REPORT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS AWARENESS TRAINING PROGRAMME ORGANISED NIGER DELTA WOMEN FOR JUSTICE (NDWJ) WITH SUPPORT FROM X–Y
AT OTUOKPITI, OGBIA, MAY 4th, 2002
Patriarchy, structural inequalities and deep-rooted prejudices continue to firmly entrench themselves in Nigerian society. In spite of ratification of promotion on women's rights, Nigerian women are still regarded as second class citizens.
Women of the Niger Delta are subject to daily violence from the Nigerian State and multinational oil companies as well as in the domestic sphere. Women are plagued by religious and traditional practices that discriminate against them.
The aim of the project is to create awareness amongst Niger Delta Women about their human and environmental rights and to significantly increase their capacity to challenge human rights violations by the Nigerian government and oil companies.
1. To create an awareness amongst women about their human and environmental rights.
2. To encourage women in building up their confidence within their community.
3. To address issues on custom and religious practices that work to keep women in bondage.
4. To educate women on how to publicize human rights abuses.
The workshop started with an opening prayer by one of the participants. This was followed by pair introduction of participants. After which participants talked about their expectations from the workshop.
Their expectations included:-
1. To acquire acknowledge that will strengthen their organizations.
2. To learn about women's rights.
3. To learn how to address their problems
4. To acquire skills that will help move their organization forward.
5. To upgrade the organization
Therefore, Ms Emem J. Okon, the NDWJ Programmes co-ordinator speaking through an interpreter Ms Unity Ekinabhari told the participants about Niger Delta Women for Justice (NDWJ) and their mission. Then she discussed the objectives of the project. She proceeded in giving a lecture on women's right and violence against women.
She said that women's rights are human rights. And she listed out the various human rights as guaranteed by the constitution as follows:
- right to life
- right to dignity of human person
- right to personal liberty
- right to fair hearing
- right to private and family life
- right to freedom of thought
- freedom of expression
- right to peaceful assembly
- right to freedom of movement
- freedom from discrimination
- right to acquire immovable property
The participants were asked if they have seen the Nigerian constitution before, they answered that they had no knowledge of what a constitution is neither have they seen one.
Ms Okon explained that the constitution is a body of rules and regulations, which govern the rights, and duties of the citizens and the states. And that the constitution is the highest law of the land. It protects the rights of everyone and sets up institutions to check abuse by authorities.
Despite the provision of the constitution women are not enjoying their fundamental rights and freedoms. The rights of women are being violated and abused everyday by certain acts of violence committed by other members of the society against women.
Violence against women she said is any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring on public or private life.
She listed forms of violence against women as follows:
- Domestic violence
- Emotional violence
- Sexual harassment
- Forced prostitution/marriage
- Widowhood rites
The participants identified the following as the forms of emotional violence against wome according to they experience.
- Abusive words
- refusal to eat food by husband
- extra marital affairs
- keeping malice
- cooking and eating alone
- total neglect
- drunkenness and carelessness
Forms of sexual harassment identified include:
- intimidation at working places
- male relatives demanding sexual favours from girls before giving school fees
Participants admitted that because of poverty some parents forced their daughters/wards into prostitution and marriages in order to sustain the family economically. They also identified widowhood rites as one of the common forms of violence against women in the community. One of the participants, a widow, testified that she was asked to go back to her people by her deceased husband's relatives since she is not from their village but her own said she should go back to her husband's family. So she does not have a home. And she does not want to make noise about her case because she will be further ostracized from her people.
Other topics covered by the training included women's political participation, gender and personal empowerment.
It was discussed that the level of women's political participation is low because women can't cope with the violence that has characterised Nigerian politics.
The economic power of women was also taken into consideration, the Otuokpoti women said women are not as wealthy as men and so cannot spend so much money on campaigns as men do.
The women identified lying as a characteristics of politics. They said women couldn't lie as their male counterpart because of the fear of God in them. "men tell so much lies in order to gain votes. And they disappear as soon as the elections are over".
The participants also identified lack of information as one of the factors that impedes their participation in politics. Those of them who are members of political parties are relegated to the women's wing under the leadership of the women leader. The women leader does not attend party caucus meeting. So party decisions are taken without input from the women. Information about such decisions are relayed to them after major actions have been taken in the party.
Under personal empowerment, we discussed behavior (personality, attitudes character, mannerisms). We talked about the following.
- ability to take decisions
- self esteem
- challenging the status quo
- passive aggressive
- personal goals
The workshop was rounded up by the drafting of a communiqué.
(1) Emem J. Okon - Coordinator
(2) Unity Ekinabhari - Project Officer (Bayelsa)
(3) Rita Clifford - Workshop Assistant (Bayelsa)
THE COMMUNIQUE OF THE HUMAN AWARENESS TRAINING WORKSHOP ORGANISED BY NIGER DELTA WOMEN FOR JUSTICE HELD AT OTUOKPOTI, OGBIA, BAYELSA STATE ON 4TH MAY, 2002
We, the women of the Niger Delta here gathered in Otuokpoti, Ogbia in Bayelsa State under the auspices of the Niger Delta Women for Justice having reviewed the situation of women in the Niger Delta note as follows:
That through several years of exploitation by both the federal government of Nigeria and the multinational oil companies operating in the Nigeria Delta, the region is the most backward most neglected and most underdeveloped part of Nigeria.
- That we the women of the Niger Delta suffer more directly from the impact of oil exploration and exploitation as we do not have anywhere else to go but stay put in the devastated environment and suffer the consequences of crude oil exploitation.
- That we suffer doubly, as members of the Niger Delta Community and as women in-view of the above, we have resolved as fellows:
- That the Niger Delta Women be empowered politically, socially and economically to ensure her enjoyment of her fundamental human rights.
- That government should take measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.
- That Affirmative Action should be implemented to ensure full participation of women in decision-making process.
- That we totally support all the declarations of the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta on resource control, self-determination and true federalism.
- EMEM J. OKON - Niger Delta Women for Justice
- UNITY EKINABHARI - Man and Water Survival Project