By Elijah Ugani, Monday Ogar with Agency Reports by Sylvia Okoi
The 2018 International women’s day has come and gone with several activities to mark it in Cross River State.
The theme for the 2018 edition is “Press For Progress” and the Project Leader for CUSO international, Jerry Nwigwu at an event to mark the celebration held in Calabar noted that: “This year’s theme captures the vibrant life of the women activists whose passion and commitment have won women’s rights over the generations and successfully brought change.”
He listed a few women who have stood out in Nigeria’s history.
He averred that: “We celebrate great women like Oluwafunmilayo Ransom-Kuti whose activism led to her being described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria;
Alimotu Pelewura was the woman who led the Lagos Market Women’s Association in its struggle for women’s right to vote against taxation during the colonial era;
Flora Nwapa, mother of modern African literature, first internationally published female African author;
Margaret Ekpo, Nigerian Women’s right activist and social mobilizer who was the pioneer female politician in the country’s First Republic and a host of others.”
Mr. Nwigwu also pointed out that: “Empowering women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key element for long-term sustainable development, economic growth, resilient societies, and social advancement for all.
“CUSO Internationals’ commitment to gender equality as a cross-cutting theme across our project contributes to poverty reduction and sustainable development, responds to the needs of the poor and promote respect for International human rights.”
Some of the progress the women are seeking include gender parity and equity.
And, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA), Dr. Natalie Kanem pointed out that this has reinforced economic inequality.
“The economic inequalities plaguing much of the world today are reinforced by many other forms of inequality, including inequalities in sexual and reproductive health,”said Dr, Kanem who was represented at the event by the Head of Office in Calabar, Dr. Ken Ehuzuo.
He added that: I will like to thank all women who have committed their time to commemorate this day selflessly, as well as those that have shown the world that the time is now to support women in moving forward.”
Also, Ehuzuo posited that there are “more than 200 million women, many of them poor and living in rural and remote parts of the world, lack access to voluntary family planning methods.
In addition, more than 800 pregnant women, many in fragile socioeconomic situations die each day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
In many parts of the world, access to services is particularly limited or even nonexistent for rural and indigenous women, undermining their ability to exercise their reproductive rights.
“Without addressing the discrimination that this women face in both private and public spheres, many of them will remain caught in a vicious circle of poverty, repeated pregnancies, diminished capabilities, unfulfilled human rights and unrealized potential.
“The denial of reproductive rights not only harms individuals, it can also put a drag on economies and stifle countries’ development. Making reproductive health care universally accessible would not only help fulfil a poor rural woman’s reproductive rights, it will also enable her to stay healthy, get an education and participate in all facets of life, including economic life.
“These benefits accrue to her, her family and her country. That’s why it is our mission at UNFPA to work with our partners to end unmet demand for family planning information and services, to end preventable maternal deaths and to end gender based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls by 2030.”
He called on everyone to a renewed commitment to addressing the different forms of inequalities that hold women back, particularly the rural and indigenous poor, and keep them from realizing their rights and ambitions, and from living their lives on an equal footing with men, for a more equal world depends on it.
“As we commemorate this day, UNFPA in Cross River State hereby commits to support initiatives by partners and the state ministries to strengthen the unmet needs of women and girls. Gender inequality, inadequate gender policies and gender based violence are amongst the hindrances to women and girl’s progress in schools, communities and societies.
“It is here that we urge International and national NGOs, UN agencies, the CRS, men and women alike to support initiatives that promote progress for women such as: promotion of human rights, provide information on access to and availability of Reproductive health services for women and adolescent youth, promote gender responsive policies at all levels, advocate and support funding for the state on gender initiatives, GBV prevention and response programming and to include women and girls in the planning process for programs designed for then. On this day of International Women’s Day, our thoughts are and remain with the refugees and internally displaced people in Cross River State,” he said.
The political scene was not left out as several political office holders also had different messages for women and girls: these form a large part of the electorate and are often given a special attention alongside the youths during campaigns for votes.
The wife of the Cross River State Governor, Dr. Linda Ayade on her part reiterated her commitment to women welfare through pet projects implemented by her foundation; the Mediatrix development Foundation as well as the political Cross River Women Emancipation Initiative (CROWEI).
Women typically constitute about 60 percent of the entrepreneurs in Cross River. And, the Executive Director of Ashoka Africa, Mrs. Josephine Nzerem posited that women naturally have creative minds and, despite their degrees and accomplishments, will go into the market as sellers when the need arises.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs in the state, Mrs. Stella Inyang while speaking to journalists on Sunday after a thanksgiving service as part of activities to mark the 2018 7IWD said that women in the state are grateful to God and deemed it fit to praise God always.
“Today we decided to come and thank God for all He has done for us as women, we also thank God for the Governor and Deputy Governor of Cross River State, for the staff of the ministry of Women Affairs and the executive council of the state , we thank God for keeping us alive to see this day,”she said.
She continued: “Governor Ayade has created a veritable platform for women in Cross River State, I therefore charge you to continue to make progress and never relent on your efforts, do not sit down and fold your hands, it is time for us to rise up and work.”
She called for women to become academically, financially, politically and socially inclined stating that it is the only way for women to make progress.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Tina Bakong advised women to stop pulling down one another but rather work as a formidable force in other to attain greater heights. She further beckoned on women to become more passionate about leadership and politics and also advised them to get their permanent voters card (PVC) ready ahead of the 2019 elections.
Also, the CROWEI President Mrs. Kate Ajibike disclosed that the IWD has been celebrated for and posited that women have a lot of work to do in order for them to catch up with men as well as close the existing gender gap while the Special Adviser to the wife of the Governor, Mrs. Rose Eneji in her speech pointed out that it is important for women to unite and press on for progress.
“Get into action and people would be convinced to join you,” she said and emphasized that the role and position of women in the society is very vital hence the need for women to work in synergy.
The creative industry of was not left out as a non-governmental organization with interest in the promotion of performance literature, the James Ene Henshaw Foundation staged a play to commemorate the 2018 IWD.
The play titled “Oranges are not for Munching”, is centred around, three women who are TV personalities, all strong in their own right, and different in their approaches to the issue of gender parity but agreement as regards the need for women to be at home with who they are and their bodies.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of the James Ene Henshaw Foundation, Mr. James Henshaw Jr averred that the all female play was a means for the foundation to add its voice to the growing call for gender equality.
Mr. Henshaw added that the play tackles the discussion around sexual based violence like rape, female genital mutilation domestic violence, and put it on the face of everyone, to prick their conscience and arise the humanity in them.
He further revealed that the play is a continuation of the foundations drive to empower young artist, something the foundation is heavily committed to and will continue to do.
Also, the Director of the play Ms. Paulina Eba said directing the play was challenging but she banked on the fact that issues the play was looking to tackle were issues the audience were most likely familiar with. She added that the play is not just to entertain but also to educate.
A former lawmaker at the Federal House of Representative, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo said the play is timely and apt and deals with real issues, not just facing the modern woman but the society at large.
She advised all present to see the play as a call to action to work tirelessly to end gender based violence and a motivation to the women present to learn to be independent and self sufficient.
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