By Gift E. Jonah
Emem Okon, Executive Director Kebetkache Women Resource Centre addressing participants
Emem Okon, executive director Kebetkache Women development Resource Center, Port Harcourt, facilitator of the project said the project, Gender and Accountability Cohort, is a programme being managed by WRAPA with funding support from the Mac Arthur Foundation with the major focus of amplifying the voices of women and highlighting issues and concerns around women for improved policies and services.
The programme according to her, seeks to increase public understanding of issues on gender and how policies and government activities impact women noting that vices like non-transparency and corruption which undermine development, directly place heavy burdens on women because of their peculiar roles in the family.
Thus the programme would be targeting the change narrative to include better services for women and other vulnerable groups in the society.
Participants at the event
“The Gender and Accountability project seeks to focus on, amplifying women’s voices and gender issues in the accountability discussion; increase the knowledge base of women, amplify the nexus between corruption and women’s weak access to public services and facilities. It also seeks to institutionalize the gender accountability and anti-corruption discourse, reflecting women’s concerns covering education, reproductive health, childcare, access to resources, potable water, power supply, representation in government, protection of the vulnerable through policy reviews and improved services”.
Emem said the project will also strengthen the capacity of women to recognize the patterns and trends of corruption and build a critical mass of women demanding for accountability and gender equity.
Kebetkache ED said to achieve these goals, several town hall meetings would be organized and women will be mobilized at grassroots to add their voices to the campaign while social media and traditional media including radio would be avenues for amplifying the voices of women to galvanize needed positive change.
Resource person at the Building Women’s Voices in Governance Town Hall meeting which held at Aldgate Hotel, Dr S. Olotu told the gathering of men and women cutting across political, small business, education and civil society drawn from Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, that accountability demands explanation to someone or group for actions taken.
Olotu said, “Accountability is the state of being answerable, being liable to be called on to render account; responsibility to someone for some activity. Accountability and transparency go hand in hand but they are not the same”.
According to him, it involves responsibility, delegation of authority, making decisions, carrying out tasks, monitoring and getting back to those who put you in position of authority, thus encouraging inclusion in governance.
He stressed that poor women participation in decision making especially political governance is a major issue which he blamed on the fact that votes do not count just as he blamed women who have had opportunity to taste political leadership for not working to bring others on board.
Dr Olotu advised that information is key to power pointing out that to demand accountability you have to be knowledgeable. “Be knowledgeable, read. Education empowers you to ask questions… Citizens need to be empowered to demand that service provided is inclusive of the needs of the poor”.
He noted that culture has played a role in the exclusion of women from governance but urged that focus should be on demanding change in the governance system to embrace more participation and political inclusion, fulfillment of promises by leaders, information dissemination, participatory budgeting for a transparent and anti-corrupt society.