….As CEHRD Unfolds 10 Yr. Economic Empowerment Plan of 2million Rural Women
Civil Society activists have been advised back their demands for action on issues from the legislature with facts and figures to make it easy to receive needed response.
Chairperson, House committee on Women in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Linda Somiari-Stewart gave the advice at a summit on Women Entrepreneur in Rivers State at Adgate Hotel, Port Harcourt, January 1, 2021.
Speaking through her legislative aide, Mrs Grace Ajagbo, she pointed out that data and facts place issues squarely before lawmakers, providing for them, avenue for engagement.
“There I need to come to legislators with figure and facts. The language for policy makers is data; they want to know how issues impact their constituencies. Research for figure, numbers and facts to get them to act,” she advised.
Ajagbo noted that policies targeted at the grassroots women have not touched base as planned pointing out, that there is a disconnect between women at the national level and actual community omen empowerment. She stressed that the need to mainstream women needs into government policies across board and invited civil society to partner with the legislature in that regard.
According to her, though some view women’s issues as not affecting the entire society, the reality is that the Coronavirus pandemic and the flood that followed in 2020 have inflated cost of food, dislodging families thus affecting all and threatening food security.
The combined effect of the disasters increased the vulnerability of rural women. “ After the struggles and anxieties over the pandemic, flood left rural women with nothing, nowhere to access support”, Ajagbo stated, adding, “enablement, equipment and empowerment at the grassroots not provided, will affect all”.
She said Hon Stewart and the House Committee on Women is open to partnership on matters that will improve the economic and general wellbeing of Rivers women just as she commended CEHRD for manifested efforts to bridge the gap between framework and reality concerning grassroots women.
Permanent Secretary Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uchechukwu Uriri also commended CEHRD describing the NGO’s community interventions as “impressive.”
The second keynote speaker described grassroots women as the “more vulnerable group,” noting, “women’ work are not quantified; women need to be encouraged”.
According to the permanent secretary, the stronghold against women imposed by culture makes enforcement of measures to uplift women a challenge that demands continuous sensitization. She called on women to position to grab opportunities created by government and results of campaigns by civil society groups.
‘Women, position yourselves; the local government election is here, take advantage of it. Governor Wike has started the journey. Send that little girl to school; buy books, help reduce child trafficking, commercial sex workers, hunger, poverty, ignorance.
“Become actors and public speakers, campaign for better living” she charged.
She explained that both the state and federal government have initiated a few economic packages to address the most vulnerable in the state and called for more support from all segments as development is a collective responsibility.
Explaining the need for the stakeholder summit, Dr David Vereba, head Human Rights Unit of CEHRD, facilitators of the programme said a baseline research conducted by the organization to fathom why though grassroots women constitute the majority of local entrepreneurs they remain poor revealed a lack in business skills.
He said the summit was targeted at fashioning guidelines for acquiring entrepreneurial skills, expanding opportunities for accessing government and private business funding opportunities for women as well as helping design policy frameworks that can improve both the financial and decision making powers of grassroots women for inclusive governance and reduced gender based abuses.
Dr Vereba disclosed that the NGO plans to economically empower two million grassroots women over a 10 year period under.
In her welcome address, Chief Constance Meju, chairperson CEHRD board of Trustees said the desire to help women create wealth comes from the realization that they are majorly the small business owners that make up the 80 per cent that drive the Nigerian economy yet have no voice nor financial muscle.
“Women represent about 70 per cent of our farmers according to the UN, are fisher folks, marketers, caterers, restaurateurs and hoteliers, school owners, fashion designers, weavers, product producers, etc. but only a few have been able to create real wealth from these ventures indicating that there are still some measures men take which need to be identified, and followed so you can begin to enjoy full benefits, become financially stronger and earn more respect to become full members in decision making in your families, communities and eventually this country. Without economic power your voice can not be heard or respected,” CEHRD chairperson stated, adding that the NGO is committed to changing the narrative.
She expressed gratitude to the Dutch Embassy for funding the project to uplift women in the Niger Delta.
The summit featured a brief summary of findings on a baseline study on Women Workforce Characteristics in Bayesla and Rivers states, keynote presentations on “Relying on Existing Policy Frameworks to Support Grassroots Women Initiatives” by Hon Linda Stewart-Somiari, “Exposing Grassroots Women to Existing Empowerment Initiatives in Rivers State” by Mrs Elizabeth Chidi, director Bureau for Cooperatives, Rivers State and Recommending Support for Women Cooperatives in the State by Mrs. Uchechuku N. Uriri as well as two plenary sessions and an interactive session on “Facilitating Soft Loans to Women Cooperatives with officials from the Bank of Agriculture and Rima Micro-Finance.