By Philip Yatai

The United Nations Women in collaboration with the Kaduna State Government on Friday inaugurated three programmes to increase support for gender equality and women empowerment in the state.

They are: Programme on Women/Peace/Security, Advancement of Women’s Political Participation Affirmative Procurement in Nigeria, and the HeForShe Campaign in the state.

IMs Beatrice Eyong, the UN Women Country Representative, said at the inauguration in Kaduna that the programme on Women, Peace and Security in Nigeria, Phase II, was developed with funding from the Government of Norway.

Eyong, represented by the Mr Lansana Wonneh, the Deputy Country Representative, said that the three-year programme, 2022 to 20224, was designed to attain a more peaceful and gender-equal society.

This, she said, would be achieved by creating an enabling environment through strengthening policy frameworks, capacity, coordination, and oversight by federal and state entities.

She added that it would equally increase the meaningful participation of women to deliver on the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 commitments for conflict prevention and peace building.

She said that the programme was built on Phase 1, 2019 to 2021, adding that the Phase II will focus on four specific areas.

She identified one of the areas as the development of Nigeria’s 3rd National Action Plan on women, peace, and security; and enhanced legislative engagement and actions.

According to her, others are:  to create an enabling environment for women’s leadership, participation in politics and decision-making positions, as well as support women mediation capacities, networks, and actions for conflict prevention and peace building.

Eyong said that the HeForShe campaign, was being funded by the Government of Norway as one of the strategies to engage men and boys as gender advocates.

She added that the champions would be promoting gender equality and the women, peace, and security agenda, adding that a functional HeForShe Network was recently established in the state with over 50 members.

“The members are drawn from different sectors, including the traditional and religious institutions, government agencies, the CSO and the media,” she said.

She also explained that the Advance Women’s Political Participation Programme with support from the Government of Canada was to address the low participation and representation of women in politics.

The UN country representative said that through the project, UN Women would support women’s participation in election and appointment in the 2023 electoral circle and beyond

She also explained that the Affirmative Procurement in Nigeria Project was to support institutional strengthening reforms to improve women-led businesses and access to public procurement.

She added that the project was also to develop gender- responsive-procurement initiatives as part of the COVID-19 response strategies.

She described gender-responsive procurement as “the selection of services, goods and civil works that considers the impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment”.

Also speaking, UN Women Programme Specialist, Mrs Peter Mancha, said that gender inequality was widespread in the country.

Mancha attributed the development to the patriarchy, deeply entrenched discriminatory cultural practices, and weak implementation of gender equality policies, operational frameworks, and laws.

He said that women in Nigeria were grossly under-representedin political leadership and decision-making structures, with only 4.5 per cent elective and 11 per cent appointive positions       occupied by women.

He described the HeForShe as a “solidarity movement” that provides a systematic approach and targeted platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equality.

He said that the HeForShe movement was created by UN Women and was inaugurated on Sept. 20, 2014, at the United Nations by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson.

According to him, the ambitious aim was to mobilise 1 billion men to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.

He disclosed that so far, the campaign recorded two billion conversations on social media every year and 3.35 million gender equality web commitments, with India, Rwanda, Congo-Kinsasha, USA and Mexico having the highest number of commitments.

He added that the HeForShe campaign was officially launched on May 23, 2017, in Nigeria, the 5th country to officially launch the campaign in the West Africa after Cabo Verde, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

“While Nigeria’s commitment is low currently at 5,595 commitments, the recognition of traditional leaders as gender champions was recording huge results.  

“For example, appointed women as members/advisers in Traditional Council in Plateau State has rose from zero to 107; in Adamawa from zero to 486 and from 40 to 246 in Gombe state,” Mancha said.

Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State called for the liberation of women, who are half of the state’s population, from being undermined, underutilised and de-humanised.

El-Rufai, who was represented his Deputy, Dr Hadiza Balarabe said: “If we want to make progress as a country, we must liberate half of our population, which consists of women, from being undermined, underutilised and de-humanised.”

He also explained that Resolution 1325 required parties in a conflict to prevent violations of women’s rights to support women’s participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction, and to protect women and girls from sexual violence during war.

According to him, as a girl-child, a woman is marginalised and excluded from obtaining education, exposed to violence in schools and at home, and suffers domestic violence and so many inhibiting cultural practices.

He noted that a campaign on ‘HeForShe’ programme recognised the disadvantaged position women had found themselves the world over, whether in peace or war times.

The governor stressed the need to address the women’s economic empowerment in order to touch on some fundamental areas.

He said that under the ‘HeForShe’ programme, his administration had done a lot for women, adding that the Kaduna was the only state in sub-Saharan Africa with 53 per cent of its appointed commissioners being women.

El-Rufai further assured of government supports through making of policies, programmes, legislations and other activities that would ensure that women’s lots were improved.

“We shall continue to work for a better society for women,” he said.

In her remarks, Commissioner for Women Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, said that the drive by the state was not just to get women to women to contest election but to occupy executive positions.

Baba added that the state was also to create economic empowerment opportunities that would make women to participate in national development, compete and be self-sufficient, understanding their roles before and after conflict.

She said that the conversations on gender equality or reduced inequality must continue until it achieved its aims.

According to her, the violence being faced by women and girls has become a consistent trend, ranging from domestic violence to traditional harmful practices.

“The current initiatives at mitigating or resolving conflicts have limited the participation of women at all levels, as they are often seen only as victims of conflicts that need to be protected rather than being agents of peace,” she said.

She said women capacity is still not fully unitilize adding that it should harnessed to promote transformative change and sustainable peace.

The commissioner said there was the need for involving women in peace and security issues across cultures and societies.

“The efforts made by international organisations, the government, civil societies and other community-based organisations around the world led to the establishment of Women, Peace and Security Agenda, through the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

“As we proceed to have this joint launch, I hope that there will be noticeable behavioural change towards increased support and promotion of gender equality in our homes, communities, workplaces and daily lives,” she said.