The Africa Women Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Network (AWWASHNet) has called on governments at all levels to remove barriers to women achieving their full potential.
AWWASHNet made the call at an engagement activity held in Lagos which had women leaders, female secondary school pupils and media practitioners in attendance.
The event, convened to commemorate the International Women Day, addressed different topics ranging from Public Sector Effectiveness – The Place of Women, Democracy and Good Governance – The Role of Labour in Propagating Women Inclusion, and The Role of The Media in Driving Gender Equality, among others.
In her opening remark, Vickie Uremma Onyekuru, Chairperson, AWWASHNet, welcomed all the participants and pointed out the importance of women’s role in society and the world at large which cannot be overemphasised.
She noted that women have been relegated on the matters that affect them the most, they have no voice of their own, stating that this year’s theme is timely as it strengthens and calls for women to wake up to their challenges, take the bull by the horn and act in every capacity available to make a positive impact bearing in mind that generations unborn will be impacted by actions of today.
Betty Abah, the Executive Director of CEE-Hope, in her goodwill message, said the world rests on the shoulders of women and it is only natural to provide some help for them. Women do not need help on compassion but help on their rights. Abah emphasised that some of the things crucial to women are hygiene, especially during the menstrual cycle.
She frowned at how the girl child is made to feel ashamed during their monthly cycle hence the need for the unions, communities, and media to unite in fighting against their stigmatisation.
Ngozi Edet, chairperson of AUPCTRE women’s wing, Lagos, maintained the fact that the bill to privatise water at the national level was suspended is evidence that when women challenge anti-people decisions, it always changes the narratives, and the same energy must be channelled to protecting women across the board.
Aderonke Ige, Associate Director at CAPPA while making her presentation on, “Public Sector Effectiveness, the place of women”, encouraged women to collectively fight for their rights and make sure that legal inhibitors to women’s rights be identified and addressed. Ige went further to say, it is the society that fuelled the division women are facing today, even as she challenged every woman to #breakthebiases that divide them. She advised that women must learn to use occasions deliberately created to pitch them against each other to bond strongly to challenge that system.
Comrade Funmi Sessi, Lagos Chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in her intervention on “Democracy and Good Governance – The Role of Labour in Propagating Women Inclusion”, stated that some of the biases experienced by women is because of bad governance and bad government policies which do not recognise the roles of women in society, while creating an environment that makes it difficult for women to cope.
The labour leader revealed that labour is propagating women to be included in governance up to 35% at each level and has gone as far as fronting women candidates and placing supportive measures to make sure they succeed.
In her words: “We do not want women to be used for political dance while their male counterpart is kept in the office who will, in turn, jettison them as soon as they get to power. Women are not to be used to help men to power and be neglected because they are women.”
She encouraged women to be good examples to their children, be accountable and stop limiting themselves as people that are only made to be inferior against their men counterparts in leadership.
“Women must be ready to challenge impunities in their community, society, Africa, and the world at large. We have had successful women leaders at different levels,” she added.
A participant, Nigeria Info FM Presenter, Wemimo Adewumi, speaking on “The role of the media in driving gender equality”, advised women not to relent in supporting their fellow women, noting that leadership positions in media are shifting from men to women. She encouraged women to own their voices by speaking out, and not die in silence.
“Women should stand up to challenge stereotypes with facts in the media. Elections are no longer made for only men. Women should be able to campaign, contest and support each other during election time, as more women in leadership foster good decision processes in society. We can then be able to break the bias we are faced with today,” she stated.
On the Way forward, AWWASHNet Coordinator, Veronica Nwanya, said that there must be deliberate inclusion of women in decision making in leadership and other channels of information where women are expected to play vital roles.
Participants were drawn from, Child Health Organisation, MODRISIC, ODL, AUPCTRE, ROWGLES, Lagos State Ministry of Education, LUCIANO, Cee-Hope, NLC, CAPPA, AWWASHNet members. Pupils were invited from Omole Senior Grammar School, Babs Fafunwa Millennium Senior Grammar school, Oregun Senior High School, Agidingbi Senior Grammar School, and Government Technical College, among others.