Accelerating Commitment and Action to Tackle Issues Affecting Women and Girls in Africa

New Media Fellows 2013

By Jennifer Ehidiamen

July 02, 2013

Also published at Health News NG and DisGeneration

The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while giving her remark during the first day of the #GlobalPower Women Network had recommended that women every where take up the responsibility of ensuring the achievement of goals set to accelerate actions on issues affecting women and girls.

Gender Inequality as driver of HIV

The second day of the High Level Meeting was spent in plenary sessions focusing on different topics that project the interwoven issues around the theme.

Mrs Litha Muyimi-Oganda, Director Gender in African Union made a presentation on “Gender Inequality as a driver of HIV.” Honorable Xindiww Dlamini, the minister of Housing and Urban Development, Swaziland, while speaking on Sexual and Gender-based violence highlighted the trend of inter-generational sexual relationship, where young girls engage in sexual relationship with older men for material gain. This culture as well as early exposure to sex, eroding family values and the rest of them, is driving the spread of HIV and AIDS, she said. But she is optimistic that continuing focus on empowering girls and deepening the importance of family values can reverse the trend.

When girls are given economic empowerment, the Swaziland minister says, they would not need to use intergenerational sexual exploits as a means of escaping poverty.

Sexual and Gender-based violence

The topic, violence in conflict and post conflict situations, brought to light the reality of war and the impact it has on women and girls. It is more dangerous to be a woman in a war torn zone than to be a soldier, says Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UNSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict. No doubt, sexual violence against women and girls undermine the development of any society. A generation of women and girls that are abused and trampled upon will definitely find it difficult to maximize their potential. As a result, the society misses out of benefiting from their contributions and innovations.

In a feedback, Mrs Angele Dikongue-Atongana, UNHCR Nigeria revealed to the attentive audience that nearly half of refugees in Africa are women and girls, One-fourth of refugees and one-third of internally displaced persons are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of sexual violence is drastically increased in conflict and displacement settings. She recommended that life-saving interventions should be increased with priority on humanitarian emergency. She also advocated for increased in allocation of resources. She gave a call to action- that Security Council resolution recognizes persons fleeing from sexual violence as eligible for refugee status. What do you think about that?

Socio-economic empowerment of women and girls

Beyond what the society can do for women and girls, what are women doing for themselves?

Prof Edna Matthews-Njoku, Director Women Development and Gender Studies, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in her presentation buttressed the need for women to offer help to other young women through counselling, mentorship, and other intervention. She said most girls who are capable do not have an enabling environment.

Mrs Njoku said most evil actions against women are perpetrated by other women. She gave examples of different social stigmatization of women done by other women. The first that comes to my mind at this point is PHD syndrome- women who Pull Her Down. That means, women who out of envy, jealousy or simply lack of faith in other women do all they can to pull them down. We can’t accelerate change if we remain this way.

Meanwhile, to accelerate the changes we seek, we must work with women at the grassroots. In as much as we advocate for women-friendly government legislations, Mrs Njoku urge women to take action to the grassroots and champion practical solutions to the problems we face. But first, we must be empowered with the right information- an informed woman is an empowered woman, she says.

The onus lies on us to support each other to be the change we want to see in our world.

Political empowerment of women and girls

Dame Virginia Etiaba gave a narrative of her involvement in Nigeria politics while serving as then Anambra state governor. It is possible for women to take on leadership position and thrive but first they need to be empowered and given the space to practice such leadership.

Empower our women politically, says Etiaba, Nigeria’s first female governor. If we won’t get to leadership position, then what are we here for?

The sessions continued with presentation of country case studies on game changing approaches to addressing Gender-Based violence, communiqué drafting, award presentation and a closing ceremony dinner where the new President of GPWNA, Professor Viola Onwuliri, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs was appointed, taking over from Thokozani Khube, the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

GPWNA Day 2

Opeyemi, Gabriel, Grace and Jennifer Ehidiamen at the HLM Day 2

Dame Virginia Etiaba, former governor of Anambra state and Nigeria's first female governor

Ethiopia's first lady and Dr. Ndidi Oparaoji co-chairing the session

Hon Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Ghana

Rev Sr Angela Abhulimen, SSH and Lady Christie Uche, President, FFVHOE

What are women doing to support themselves? he asked.

Dr Specioza Kazibwe, Former Vice President of Uganda

Hon Xindiwe Dlamini, Minister of Housing and Urban Dev. Swaziland, shares her views with Jennifer Ehidiamen on intergenerational sexual relationship and what is being done to curb the trend.

UNAIDS team

Professor Viola Onwuliri, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs appointed, taking over from Thokozani Khube, the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Some youths making positive change

Jennifer Ehidiamen is a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow with International Reporting Project (IRP). She is reporting on issues of global health and development in Nigeria.

More from this Reporter

From Other Reporters in This Country

Also appeared in…