POSITION PAPER BY VISION SPRING INITIATIVES, INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT AND CSO PARTNERS ON GENERATION EQUALITY ACTION COALITIONS.

Oluwatobi Ayodele engaging with representative of the Honorable Minister of Environment.

 

POSITION PAPER BY VISION SPRING INITIATIVES, INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT, AND CSO PARTNERS

 

TO

 

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA, POLICY OFFICIALS, AND ITS RELEVANT AGENCIES

 

COMMITMENTS TOWARDS THE ACTION COALITIONS ON THE 2026 GENERATION EQUALITY ACCELERATION PLAN

Generation Equality outlines a youth-focused global roadmap to achieve gender equality by 2026 through mobilization of governments, feminist, and youth-focused organizations, and the private sector to catalyze collective action; spark global and local conversations among generations; drive increased public and private investment, and deliver concrete progress on gender equality across generations of girls and women. Part of the global agenda is bodily autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), feminist action on climate change, and feminist leadership and movement. The partner organizations and other youth-focused civil society groups have reviewed the efforts of the Nigerian government, especially on actions to achieve bodily autonomy and SRHR, feminist action for climate justice, and feminist leadership and movement. 

Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

The Federal Republic of Nigeria has always believed in good health for all its citizens. Though access to good health, especially for women and girls, is abysmally poor and low, efforts have been made since the COVID-19 pandemic to improve that. According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS, 2018), there are continuing high rates of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality, poor access to contraceptive information and services, family planning, high incidences of unsafe abortions, high rates of vesicovaginal fistula, and female genital mutilation, among other reproductive health challenges. 

The recognition of bodily autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents and young women in Nigeria is still a hard case with little influence of international policies on national policies. Conservative socio-cultural values are widespread in Nigeria, and SRHR touches on highly sensitive issues, including adolescent and young women’s access to contraceptive services and information, safe abortion, family planning services, and sexuality education. Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, initiatives to advance reproductive health in low-income countries like Nigeria have gathered momentum, putting pressure on national governments to act on these issues. There is a focus on women’s reproductive rights in the newly revised National Health Policy.[1] This revised Policy (2017) lays emphasis on primary healthcare as the bedrock of the national health system in addition to the provision of financial risk protection to all Nigerians particularly the poor and vulnerable population (FMOH, 2018). According to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), 47% of the potential demand for family planning is being met. [2] There is also an existing Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) curriculum for Junior Secondary Schools in Nigeria. 

Feminist Action on Climate Change

With the country’s economic dependency on climate-sensitive and climate-impactful industries (e.g. agriculture, forestry, extraction) climate change threatens to exacerbate vulnerability to extreme weather events and limit economic growth in certain sectors. This is because women and girls are exposed to environmental degradation and all forms of abuse. A recent Oxfam report (2019) [3] says climate-fueled disasters are forcing an estimated 20 million people a year from their homes especially in developing countries including Nigeria. For women and girls of reproductive age, displacement—the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and normal social structure—often means access to good sexual and reproductive services and information is disrupted or non-existent. Since the launch of the National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change (NAPGCC) in 2020, to ensure national climate change processes, initiatives, programs, and policies in Nigeria mainstreamed gender considerations, concrete actions and effective strategies have not been activated to address gender and climate change in Nigeria towards achieving the objectives of the NAPGCC. Considering the monumental impact of climate change on Nigerian women, it is critically urgent to initiate the development of an implementation strategy framework and immediate development of next steps in implementing Nigeria’s Gender Action Plan. This is considerably in line with the county’s ratification of the Paris Agreement and submission of the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2017, and the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action for Climate Change Nigeria (NASPA-CCN), which describes its adaptation priorities, bringing together existing initiatives, and priorities for future action.

Part 11 Section 2.1 of the Action Plan provides for gender and climate change, mainstreaming gender with plans to develop innovative strategies while Part 11 Section 3.0 outlines the legal framework and policy mandate that includes international and regional convention and protocols on gender and climate action.

Feminist Movement and Leadership

Feminism has been an aloof tool of political discourse and democratic action in Nigeria. Since the 19th-century, women have played significant roles to correct acts of discrimination and violence and push for an increase in meaningful political participation for women. The intervention of women in the social and political landscape helped to improve their status at the grassroots, state, and national levels. Since Nigeria became a democratic nation, the promise of equal participation in politics for women through the 35% affirmative action plan has not been realized; regional and international instruments such as the Maputo Protocol and the CEDAW that Nigeria is a signatory to have not been domesticated, laws for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls are not respected and injustices against women, whether cultural or religious, still abound.  

 

OUR POSITION

There is an urgent need for a stronger response to inequality for adolescents and young women. Institutional and economic barriers to young women’s advancement put them at a disadvantage. Social and political changes are essential to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal #5 on gender equality to eradicate inequities and strengthen SRHR as well as improvements in mainstreaming gender within climate change policies and programs. This will be impossible unless young girls and women are completely empowered and harmful cultural practices like female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage are abolished, and a feminist action on climate change is adopted.

To this effect, we advocate in line with the Acceleration Actions for 2026 of the Generation Equality agenda on the following:

Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

  • Review the Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) curriculum to ensure that it responds to changing needs of adolescents and young people and conforms to the global best practices in comprehensive sexuality education design and delivery by 2026. 
  • Integrate FLHE into Industrial Skills Training Centers and other non-formal educational programs to cater to out-of-school adolescents and young people in all their diversities by 2026. 
  • Endorse access to digital platforms that provide information and services to adolescents and young persons in all of their diversity on SRHR.
  • Domesticate and implement international commitments like the Maputo Protocol, CEDAW, Universal Health Coverage Declaration, and other consensus documents to ensure legal recognition of access to full SRHR services for adolescents and young women in all their diversities by 2026.  
  • Allocate budget for full implementation and monitoring of FLHE curriculum across states in Nigeria by 2026. 
  • Allocate a gender-responsive budget for primary healthcare facilities to cover youth-friendly services such as contraceptives, menstrual hygiene care, and other reproductive services for adolescents and young people in all their diversities by 2026.  

