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.

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. 

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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THE RIGHT TO PEACE IN NIGERIA!

As the world celebrates the International Peace Day today with the theme RIGHT TO PEACE, we at Vision Spring Initiative joins the world in celebration. Peace as abundant as it should have been is not so in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part.

Nigeria suffers a variety of complex political problems including inequality, corruption, oil disputes, national disunity, and the Boko Haram insurgency. This eight year conflict and humanitarian crisis in the north has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.6 million people. Boko Haram mostly use women and girls as suicide bombers, forcing them to detonate bombs in urban canters. According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, 83 children were used as suicide bombers since January: 55 girls and 27 boys, one was a baby strapped to a girl. The group abducted 67 women and children in 2017. The plight of refugees fleeing the violence is also worsening with the current severe drought and impending famine across northeast Nigeria.

In May, after negotiations brokered by Switzerland and the International Committee for the Red Cross, 82 Chibok schoolgirls were released. Boko Haram fighters had abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno state, in April 2014. More than 100 of the girls and hundreds other captives, including over 500 children from Damasak, Borno, remained in Boko Haram captivity.

Violence has also intensified in the MiddleBelt between Fulani herdsmen and farmers amid claims of trespassing and sabotage. At the end of April 2018, President Trump met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. It was a very important meeting as President Buhari was the first president from sub-Saharan Africa to visit President Trump at the White House. President Trump was reportedly very interested in the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

The Niger Delta has also been the scene of serious violence. Between 2006 and 2009 a militant group named MEND protested against the poverty of the region despite the oil wealth it produced. In 2009, a general amnesty was accepted by these militants. However, in 2016, President Buhari’s 70% cut to the amnesty program prompted further unrest. Since 2016, attacks have largely been carried out by the NDA, targeting major pipelines, and provoking huge economic consequences.

Another element in Nigeria’s political status-quo is the legacy of the Biafran civil war (1967-1970) which saw the defeat of Biafran separatists by federal forces and the death of a million people. Grievances in the Igbo community were reignited in 2015 in protests by Igbo youth. The Nigerian government has since been accused of using excessive force, killing 150 protestors from August 2015-2016.

In spite of these violence and conflicts, Nigeria has remained immune to war and secession. We must therefore continue to thrive and maintain peace across the country, especially where it has been deprived for a long time.

Every human being has the RIGHT TO PEACE.

Every Local Government Area has the RIGHT TO PEACE.

Every state has the RIGHT TO PEACE.

Our country has the RIGHT TO PEACE.

We should endeavor to always advocate for peace in every sector and in all tiers of the government. The government, most especially the incoming one should be pressured in ensuring adequate budget is allocated to security and enough effort is concentrated in the Middle Belt and North. Also, the government should ensure that the perpetrators of peace are rightfully impeded.

Our children and women are not suicide bombers and sex toys. A girl child should not be deprived education. A boy child should not be taught to repress his emotions. A woman should not be controlled by laws and stereotypes. A man should not be controlled by laws and stereotypes.

Let’s rise above complex political problems including inequality, corruption, oil disputes, national disunity, gender stereotypes, religion and cultural disunity that has handicapped our progress, growth and development as a country.  We have the RIGHT TO PEACE.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Ayodele Oluwatobi

Vision Spring Initiative

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2018!

Unsafe abortions are one of the most significant and preventable contributions of maternal mortality and morbidity in Nigeria. Research carried out by the Guttmacher Institute in partnership with the university of Ibadan, reported that 1.25 million induced abortions occurred in 2012 alone. On the other hand, evidence from a consultant OB/GYN at the University Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada reported that unsafe abortions contribute to at least 13% of maternal deaths in the country yearly. He also reported that over 450,000 unsafe abortions were carried out yearly in Nigeria.

media personality from the Nation Newspaper asking a question

In the light of this discovery, vision spring initiative and the beneficiaries of its Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) training launched the #mybodymyright on the 8th of March, to commemorate the international women’s’ day celebration. We had two print media teams and one radio media present.

We had the honour of having the Chairman of Nigerian Union Journalists (NUJ), Dr. Qasim Akinreti. In his words he said womanhood is our pride. He salutes our courage and steadfastness in the pursuit of eradicating ancient laws that has handicapped our progress in the area of sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in our country. He promised to partner with us to ensure the #mybodymyright reaches a wider range of girls and women in the country.

The press release statement was read by Imisi Johnson, one of the SRHR beneficiaries, she stated clearly the demands the campaign centres on and what is expected from the government after the campaign. Few of demands included:

  • Improved access to safe SRHR services by removing legal restrictions and ensuring that services are safe and accessible to all women who need them in a timely manner.
  • Address in a systematic way the various forms of abuse faced by the adolescent girl in the home and society.