Author: visionadmin

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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Report of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) by Ngozi Nwosu-Juba.

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Preamble

According to the NGOCSW 63 2019 Guidebook, nearly 5,200 Civil society members and 1,850 government delegates attended the UN commission on the Status of Women this year, making it the largest annual gathering of the international women’s movement at the UN-a time for renewal of collective purpose and action. The priority theme for CSW 63 is social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. According to the UN Women, social protection is a set of minimum guarantees, including basic income security for children, working-age adults, older people and people with disabilities, as well as essential health care for all.  

Opening remarks at the CSW 63

H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason chair of CSW 63 in her opening remark said that women have been systematically marginalized, ignored and silenced in a male dominated world with a male dominated culture. She noted that patriarchal roots in Western culture help explain deep power imbalances stating that she believes that same applies to other regions of the world. She referred to a cartoon of a group of executives sitting around a conference table – all men, one lone woman. The woman has just made an important point – followed by a long pause. In the cartoon, finally, the boss pipes up and says “that’s an excellent suggestion, Ms. Triggs.  Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” She stated that she suspects that many of the delegates would have had such experience.

Continuing her remarks she noted the need to be clear about what needs to change. As Professor Beard has written:

“If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power we need to redefine rather than women.”

She thanked all the delegates for leading change and for raising their voices from various countries and continents, stating that everyone is needed here, now and more than ever before.  She further stated that our world today needs direction and she hoped that participants will help guide the way. She expressed concern that though people are more connected, yet societies are becoming more fragmented, with challenges such as climate change, insecurity, ongoing uphill battle for reproductive rights – terrible endemic sexual and gender-based violence, conflict which in her view more than ever before require global responses.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his remark on March 12 noted that the environment is not friendly to women and girls. He said women and girls still face sexual harassment due to power relations and imbalance, According to him, victims of sexual harassment become double victims when they report violence, stating that this must stop. He commended 60 heads of states that are currently champions to end violence and harassment, stating that peace and security is critical in ending all forms of violence against women. He noted that conflict is high and also a question of power, regretting that while many countries are moving forward with regards to making legislations, some are moving backwards, incidences of hate speech, female genital mutilation still persist. Vision Spring Initiatives noted the following suggestions as the role of civil society groups:

  • Strengthen ties between feminists and women’s movement within the UN.
  • Build stronger intergenerational dialogue with partnerships.
  • Transform the culture of inequality culture of unsustainable development and culture of violence.
  • Develop statistics on violence and stereotypes and use this information to challenge the status quo.

Moving forward the following suggestions were mentioned as role of government:

  • Support NGO parallel report on Beijing and CEDAW
  • Develop strategies to strengthen ties between UN and critical social movement in equating SDG and peace
  • Create online opportunities for feminists and women’s journalisms, arts and culture
  • Bring the global to local e.g. cities for CEDAW

The following was suggested on how NGOs take action:

  • Mobilise around national NGO parallel reports to present to governments
  • Hold public events in Beijing and CEDAW in schools and communities
  • Create intergenerational events during 2019 and 2020

Writing of parallel report by NGOs

  • Need to ensure universal ratification of CEDAW and implementation
  • In 2030 prioritize gender equality not only on SDG 5 but ensure budgetary allocation, adequate monitoring and establishment of specific gender machinery
  • Address inequalities find solutions and have data disaggregated by sex
  • Address structural inequalities and impediments, including legislations, tackle root causes of inequality and build skills for achieving equality
  • Establish meaningful partnership by all and not just women
  • Invest in gender equality-have it stated in national budgets laws and policies and financed by the government for change to happen.  

All the deliberations agreed that change was happening incrementally, but governments need to accelerate actions for the achievements of the rights of women and girls and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Vision Spring Initiatives is currently reviewing the Concluding remarks towards partnering with strategic stakeholders.

BALANCE FOR BETTER- IN CELEBRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH.

In celebration of March 8: International Women’s Day

It is a privilege to be among great women at such a time as this! It is indeed a privilege to be a woman in this generation! A generation where women are unapologetically fighting for their freedom. A generation where women are unabashedly using their voices to break barriers. A generation where women are recognized as persons with full potentials and can make choices irrespective of archaic societal stereotypes.

Today our celebration cuts across every part of the world with voices clamouring for #BalanceforBetter! Today as we celebrate, we urge every stakeholder and every policy maker to strive for a balanced community in their respective jurisdiction.

Today, we demand a state in which women and girls in Nigeria are treated equally and command the same importance as men!

In Nigeria, we have 10.5 million out-of-school children, and 60% of the out-of-school children are girls. We need our girls in schools, not in matrimonial homes as underage girls. We need balance in our educational system.

