Nigerian Women re-commit to protecting women’s health and rights
Rafatu Salami, Abuja
Rounding off activities to commemorate international women’s month, women in Nigeria have recommitted themselves to being the voices of women’s health by advancing the health and rights of women in the country.
They made the commitment at the Women High-Level Convening organized by Pathfinder International in partnership with various Civil Society Organizations including Sheforum Africa, Centre for Communications and Social Impact, Genderlinks, Women in Global Health and the National Council for Women’s Societies (NCWS) – a network of women CSOs in Nigeria.
“Women’s health is very important, women’s health cannot wait”#voicesforwomenhealth
— Youth Space Africa (@YouthSpaceAfri1) March 30, 2023
Setting the tone for the convening, Dr Amina Aminu Dorayi the Country Director of Pathfinder International said pathfinder had launched the #ICommit campaign in 2022, which aimed to explore available opportunities for advocating for women’s health.
She said the opportunities abound as “Nigeria is uniquely positioned to address women’s health and gender inequity especially as we transition to an incoming administration that has an opportunity to identify and position women leaders in critical governance roles.”
This was amplified by Ms Inimfon Etuk the convener of SheForum Africa who added that “with access to quality and affordable healthcare as a fundamental index of women’s empowerment and its implication for livelihood sustainability, and as Nigeria goes through the present leadership transition period, organizers believe it is time to mobilize a multi-sectoral effort to shape new priorities that will enhance quality, supportive and effective decision-making as they affect women’s health.”
The Minister of Women Affairs Dame Paulen Talen expressed the worry of the government that “many cultural and religious practices still put the health of the women at risk…and an increase in violence against women as well as a violation in women’s sexual reproductive health.”
The panel conversation
The only male of the panel of 6, Imam Fuad Adeyemi put forward the Islamic perspective on the rights of women by quoting from the Muslim Holy book the Quran which explains the complementary roles of both genders “ …They are your garment, and you are theirs. Allah knows that you used to betray yourselves and He mercifully relented and pardoned you….” He said Islam honours and respects women, wondering where anyone Muslim who does not respect the rights of women got their teaching from. He explained that in the operations of his Islamic society, women lead strategic committees and projects; “as a standard rule in our mosque in the planning of programmes, if everyone is in accord and a female raises an objection, we defer to her and take her into consideration. That is how inclusive we are.”
Speaking about the high maternal mortality rates and their causes, the Resident Representative of the UNFPA Ms Ulla Mueller described as disheartening the increasing rates of FGM and VVF in the country. She said cultural practices were driving the rise in the numbers and appealed to relevant authorities to address the driving causes so that the health of women will be guaranteed.
The lack of inclusive care for women with disabilities was the focus of the intervention from Ms Hellen Beyioku-Alase, the President of the Deaf Women Aloud Initiative. Echoing statistics from WHO and UN Women, Helen said that Compared to men without disabilities, women with disabilities are three times more likely to have unmet needs for health care, she said the word should be “inclusion”.
An open mic session set agenda for the incoming administration covering the expansion of vaccination, and menstrual hygiene by making sanitary pads free to young girls, care for menopausal women and expanding facilities to cover women with disabilities as well as women who are caregivers for people with disabilities.
Participants, raising their right hands, pledged to continue to amplify the voices of women’s health and rights through evidence-based strategies.