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The Gender-related Dimension of Racial Discrimination

 

The issues concerning gender discrimination is particularly relevant to the World Conference on Racism and Racial Discrimination. Efforts to create positive and lasting changes in the deplorable conditions of women and also help to re-postion ourselves in society need be incorporated into all spheres of actions as to ensure humanity's survival and continuity . It is doubtful whether a line can be drawn between Gender rooted discrimination and race based ones as all produce the same result : oppression.

The intersectionality of race and gender it is agreed, addresses the ways in which patriarchy , economic disavantages and other forms discriminatory practices have created the imbalance and inequality between women and men. ln this contribution ,a particular inference will be drawn from the Niger Delta where corporate and governmental power collaborate and sometimes tolerate local situations to make women struggle for justice almost an impossibility.

The convention on the Elimination of all froms of discrimenation adainst women defines discrimination against women as "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the effect of purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women , of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. Article 2, sub-section f, states that state parties undertake to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify, abolishing existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrmination against women".

Gender based discrimination in the Niger Delta manifests in different forms and occur in many contexts including the following:

SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

the situation in the Niger Delta has increased the level of violence against women. The militarisation of the region as part of government efforts to suppress the demands of the indigenous people has resulted is sexual abuse such as the rape of the women by the military and other security personnel. for intance in 1999 when the American oil company, Wilbros brought in Mobile Policemen to suppress the demands of the Choba community the police men desended and on the women and raped about 30 of them. Photographs of this action by the policemen were published in newspapers.

WOMEN AND EMPLOYEMENT

Discriminatory and exploitative labour practices affect indigenous women of the Niger Delta. They are increasingly subjected to poor working enviroment, and low wages. They tend to work in sectors where the potential for abuse is high and discrimination based on sexist practices is common. The management cadre is male dominated while women are employed as Pubilc Relations Officers, Front Dest Executives, Personal/Executive Assistants to Managing Directors and such like exploitative positions.

WOMEN AND POVERTY

ln the Niger Delta, women are more adversely affected by poverty, particularly because of the limited employment opportunties and the devastation of the environment that have destroyed their primary source of earning a living which was farming and fishing .

Patriarchy has also played a role in limiting women's access to economic resources through inheritance rights which restricts women's access to land and property. By so doing they are discriminated against as members of a marginalised society and as women, thus the Niger Delta women are doubly at risk of violence .

WOMEN AND GOVERNANCE

there is unequal representation and power sharing in favour of men in the decision making bodies. Considering women's peculiar problems, their issues can only be articulated and addressed by women who are gender sensitive. State Legislatures in the Niger Delta region are all male dominated. And members of the House Committees on women are not gender sensitive. Women are thus excluded from designing and influencung the policies that have direct effect on their lives; as a result their conditions and status in the society are unlikely to improve. In situations where women aspire to seek elective positions, the patriarchial system restricts them from attaining such positions of power. Unless patriarchy is eliminated and marginalised women are able to participate in decision making, "inequality will persist."

SOCIAL OPPRESSION

This has been made possible through traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and widowhood practices, Despite campaigns aganist these inhuman practices and gender based violence, some communities in the delta still carry on with these practices. This form of discrimination violates women's right to health, right to freedom of movement, right to personal liberty, and right to human dignity.

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

In most villages and many of the urban slums, there are no health facilities. Pregnant women in rural communities depend on herbs for their health needs. This situation has led to increase in maternal/infant mortality and miscarriages. Absence of transportation to towns where hospitals are located results in the death of preganant.

Due to the unruly sexual behaviour of oil workers, women and girls in the region are lured into commercial sex activities. A great number of them experience disproportionate high rates of HIV/AIDS which often go untreated.

In conclusion, the experiences of indigenous women all over the world are similar. Women orgasnisations including the Niger Delta Women for Justice (NDWJ) and international Oil Working Group (IOWG) have brought into focus the intersection of race and gender that separaters women across the globe and within countries. The World Conference Against Racism and Racial Discrimination offers an opportunity for these issues to be addressed and a programme of action mapped out to put an end to these and other forms of focussed and institionalised oppression at home and abroad need be put in place, not tomorrow, now.

 

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