Work Collectively To Challenge Exclusion of Women In Governance-Mercy Abu …As CEHRD Inaugurates Women In Governance Network, WIGN

Women, especially Niger Delta women have been advised to work collectively to make their voices heard and their demands met as they clamor for rea

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Mrs Mercy Abu addressing the women

Women, especially Niger Delta women have been advised to work collectively to make their voices heard and their demands met as they clamor for reasonable representation in political decision making in the country.

Mrs Mercy Abu, president, Entrepreneurial Platform Initiative, EPI a platform that encourages women in the business world gave the advice at the launch of the Women In Governance Network in Port Harcourt, August 15, 2019.

The entrepreneurship coach told the women leaders drawn from the three senatorial zones of Rivers State to banish from their thoughts belief that anybody can hand over power to them as she challenged them to move out of the comfort zone in order to succeed.

“We all know that power is taken, power is not given. I appreciate the organizers of the programme, happy to be in your midst. I love to be part of this programme today, because it talks about women, where women gather, those are places where worthy men gathered though in the society because of what we carry as a woman, we found it difficult to come together as a formidable force.

Chief Constance Meju, CEHRD chairperson giving the opening remarks

“My present word for you today is, as women you have a voice, use your voice.You don’t say we want to discover, you have a voice already; use it collectively. A lone voice in the wilderness will not be heard but collectively as a people, you become formidable. Letit not just be a normal talk but taking action, action is the keyword. From all the books you have read, you have been hearing it, do it, take action! Action is the word. Let us not get too comfortable in our comfort zones; nothing grows in the comfort zone. Everything you have seen is yours, push then, creativity will start coming out”.

To be fully ready for action, the EPI president urged women to develop themselves.

“An empowered woman is a woman with a voice, with all these our sayings, if the koko of the matter is not there, you would be sidelined; so we teach women to impact them. We teach women to have sustainability, we teach you to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and we discover and keep asking how come we don’t have a lot of women that bring money, business that will lead us?

“We know a lot but we don’t have that and why we are not having that is because most times as women we must be tasked to the extent that we are not meant for one thing. We have to be everywhere, and you must know who you are, it is important. The fact is that entrepreneurship becomes miscellaneous. It is your passion; that is what I do, so if you do not know who you are as a woman, how would the other person know how to address you?” she asked.

Mrs. Ngozi Odukwe Ighosevbe, FIDA chairperson, Rivers State

Dr. David Vareba (Head of Human Rights and Governance)

Earlier in her opening remark, chairperson of CEHRD, Chief Constance Meju lamented over the continued marginalization and exclusion of women from decision making in the country while other countries are bridging the gender gap.

Said she: “The world is moving on, creating records of women leading nations but the Nigerian story is that of a ig and endowed nation, where, women though large in number and the burden bearers, have a very insignificant voice in governance resulting in a general state of underdevelopment, as only the combined contributions of both men and women can give a nation growth in the right direction”.

From Left: Pastor (Mrs.) Deborah Effiong, Executive Director of ALIVE, Barr. Christiana Tamunobereton-ari, vice chairperson Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Chief Constance Meju, CEHRD’s Chairperson

She said the observed gap in governance necessitated the formation of the Women In Governance Network, stressing that the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs harps seriously the importance of inclusion of women in governance.

“What has brought us today is the long absence of a critical volume of women in the decision making processes of this country due to political marginalization arising from deep rooted male-dominated traditions

“The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, MDGS, especially SDG 5 enjoins all  member states to ensure women’s full and effective participation and provide equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life’s.

Dr. Nenibarini Zabbey (CEHRD’s Coordinator)

According to the CEHRD chairperson, “the political story of the female politician in Nigeria speaks boldly of discrimination” which manifests in all facets of the society, “has helped to keep female politicians way behind their male counterparts and is now becoming a serious cause for worry, s rather than improve, records show a decline, especially with regards to women getting into elective offices”.

Joining forces with other women groups who have criticized President Buhari for appointing only seven women into his 42-member cabinet, Chief Meju stated, “Women all over the country continue to say that seven out of 42 is a slap on the intelligence, capability and contributions of women. It signifies a continued denial to women, of the right to participate and contribute appropriately, to nation-building”.

In recognition of the consequences of the continued marginalization which the federal government has continued to pay deaf ears to, she said CEHRD embarked on an enlightenment campaign across the state to re-orientate the people and build a new narrative on women inclusion in governance and from the process, the network was born.

Key speakers at the inauguration and Rivers State Local Government Vice Chairpersons

She said the network is timely and charged the members to link up with others pushing the women inclusion agenda and be prepared to face challenges.

“This could not have come at a better time for the country and state are crying for women’s special contribution to help us out of the myriad of vices manifesting as insecurity. Your coming should begin a journey of collective responses to issues of governance in the community, state and country, a voice that would be heard so loud that it will generate positive action from society”.

She commended the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike for visibly including women in his administration and asked for increased presence of women.

“We must applaud the continued effort of the Rivers State governor, Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike for including women in his administration which has produced women as care-taker chairpersons, deputy chairpersons, counselors and state and National Assembly members in addition to our deputy governor. We only ask that he continues to increase the presence of women in critical positions as a beacon for others to follow and the local government chairpersons duly include their deputies in the affairs of government.

“We’ve been told some are merely there as symbolic representatives and that is not good.”

She commended the Embassy of the Netherlands for sponsoring the programme and the project team and CEHRD management for he such achieved.

Hon Christiana Tamunobereton, vice chairperson of Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area who inaugurated the network members, charged them to be united, committed and avoid working against one another to be able to forge the strong bond that will raise the voice of women to the highest level.

Project head, Dr David Vereba explained that the outcome of a 10-month awareness and sensitization programme embarked on in the three senatorial districts of the state, produced the women leaders that constitute the WIGN. He called for support of the network, stressing that it is a platform to help all women gain a strong voice and space in leadership especially, public office leadership.

There were goodwill messages from FIDA, Mother of Good Counsel, EPI as well as a keynote address delivered by Mrs Deborah Effiong of ALIVE encouraging women to shake-off limitations imposed by tradition, religion and culture to pave way for a more balanced approach to governance in the state and country.

The event which held at the   Center of The Edge Hotel, GRA III, Port Harcourt, featured traditional songs and dances from parts of the state.

-with input from Gift Jonah

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