,
The federal government should put in place all measures to alleviate difficulties faced by women by giving them equal rights and opportunities to participate in the development process, women's human rights activists said on Monday in Lagos.
Officials of Baobab for Women's Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, said the International Women's Day, celebrated every March 8, is a time to recognise and appreciate women's achievement and to call attention to critical areas of their needs.
"This day is remarkable in the lives of women because it is also a time to give visibility to their achievements and strategise on consolidating on their gains because women have often been seen as second class citizens and have not been accorded their rightful position in development," Mufuliat Fijabi, Baobab's senior programme officer, said.
Women and politics
According to the United Nations, women are valuable contributors to the development process and non- recognition of their roles will only draw development backwards. In the light of this, Baobab, who called grassroot women together at the Surulere Local Government to commemorate this day, admonishes all the women not to only wear uniform attire and sing political songs after male leaders, but should be interested in knowing what happens in the decision making room of the political parties.
"We as women have power; we are the ones who vote the most, therefore, we can make use of the power by deciding who our leaders will be. There should be gender balance in politics and women should support their own and not back stab them," she said.
Calling on government
One of the measures the organisation has asked the government to put in place is to urgently domesticate the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This international treaty is a bill of rights adopted by the United Nations in 1979.
Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. Nigeria ratified the agreement in 1985 but has not yet domesticated it.
According to Mrs. Fijabi, domesticating CEDAW will serve as a basis of law from which every Nigerian woman and girl can seek adequate protection from.
She said cases of violence against women such as wife battery, denying the girl child education, early marriage, widowhood humiliations, sexual molestations, rape, female genital mutilation, and other harmful cultural/traditional practices against the woman will be eliminated.
"As a result, equal rights and opportunities will be adopted for all as a guiding principle that will translate into equity, overall development, recognition, promotion and protection of women's human rights and finally into a society that is conducive for everyone to live in regardless of race, colour, religion and sex."