As Nigeria joins the World to celebrate this year’s World Population Day, Development Communications Network (DevComs) calls on the Nigerian government to provide for the needs of women and girls in line with this year’s World Population Day (WPD), which focuses on raising awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and vulnerabilities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to DevComs, government should provide adequate protection against adversities arising from the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls in the country. Evidence, it says, shows that the pandemic has made women and girls more vulnerable with dire consequences including sexual violence, rape, unplanned pregnancy, and numerous hazards including loss of lives.
Women and girls make up over 49% of the total population in Nigeria, according to the World Bank. DevComs notes that it is highly imperative that the needs of half the population of the country be prioritised to enhance gender equality for all.
DevComs says majority of women and girls in the country still live in extreme poverty, are out of school and not aware of their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). It stresses that these have rendered the group vulnerable as a result of lack of equal opportunities compared to their male counterpart, especially amidst the pandemic.
DevComs Executive Director, Akin Jimoh, stated: “There is a need for sustainable public information dissemination as a first step to address the vulnerabilities revolving around SRH challenges of women and girls in order for them to live a healthy life even in the face of COVID-19.”
A major key to addressing SRH vulnerabilities of women and girls, according to him, is to make available modern contraceptives/family planning (FP) commodities and supplies, including menstrual health and hygiene items.
“The media advocacy project on FP by DevComs Network, in partnership with the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), The Challenge Initiative (TCI), alongside governments at all levels has proven the media to be a strategic tool to sensitising women and girls on their SRH rights.
“DevComs Network in collaboration with TCI is currently training and mentoring journalists across media organisations in 13 states across the country. The organisation has over the years trained and mentored journalists in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, playing a leading role in strategic communication and media engagement in science and public health issues concerning different sectors of the Nigerian economy,” said Jimoh.
Akinpelumi Akinlolu, DevComs head of operations, said: “The future of our women and girls can be managed wisely doing otherwise can lead to a chain of negative consequences including morbidity and mortality and population explosion, among target groups. The need to empower women and the girl child is urgent and imperative.”