By Yutaka Kikuta and Comfort Lamptey
Women in Nigeria, make 49% percent of the population (Population Census), and undoubtedly represent an economically significant force, in addition to being viable consumers, producers and workers. The opportunities, available for women’s empowerment are unevenly felt though, in light of Nigeria’s diverse social-economic, political and cultural landscape.
World leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achievement of these goals, including ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in all areas of work.
With the onset of the insurgency in North East Nigeria in recent years, the country has rightly s adopted and is currently implementing its 2nd generation National Action Plan for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. . The Action Plan recommends enforcement of laws that promote gender equality, inclusion and engagement of women in mechanisms for prevention, management and resolution of conflict at all levels of decision making.
The humanitarian crisis in North-East Nigeria has disproportionately affected women and girls, who make up 52 percent of the more than 1.7 million internally displaced population (NBS) . Human rights violations continue to be reported daily as a result of the crisis, and disruption of livelihood, food security and weakened basic services and protection mechanisms are among the main challenges confronting the affected populations. Many women are now head of their families due to killings or family separation; therefore they become the decision makers and sole providers of their families.
Protection, Empowerment and Resilience Building: How do we expand protection, empower and build resilience of women and girls displaced in Borno and Yobe states?
That will happen when women restore their means of livelihood, have access to justice, are consulted and have a voice in decision-making that affects their lives.
In the IDPs camps, women are in dire need to work; to provide for their families, to take their children to schools, to save up for their children’s future. Women and girls are increasingly demanding skills that they can employ to provide a means of livelihood for them whilst in the camps and when they eventually go back home, to engage in either farming, entrepreneurship or business.
Lack of livelihood opportunities make women and girls vulnerable to exploitation, and may contribute to sexual and gender based violence in camps. According to UNHCR SGBV updates, some women and girls who walk outside of protected security zones, including IDP camps in search of firewood, or even journeying to the market risk being assaulted, abducted and even killed.
Providing women with opportunities to earn a living builds their resilience and also enables them to provide care and education for their children, who will otherwise be exposed to protection risks and forced to engage in child labour.
Partnership: Over the next year, the government of Japan will work with UN Women to enhance Protection, Empowerment and Resilience Building of Women in North East Nigeria, through livelihood and skills-building training, supporting women’s access to justice and building the capacity of humanitarian workers to better respond to the priorities of women and girls.
We must invest in empowering women to protect themselves and to transition with dignity from the humanitarian to development phase in Borno and Yobe States.
His Excellency, Mr. Yutaka Kikuta is the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria and Lamptey is the
UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS