CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS FROM STUDENTS ON #IWD2021

POEM

Give Her a Chance

Give her a chance to speak

Give her a chance to gather her thoughts

How long will she be tied to the kitchen?

How long will African women be hidden in shells?

How long will the culture make her different?

How long will this discrimination continue?

How long will she be forced to keep silent even though there are a thousand thoughts in her mind?

 

This cannot go on forever

This indifference must stop

She will no longer be silent

 

Oh! All she wants is a chance

To make decisions about her body, career, and future.

 

Oh! African women must rise up

Remember that we are life-givers, magic mentors, and mothers of nations.

 

The world is waiting for her

Waiting for her ideas on how it can become a better place

She is important

She can contribute to nations to progress

 

The president sit is empty

The governor sit is empty

The business sector needs a new leadership

 

Oh! Give her a chance

She is loaded with power

She is gifted with amazing intellect

She has the key to succeed

SHE CAN DO IT

 

Just give her a chance.

-ALABI MOJISOLA, SS3 

 

ESSAY

Women in Leadership Positions

The world is in desperate need of great leaders, whether in business or in politics. Yet, many leadership opportunities are withheld from half of the workforce. We are talking about women in leadership positions, even with all the progress we have made for equality in many important ways, women are still severely underrepresented in business and leadership positions.

This inequality could be in part because not everyone is on the same page when it comes to understanding the importance of women in leadership positions. Some believe that women should be capable of reaching leadership positions on their own, while others do not understand what makes women suited for the job. 

Many businesses and industries are waking up to the reality that women in leadership positions do not only bring important benefits, but that they are an absolutely valuable and irreplaceable resource in the office, in the boardroom, at the senate floor, at the podium, and at the head of the table. 

The helpful ways we can have more women in leadership positions are;

  • acknowledge the leadership strength and contributions of women
  • provide women with the educational and training resource
  • give women opportunities to excel within the organization and their careers

Ultimately, the problems we are facing are not technological, but human. The human system is broken. More still needs to be done to give all women the best possible chance of rising to the top, if that happens, then I will be the first to say who is in charge does not matter a jot. 

-CHRISTIANA IBIAM, SS1 

 

POEM

A Woman of Substance

I wouldn’t have come to this world

If  not for a woman beyond words

I wouldn’t have become who I am today

If not for a woman who did it yesterday

 

Oh! women are great treatures

so valuable that I cannot measure

People said her office was in the kitchen

But never knew to her it was a prison 

If there was war with so much violence

She would intervene with silence

Humanity was created eqaully

So she asks herself why are we differentiated?

 

A skinny black girl can dream of being a president

Only to find herself living in the residence

 

We can only reach the peak togerther 

Because what a man can do a woman can do too

We will be strong and fight for our rights

And we shall achieve this with all our might

 

You are a true woman of substance 

And a big salute to you

Happy Women’s day

Thank you for being pure and true.

 

-ELOY DANIEL, SS2

 

POEM

Oh woman

Oh female

Oh sister

Oh girls

Oh giver of life, women of hard labour

Oh mother, cares for you more than anyone does

Oh mother, cares for you for nine months with an unbearable pain

Oh mother the precious gift you ever had

Women of willingness, women to defend

Giver of life

Women of power, women of loyalty

Oh mother she is like a friend

Oh mother the woman who brought you to earth

Oh mother even dies for her children 

Women of heritage

Oh women the love you truly have

-Muyideen Joshua, basic 5. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VSI CELEBRATES IWD2021: #CHOOSETOCHALLENGE

Every march 8th is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Beyond marking March 8 as International Women’s Day, Vision Spring Initiatives is committed to ensuring equal access to resources for women and girls to enable them to take leadership positions in all sectors.

The theme for this year is Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a covid-19 world seeks to stress the importance of having women in leadership positions and being part of the decision-making processes at global, regional, and national levels during the pandemic. The #ChoosetoChallenge is aimed to expose various issues such as traditional harmful practices, violence against women and girls, gender roles, sexual harassment in the workplace, etc., that have served as barriers for women in taking leadership positions.

On March 5 and 10, 2021, VSI commemorated the IWD2021 with secondary school students of Sceptre Comprehensive College and DE Keepers School respectively in Lagos. The program was designed to have the students make presentations in form of storytelling, art, spoken words, poetry, and essay writing on the role of women in achieving an equal future in a covid-19 world. The purpose of the event was to have a range of creative contributions from the students on how women and girls can play important roles in achieving an equal future.

The students within the age range of 12-16 submitted and presented valuable and creative pieces in different forms of art which were captured by two television media stations present.

With VSI’s #GirlImpact Project, our focus is to educate, inform and transform the mindset of adolescents and young people from gender roles and its limitations to the superiority of choice and human rights. Our weekly engagements with the students provide the platform to engage meaningfully on issues that will help them learn, unlearn and relearn.

As we move forward from March 8, we use this opportunity to urge the government to commit funding to effective programs on how to achieve an equal future in a covid-19 world especially for adolescents and young people. 

CATCH UP WITH VSI #GIRLIMPACT PROJECT

Last year, Vision Spring Initiatives commenced its #GirlImpact Project. After 3 days of intensive training of 12 female volunteers on comprehensive sexuality education and other Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues, we partnered with two secondary schools in two local government areas in Lagos state- Kosofe and Ikorodu. The LGAs selected were from the VSI survey on identifying major areas with high teenage pregnancy and low awareness on comprehensive sexuality education. 

According to the 2018 National Demographic Health survey, the percentage of young women age 18-24 who had sexual intercourse before age 18 decreases with increasing education, from 82% among those with no education to 17% among those with more than secondary education. These figures necessitate an early intervention on the sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of young people.

Participants listening attentively during a session at De-Keepers Secondary School, Ikorodu.

The #GirlImpact project is aimed to primarily educate senior secondary schoolgirls on comprehensive sexuality education. This will enable them to make informed choices and decisions around engaging in sexual activities. The National Demographic Health Survey in 2018 also shows that 19% of women initiate sexual intercourse by age 15 and 57% by age 18. By age 20, 7 out of 10 women have had sexual intercourse. Without adequate knowledge on sexuality and provision of safe spaces and access to health services, young women and girls are left to make wrong choices which can be detrimental to their health and hindrance to continuous formal education.

 The #GirlImpact project also includes senior secondary schoolboys to create a balanced capacity building on comprehensive sexuality education. Other ancillary beneficiaries of the project are parents, teachers, and community members of the two schools’ locations. 

Participants listening attentively at Sceptre Comprehensive College, Kosofe. 

As of March 2021, the #GirlImpact project has had 32 sessions in the two schools from September 2020. Topics treated so far are Self Esteem, Introduction to Gender and Sex and Introduction to Human Rights. The students have participated in various creative activities such as poem, drawing, drama and other activities to express what they have learnt. We have also organized a celebrity guest appearance to encourage the students in the two schools. 

In March 2021, VSI celebrated International Women’s Day in the two schools where the students discussed the ways to have more women in leadership positions in every sector. The event was covered by two media houses, Television Continental (TVC) and Arise TV. 

To get weekly updates on our #GirlImpact project, follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @VSI_ng.

The mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, lock down and social distancing among health workers and others.

 

‘As a young person with goals and aspirations set at the beginning of the year I never imagined that a time will come when I will not be able to leave my house-This still seems like a dream  I am yet to wake up from’

Elizabeth Talatu, SRHR youth advocate

This is the story of many young persons during this period of the pandemic

The Pandemic took the world by surprise, but what has been different is the ways countries have responded to it. Young people constitute 18 billion of world’s population and 90% live in developing countries. 

What has posed challenges in handling the pandemic?

Young people in Nigeria were never exposed to online learning. The worse hit are people in the rural communities-during this period young people especially in Northern Nigeria and states such as Bornu where insurgents have destroyed livelihoods have been cut off from learning. Kano state and indeed many other states in Nigeria have no portable water, washing of hands is even a challenge.

A few sexual and reproductive health and rights youth friendly facilities have been shut down. The new focus is on how to end the covid-19, with total neglect of the SRHR needs of young people.  During this period two adolescent girls reported to Vision Spring Initiatives that they are pregnant and only got to know during the lock down. There must be other cases of unplanned pregnancies. There is acute shortage of SRHR services. Many aspects of lives have been brought to a halt!

There has been increased incidence of gender based violence. Many Women and girls are locked down at home with perpetrators; husbands, brothers, neighbours and boyfriends.  There is currently no means of accessing the few shelters around Nigeria due to the difficulty and imposition of lock down and the fear of infecting those at the facilities. Perpetrators cannot be taken to police stations due to lock down. Life practically came to a halt. The statement by the president on distribution of palliatives mentioned 30% for widows, 30% for single mothers, 30% for persons with disabilities and 10% for all other categories of citizens; unfortunately young people who might become sex objects during food shortage were not taken into consideration.

Many civil society organisations that can move around and respond to cases of violence against women or offer basic mediation roles were not issued with government authorised passes to facilitate movement and intervention. 

What should be done moving forward?

The sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of young people must be prioritized. There must be knowledge building that emphasizes self-care and access to youth friendly centres with adequate instructions on how to stay safe-a number of civil societies provide robust SRHR services in the country and can function effectively during lock down with adequate information and guidance.

Nigeria must begin to focus on and leverage on-line learning as a means of ensuring that communities are not cut off during emergencies such as the one presented by Covid-19. Radio and television must become new ways of learning. This can only be made possible by uninterrupted electricity supply to ensure that homes in rural areas benefit.

Civil society organisations working with agencies such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team of the Ministry of Justice should be issued passes (government movement authorisation) to enable them perform their role of responding to survivors of violence. 

There is an urgent need for census. The UN’s estimate of Nigeria at 200 million is not enough. The real population of Nigeria must be ascertained to enable adequate planning. This will be followed by development of social register in all states to determine how many Nigerians are living with disabilities, how many are widow/widowers, how many are out of job, how many are in the formal and informal sector.

Funding support received during the Pandemic should be transparently utilised so as not to leave room for speculation; this can be achieved through setting up a monitoring agency to monitor spending. 

Young people such as youth coppers and other groups within religious spaces should be part of government planning Committee during emergencies and on all other situations that might affect their well-being.  

Private sector should be more involved; telecommunication companies, Cable TV providers   Media outlets, banks, and others should contribute towards helping alleviate the sufferings of the populace.

 Civil society groups, faith based groups and others in humanitarian service should partner with government in tackling challenges posed by the pandemic. 

 

Contributed By:

Ngozi Nwosu-Juba 

Project Director, Vision Spring Initiatives. 

 

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020

 

“Reproductive freedom is critical to a whole range of issues. If young people cannot take charge of the most personal aspects of our lives, they cannot take care of anything. It should not be seen as a privilege or a benefit, but as a fundamental human right”. 

These are the words of feminist activist, Faye Wattleton, best known for her contributions to the family planning and reproductive health.

As we mark the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020 with the theme: I am Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights. Vision Spring Initiatives is partneried with Spring Up Academy High School to build knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights. A total of forty (40) young persons aged 13-18 benefitted. We are using the opportunity to demand the realisation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. The International women’s day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In September 2019, the government signed the Universal Health Coverage. The Universal Health Coverage provides a unique opportunity to address the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Nigeria.  We therefore call on the government to:

1. Empower young people including medical students on the Universal Health Coverage; make them part of the work force. Currently medical work force constitute 70% women-their capacities need to be built to effectively provide services that are youth friendly.

2. Ensure inter-sectionality and respond to needs of marginalised persons; provide adequate information infrastructure for all in the spirit of leaving no one behind.

3. Ensure inclusive budgeting that takes into account the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

4. Protect, respect right to health repeal laws and provide affordable health services SRHR and contraceptives and care.

5. Invest in power of the young generation from planning to end.

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES’ NATIONAL TRIBUNAL/DIALOGUE ON TACKLING UNSAFE ABORTION IN NIGERIA.

Panelists at the Tribunal Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Project Director, VSI addressing participants Nigeria has the third highest infant mortality in the world and also the largest contributor to global mortality rate. The rates are high not because diseases leading to death cannot be cured or prevented. Women and girls are dying from preventable and treatable sexual health complications as a result of entrenched resistance to women’s autonomy and control over their bodies. This is often justified on the basis of culture and/ or religion. Poor health care systems and weak policy implementation add to women’s risk of death. 

The recently released National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 data in the country states that unmet need for family planning declined from 20% in 2008, 16% in 2013 before increasing to 19% in 2018. 10% of maternal deaths in Nigeria are due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion is restricted in Nigeria. A 2015 national study of abortion incidences in Nigeria reveals the challenges that remain to improve conditions for Nigerian women and girls. Only 16% of all women of reproductive age use any contraceptives and an even lower percentage of 11% use a modern method, which results in almost 10 million unintended pregnancies, of which more than half end in an induced abortion. 

Young women in Nigeria are faced with many health challenges which hamper their growth and progress; one such issue that is standing in the way of girls’ progress is unsafe abortion! The data is daunting, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), unsafe abortion continues to be a public health crisis and one of the largest contributors of maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa, accounting for up to 30% of maternal deaths in many Sub-Saharan countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa resulting in 29,000 deaths and countless serious injuries and disabilities every year for poor, mostly rural based African women and girls under age 25. 

Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to Nigeria’s high levels of maternal death, I’ll health and disability. Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world and little improvement has occurred in recent years. The current ratio of 575 to 100,000 live births remain a source of concern especially with the poor implementation of the National Health Act, alongside issues of accessibility, affordability, availability and quality of health care which remains critical in maternal health services in the country. 

The slogan of leaving no one behind and the commitment in the newly adopted Universal Health Coverage Declaration CAN only be achieved if government Health plan targets those in the most need of it; women and girls. There is need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and Reproductive Health information, education, including services. Central to women and girls health and well being is the realization of their human rights, including their sexual and Reproductive rights.

Vision Spring Initiatives and other partners are working to empower women and girls, raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent sexual violence, unsafe abortion, and mobilising communities against all forms of stigma! 

It is in this light that Vision Spring Initiatives held a Mock Tribunal/Dialogue Tackling Unsafe Abortion  in Nigeria on November 5-7, 2019 at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja. The Tribunal convened a wide and representative array of CSOs, medical personnel, lawyers, media personnel, religious leaders and health practitioners. 

The panelists discussion centred around increasing awareness by enhancing public education of the SRHR needs of girls aged 18-24 and partnership with law makers, religious and traditional leaders and media towards change in social norms. The discussion also strengthened further into analysing ways to break the silence on SRHR issues in Nigeria and gain commitment for the implementation of the Universal Health Coverage Declaration. 

At the end of the Tribunal, a report was documented with key recommendations and SRHR priorities that will be shared with relevant agencies for further intervention on SRHR engagements.

Vision Spring Initiatives’ Partnership with North East Regional Initiative On Peace Building.

Vision Spring Initiative since March 2019 through consultancy services is partnering with North East Regional Initiative (NERI) on a USAID funded project to support ending violent extremist attacks in Bornu and Adamawa states. In Northern Nigeria, women and girls are being exposed under a terrible system of marginalization. They struggle economically and socially through many traditions and cultural practices, not given the opportunity to contribute to many mainstream societal processes ranging from peacebuilding, health, education, politics, and economic ventures

With the ongoing insurgency, the condition of community women here can best be described as pathetic and unfortunate. They are fenced out of basic community peacebuilding processes and encumbered with the need to provide shelter and care for the household.

This Political, Social and Economic insecurities has been a major portal through which ISIS-WA have forced some vulnerable women to become suicide bomb machinery and suppliers of logistics fueling the insurgency. The role of women in building peace has been undermined; their voices has been muted by pre-existing traditions and the raging insurgency. We are excited to be partnering with NERI towards changing this narrative. 

 

The Universal Health Coverage: Why it must count for women and girls.

The Universal Health Coverage: Why It Must Count for Women and Girls 

Nigeria is the biggest country in West Africa with diverse people and cultures. Nigeria’s Universal Health Coverage is one of the many areas the country is working to keep pace with leading countries in the world. To close the existing gap in health care for women and girls is therefore critical towards achieving SDG goal 3:7.  Currently, only about 5% of Nigerians have prepaid health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The large majority of Nigerians (95%) are without any form of coverage. Among the 95% are women and girls. 

Nigeria has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world and also is the largest contributor to global mortality rate. The rates are high not because the diseases leading to death cannot be cured or prevented, Women, girls and children are dying from preventable and treatable sexual health complications as a result of entrenched resistance to women’s autonomy and control over their bodies. This is often justified on the basis of culture and/or religion. Poor health care systems and weak policy implementation add to women’s risk of death. The target of the National Health Insurance Scheme was to provide universal coverage for all Nigerians by 2015. Unfortunately this target is nowhere near being met.

The recently released NDHS 2018 data in the country states that unmet need for family planning declined from 20% in 2008 to 16% in 2013 before increasing to 19% in 2018. 10% of maternal deaths in Nigeria are due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion is restricted in Nigeria. A 2015 national study of abortion incidence in Nigeria reveals the challenges that remain to improve conditions for Nigerian women and girls. Only 16 percent of all women of reproductive age use any contraceptive and an even lower percentage of 11 percent use a modern method, which results in almost 10 million unintended pregnancies, of which more than half end in an induced abortion.

The slogan of leaving no one behind CAN only be achieved if government health plan target those most in need of it; women, girls and children. There is need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health services. 

There is no doubt that Nigeria’s health care system is deficient and in urgent need for redemption. The National Strategic Health Development Plan 2018-2022 recognises this need, that is why one of its pillar is to promote universal access to comprehensive quality sexual and reproductive health services throughout the life cycle and reduce maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality in Nigeria. The Second National Strategic Health Development Plan is the country’s road map that will ensure overall improvement of health of Nigerians through five strategic pillars and 15 priority areas. In the 2018 budget, the government allocated 1% of the consolidated revenue fund tagged Basic health care provisions Funds. In the 2019 budget proposal, President Muhammad Buhari allocated =N=340.45 billion to the health sector, which is 3.9 percent of the =N=8.73 trillion expenditure plan. Political will is required to achieve the implementation of these health commitments which must target women and girls whose health needs remain unmet.

Central to women and adolescents health and well-being is the realization of their human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights. If we are to achieve the SDGs and UHC, we have to pay special attention to women, children and adolescent health needs. We must remove obstacles such as negative abortion laws and provide access and ownership to women and girls in health care delivery.

Majority of Nigerians who cannot afford quality health care rely on quacks, some resort to self-medication. In order to ensure implementation of the Health Scheme, the federal government needs to invest substantially into the Scheme and seek partnership with private sector and civil society groups as part of their responsibility to the society. Every Nigerian has right to access quality health care. We must move from words to action. The remaining 95% of Nigerians should be covered; with women and girls in the fore front as they are particularly affected by abuse and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence. The Universal Health Coverage Must Count for Women and Girls.

 

Ngozi Nwosu-Juba

Project Director

Vision Spring Initiatives, Lagos Nigeria.

 

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