In a world where 90% of the jobs in the next 10 years will require technology skills and knowledge, women in Nigeria make up just about 22% of the total number of Engineering and Technology University graduates each year, showing us that as women in Nigeria, we will be left behind in tomorrow’s world. We need balance in technology and science.

Female entrepreneurs are on the rise in Nigeria as they make up 41%, making it the country with the highest number of female entrepreneurs, however, only 2% have access to loans and grants from financial institutions. As women in Nigeria are making significant contributions to the surge of entrepreneurial activities and making gains for their communities and the economy at large, it is rather unfortunate that access to loans and grants from financial bodies and institutions as a female entrepreneur in Nigeria have been almost impossible. We need balance in the business development.

Women’s participation in government and access decision making position both at private and public spheres is relatively low in Nigeria, leaving women with nothing to celebrate. Women suffer many barriers which inhibits their opportunity  to compete equally with men in leadership positions. Removing these barriers is no doubt difficult and would take a gradual process but for now, the need for an affirmative action is needed. Women should have a proportion or allocation of meaningful positions in various parties to enable them to have equal opportunities to compete and participate with other male candidates. We need balance in politics.

We demand a state in which men and women live in equality and have equal importance.

A balanced society is an advanced society.

A balanced country is a progressive country.

Women-Inclusion, Women-Participation, Women-Empowerment and Women-Representation should be our focus towards a balanced Nigeria and be #BalancedforBetter.

In politics, in education, in leadership positions, in technology, in every sector whatsoever, where decisions are being made, speak up, and demand a seat at the table. It is your right. #BALANCEFORBETTER #IWD2019 #WOMENSDAY

AYODELE OLUWATOBI  

Ayodele Oluwatobi

AFRICA REGIONAL DIALOGUE ON GENDER EQUALITY & RIGHTS, OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE ‘STATE OF THE AFRICAN WOMAN’ REPORT AND ICPD +25/AADPD +5 REVIEW.

Vision Spring Initiatives was represented at the 2018, Africa’s Regional Dialogue (ARD) which focused on Advancing Gender Equality and Rights. The forum provided space for interactive exchange, knowledge transfer, mutual learning, joint strategizing and dialogue on issues that affect and impact gender equality and SRHR in Africa. Key participants to this forum were drawn from civil society networks and organisations including IPPF Member Associations, Faith Based and Youth Led organisations. Governmental and Intergovernmental Representatives, Parliamentarians, Academia, and various Bilateral and Multilaterals agencies also participated. 150 participants attended the 4 day meeting.  

The Dialogue built on IPPF Africa Regions Inter-Generational Dialogue that started way back in 2012 and borrows from proven models that have worked in 15 Year Old International Dialogue on Population and Development that is hosted every year by GIZ, BMZ, IPPF, DSW, Bayer and KFW, in Berlin, Germany.  The dialogue served as a platform for south-south knowledge exchange and dialogue, that enabled learning and sharing of lessons and good practices of partners advocacy strategies,  providing platform for key decision makers and parliamentarians to interact and undertake informal dialogues CSOs and Youth on SRHR.  It is expected that the various sessions will revitalize and increase CSO and Youth interaction with decision makers and ultimately see strengthened relations with decision makers.Ngozi Nwosu Juba the program director in attendance at the Africa Regional Dialogue.

1537376346739blob the Program Director of Vision Spring Initiative, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, making a presentation on behalf of CSO grouops, urging them to remain focused and ensure that duty bearers are held accountable to their commitments.

gender 1 

Gender justice is at the core of the work of Vision Spring Initiatives. The organisation through its yearly event work with girls to understand the power they possess as equal partners with men and boys, while it helps men and boys ‘unlearn’ gender stereotypes.

gender 2 our school projects enables girls think outside the box!!!

gender 3 one of our young women proudly displaying the description on her t-shirt during our ‘Break Silence’ program.

gender 4 an educative session handled by our project assistant, Tolu.

 

 

 

Vision Spring Initiatives Demand an end to all forms of Violence against women and girls.

Vision Spring Initiative a member of LagosWOmen2030 and Women Thrive Alliance participated at a peaceful protest to end all forms of attack, abuse and killing of women, girls and men in Nigeria.

The protest was a response to the incessant report of attacks on women, girls and men by alleged Fulani herdsmen.  

The protesters visited media stations, dropping statements demanding an end to all forms of violence. The final points of visit by the protesters were Governor’s office and Lagos State House of Assembly. LagosWomen2030 are a group of Civil Society organisations monitoring and contributing to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria.

1537376228000blob1537376246367blob members of the LagosWomen2030 with the representative of Lagos State Governor.