Nigerian Women Pressing for Progress
Today is “…an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.” (United Nations)
There is no doubt the immense impact women have had and will have in the world. March 8th, 2018 is International Women’s Day, as honored by the United Nations. The UN declared that, “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” Within rural communities, women empowerment is imperative to achieve economic productivity and to ensure the well-being of individuals, family, and the community as a whole. But in 2018, we are still actively fighting for gender parity and women empowerment throughout the world.
In recognition of the potential women have to improve the well-being of their communities and society, PfD’s health, agriculture and microcredit programs specifically target women to provide them with the necessary knowledge and resources to lead healthy lives. Currently in Nigeria, PfD works in rural communities in Abia and Cross River States to improve and expand access to safe and clean water and sanitation with funding from USAID and Coca-Cola. In most of the rural communities of Abia State, community decision making is the sole responsibility of the men. Women’s opinions are disregarded, as community leaders, who are mostly men, often make all the decisions that affect their communities without consulting the women. In some of these communities, women are not even permitted to sit with men while they discuss community issues. Yet women and girls in developing countries bear most of the burden of carrying, using and protecting water. They also have the most responsibility for environmental sanitation and home health (UNICEF).
Therefore, PfD is ensuring the active involvement and empowerment of women and girls throughout the life of the project. This is a key element that is needed for any water and sanitation effort to be successful – and without further adding to their burden. PfD is establishing and strengthening community-led water, sanitation and hygiene committees (WASHCOMs) with gender balance to drive WASH activities and services in their communities.
WASHCOMs have provided women in these communities the opportunity and platform to play an active part in decision making as well as to work alongside men in tackling WASH and other community problems. During assessments and community dialogues, PfD and Local Government Area (LGA) staff found that the women in these communities were deeply concerned about their communities’ WASH gaps and want to work to close these gaps. They showed enthusiasm, passion and willingness to serve their communities in any capacity in order to alleviate their community WASH challenges.
This can-do attitude from the women motivated the formation of community WASHCOM with 50/50 or 60/40 or 40/60 gender ratios as many women were elected into their community WASHCOM. The women in these communities have taken an active role in solving the issues that affect their community.
Join us in celebrating these women and all women throughout the world who are fighting to make a change in their community, and by recognizing the important role all women have within society.