Feminist Action on Climate Change. 

  • Government should partner with climate-action NGOs, private sector to invest in data collection on gender-environment statistics.
  • Review of existing environment-related curriculum for secondary schools to adopt gender and climate change issues and information. 
  • The Federal Ministry of Environment should commit adequate funding for immediate and efficient coordination and implementation of the Nigerian National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change. 
  • The department of Climate Change under the Federal Ministry of Environment should be adequately funded to enable a strategic action plan for climate change that would be effective as they serve as the vehicle for implementation.
  • Enhance the capacity of adolescent girls and young women in all their diversity to build resilience to climate and disaster risks, mitigate climate change, and address loss and damage, including through community-based cooperative models and land rights and tenure security.

Feminist Leadership and Movement

  • Increase and support the participation of young feminists in leadership and decision-making processes to ensure their meaningful and transformative inclusion.
  • Acknowledge and appoint leadership portfolios to young women in all diversity in the political sector by 2026.
  • Ensure the inclusion of feminists’ perspectives in the ongoing review of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. 

 

[1] https://uneca.org/sites/default/files/Gender/Beijing25/nigeria-beijing25_report.pdf

[2] https://nigeriahealthwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/2019/12/NDHS-2018.pdf

[3] https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/forced-home-climate-fuelled-displacement

Signed:

Vision Spring Initiatives (VSI)

International Centre for Environmental Health and Development (ICEHD)

EcoWarriors

Stand With a Girl Initiative

Dinidari Foundation 

Elizabeth Foundation

Centre for the Right to Health

Education as a Vaccine (EVA)

Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER)

Girl Up Nigeria

Gender Mobile Initiative 

Invictus Africa

Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF)

NGWomen4Peace

Nigerian Girl Guides Association

Iyeh’s Foundation

Dean Foundation

We Ignite Lives for Greatness Nigeria Initiative (WiLG)

Women Environmental Programme (WEP)

Child Education and Crime Eradication Foundation (CECEF)

Women and Girls Capabilities Empowerment Organization

 

 

cross section of participants including representatives of ministries, relevant agencies, youth-focused CSOs and media.

cross section of participants including representatives of ministries, relevant agencies, youth-focused CSOs and media.

cross section of participants including representatives of ministries, relevant agencies, youth-focused CSOs and media.

25 Years After Beijing: Perspectives of Young Nigerian Women

 

 

In April 2021, Vision Spring Initiative organized a Generation Equality Writing Workshop for 12 young feminists in Nigeria. The aim was to build the capacity of young feminists on the thematic areas in the Beijing declaration and platform for action including its structural objectives and methods of contextualizing each area from a young feminist perspective.

Following the absence of funding commitments and statements of the Nigerian government at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico and Paris, this document serves to bring to light the present realities in each of the thematic areas of concern in the Beijing Declaration and also provide intersectional and transformative recommendations to the government and relevant stakeholders. 

 

Download a copy here:  25 years after Beijing – Perspectives of young Nigerian women

Vision Spring Initiatives trains young feminists on Generation Equality Writing in Lagos.

Oluwatobi Ayodele

Vision Spring Initiative organized a Generation Equality Writing Workshop for 12 young feminists in Nigeria.

The aim was to build the capacity of young feminists on the thematic areas in the Beijing declaration and platform for action including its structural objectives and methods of contextualizing each area from a young feminist perspective.

Participants for the workshop were drawn and carefully selected for their line of work and in relation to the thematic areas of the Beijing Declaration. The selection led to the gathering of feminist lawyers, psychologists, writers, and communications consultants.

Speaking at the 2 days’ workshop, the Project Consultant, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, gave a comprehensive explanation of the history of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action from inception in 1995 and a 25 years overview and the position Nigeria holds on the achievement level of all the recommendations. She also gave a breakdown analysis of the writing structure to guide the participants in their work.

Tawakalit Kareem, communications officer, Invictus Africa, mentioned the necessity and timeliness of the workshop, particularly for Nigeria where young people’s opinions are not heard and included in decision-making at all political levels. 

Ogbeche Ohotuowo, a lawyer for The Initiative for Equal Rights also expressed her excitement for the project and her participation in the training.

Due to the movement restrictions caused by Covid-19 pandemic, some of the participants joined virtually which also enhanced a comprehensive conversation and networking amongst the participants.

The two-days writing workshop created space for interactions amongst participants which resulted in identifying new challenges that are peculiar to young people in Africa and by extension, Nigeria. The workshop agreed on some terms of reference and networking model among participants.

The Generation Equality Forum is a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by France and Mexico, in partnership with civil society and youth. The Forum kicked off in Mexico City from 29-31 March 2021 and will culminate in Paris from 30 June – July 2021.  The aim of the Forum is to center young voices from around the world in addressing identified issues that affect women and girls.

It was designed to be an offshoot from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995 (BPAD). Instead of addressing the 12 thematic areas on BPAD, the Generation Equality was designed on 6 thematic areas which are Gender-Based Violence, Economic justice and rights, Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Feminist action for climate justice, Technology and, innovation for Gender Equality, Feminist movements and leadership.

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.