Rekindling Womenís Hopes
Despite great strides made by the international women’s rights movement over the years, women and girls around the world are still married as children or trafficked into forced labour, sex and slavery. They are refused access to education and political participation, and some are trapped in conflicts where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war
The rights of women over the years have been suppressed and frustrated by the societal perceptions, culture and norms.
Obviously, from all the recent societal vices, women are still very much at risk of gender based violence, now more than ever and there are no signs of this getting better any time soon. The rise in women battering, rape and human trafficking cases all across the nation is simply awful.
However, a group of women have advocated that knowing one’s right as a woman, is first step towards protecting them and ensuring that no one tramples on them and they also believe that getting rid getting of infringement of women’s rights can only be achieved through a collective effort by governments at all level. The women therefore took their campaign to the marketplace during a recent awareness exercise.
The group made up of members of the Lagos branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyer, (FIDA) Nigeria, took their campaign to the popular Oyingbo Market in Lagos where the market women got informed on their constitutional rights and how they can access them.
The exercise which the group said was aimed at sensitizing and advocating for the right of women, also witnessed medical help rendered to the market women, while a lot talked about issues bothering them with FIDA members during, which time they were counselled and given information on what step to take to stop their rights from being trampled upon any longer.
The Chairperson of FIDA Lagos, Mrs. Eliana Martins said the purpose of the exercise carried out in partnership with the French Embassy in Nigeria, was to reachout to the market women and sensitise them on their rights.
“We are trying to get them more informed about what rights they have and how they can access and enjoy these rights. Then to engage them, know where their challenges are and how they are facing those challenges and then to comfort them and teach them how they can access justice”, Martins noted.
Speaking further she said, “We are partnering with French Embassy to see how many women we can reach out to in sensitising them, teaching them about their rights and generally creating awareness.”
She was of the opinion that a lot of women are not well informed and even those that are informed sleep on their rights and by the time they wake-up, it is too late, they cannot enforce it and the matter gets worse.
“We are out here in the market trying to create awareness and encourage women to wake up because we believe that if a woman is happy and strong with the knowledge, she is powerful and would better protect and equip her family for a better society”, she noted.
Speaking further, Martins said, “If you look at society today, there are so many ills, so it is a wake-up call for women to rise up and take their rightful positions so that we can have a better society.”
The FIDA Lagos Chairperson who noted that the theme for the exercise was, “Access to Justice, Women’s Rights”, added, “What we are doing basically is creating awareness about the rights of women. Knowledge is power, without knowledge it means you are powerless, so if you are well informed, then you are equipped to tackle any challenge, so no matter what the crises are, even if you don’t have immediate solution, at least you would have access to those who have information or know how to find solution for you.”
The group, Martin explained further also aimed at engaging leaders in the marketplace as well as basic people, telling them that even if they do not know what the issue is nor you have an idea that somebody needs information concerning a particular matter, they can go to social services or the family court. Adding, “All we are doing is opening up the lines of communication with the network of people who can assist you, no matter what the issue is.”
Speaking more on how women have been negatively affected due to lack of information, Martins said, “A lot of women do not have the freedom to express themselves in their matrimonial homes. They don’t have that freedom of choice.
Those are the simple ways they are affected negatively from their homes. It is as if they are living in bondage.
A lot of them suffer violence in their homes and yet they do not speak out because they think it is a way of life or their lots in life but that is not it; there are so many rights out there that they are not enjoying merely because they lack information. So there are so many rights out there that are being infringed daily. Some of them do not have freedom of movement in their homes and it is not a matter of choice.
All we are saying is be informed, if it is your choice, then it is okay, we are not saying every woman must stand on the road and shout but we are saying that you must know that you have the freedom to express yourself and to live and not to be forced into it or coerce into anything”.
Martins who said FIDA carries out such awareness wherever there is need, noted that its target was on indigenous women that are downtrodden and are not remembered. “We came to the Oyingbo Market because we felt it is market that encompasses a whole lot of sectors and a lot of people come here to buy and sell. So for us, this is a starting point”, she noted.
She advised women to always be informed, make sure their rights are enforced while they also protect their rights at all times. “You have rights, enjoy them as far as the constitution guarantees it. Enjoy being a woman and have the freedom to enjoy any right that belongs to you as a woman,” she said.
A member FIDA and a lawyer of 34 years, Roli Craiy, said, “Educate a woman and educate the nation, we need more women in the affairs of this nation. We have come out here today to enlighten the Nigerian women and particularly the market women on what their legal rights are. If you know your right, it is not so easy for people to trample upon you and.”
Cariy said further that, part of the difficulties and challenges faced today in Nigeria, is that fact that people, especially women, don’t mind their rights being trampled upon, adding that, We all need to stand up for what is right.
“The constitution is there but the constitution is not going to go out there and do any work, we have to do these ourselves. We continually talk about corruption in this country; corruption is not going to go away except we all take a stand against it. We want a change, it has to come from everybody, one person will not make the difference but I always say to people that I dare to be different. There is too much talk in this country; we need to work the talk. We need action and we have women who are capable but because women have multifaceted woes, it is not so easy - you have your career, the up-bringing of the children and the home to manage, so it takes time for the woman to come into her own because you don’t have time and that is really a challenge. So the women who are doing very well career wise and have also been able to raise children should be commended”, she noted.
She however expressed hope for a country where nepotism and tribalism will no longer exist adding, “These are the issues we really need to deal with. Let us stop dwelling on things that divides us. Let us stand united and claim ownership to Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria other than the fact that we do not want to claim it as our own. If you have ownership of a thing then you take responsibility. We have a good family support but we have turned it down gradually. We are losing everything in Nigeria, a beautiful country. So let’s live together like brothers and not allow religion to divide us. Religion is private; the most important thing to fear God and if you fear God, love your neighbour and treat people with respect, there would be peace in the nation.”
Speaking further, she said the awareness event has been able to assist the women as a lot of them got medical help, had their blood pressures checked, while a lot talked about issues bothering them with FIDA members. She noted, “So even though we do not have the kind of money that would make a huge difference we have brought the world to the grassroots and that is what we need to do. It is not enough to dress people and tell them to come out and vote but you need to educate them to do that, and that is what is lacking in this society and even when you educate them, you do not want to give them opportunity to work. So we need to face issues seriously.”
Youssef Makrouf, a programme officer at the embassy of France, Abuja said the embassy gave support to FIDA because of its focus on the right of women and need for them to be protected. “So I am here to show them that the French embassy is very committed to helping protecting women from violence and abuse”, he noted.
Makrouf noted that, that the French embassy had selected the project because it believes that FIDA members are really helpful in helping indigene women in needs access justice and have their rights effected.
Article Credit: Thisdaylive