Niger Delta: CEHRD to empower two million women to reduce gender-based violence

(middle) CEHRD’s Chairperson, Chief Constance Meju and other dignitaries at the Entrepreneur summit for stakeholders and women in corporatives in Rivers State, held in Port Harcourt.

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

A non governmental organization, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), has expressed it readiness to empower over two million women in the next 10 years in different thriving skills, a way to end gender-based violence in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

This was disclosed yesterday, by Dr David Vareba, CEHRD’s Head of Human Rights and Governance, during an entrepreneur summit organised for stakeholders and women in corporatives  in Rivers State, held in Port Harcourt.

Dr Varebe who stated that objective of the summit was to discuss on how women can be included in governace and decision making, how they can reduce gender-based violence and be empowered to effect positively on the society, explained that their research disclosed that women in the region over the years have lost their means of livelihood as a result of pollution.

He said “the pollution has caused a serious economic hardship for women. CEHRD intend to empower two million women across the region of Niger Delta so they can be able to impact positively on the society”.

On her part, Chairperson of CERHD, Chief Constance Meju, decried the unprecedented and unfavourable policies of government that affect Nigerian women at the grassroots.

Meju noted that rural women in Niger Delta region, in particular, were the major set of people that bear the brunt of environmental pollution, which has destroyed their means of livelihood. 

CERHD’s chairperson charged government at all levels, to see Nigerian women as very  important in building the homes and should be empowered with entrepreneurial skills

She said the need to make rural women to be productive could not be over-emphasised, and called on government to remove all barriers affecting them in growing the economy.

According to her, women empowerment also required their voices to be heard and should be financially independent.

In her words, she said “Even though the majority informal business that drives Nigeria are done by the women, women do not really have economic power.From the research that CEHRD has carried out, it is cleared that there are many things women are not getting right arising from lack of skills.

“We know what economic power meant, if you don’t have financial capability it means you do not have a voice. And when you do not have a voice it means that what you feel and say does not matter.

“CEHRD has been in the past two years working on the economic empowerment for women. One of the major issues confronting women in the Niger Delta as a result of the devastation from oil exploitation has been the poor economic power arising from the destruction of our own livelihood which is essentially farming and fishing.From the response, CEHRD has trained 240 women on entrepreneurship and set up cooperative.

“What we are here doing today is to look at how best the journey that they have undertaken so far can be organised, so it will become a template for other people to fit in and make the life of women better and by implication, the life of family, community and the life of Nigeria.

“Through the proper framework that will come out of this summit we will be able to generate interest both from the government and the private sector, as well as well endowed Nigerians who are philanthropically minded to begin to engage women so that in the nearest future we will have women who are fully empowered.

“We are also looking on how we can make our women in the grassroots sustain economic power so that they will be part of decision making and when they are part of decision making it means we will have less incidents of violent, less youth involvement in cultism and also will reduce the incidents of gender based violence”, Meju added.

In paper presentation, Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, Rivers State House of Assembly, Linda Stewart, noted that women are abused because they are  not in the corridor of power. 

Stewart, who was represented by Grace Ajaegbo, said until women are empowered, gender violence would increase in the state.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry  of Women Affairs, Rivers State, Mrs. Uchechukwu Uriri, enjoined women to position themselves to be recognised by government.

Mrs. Uriri noted women as the vulnerable section of the society, whose duties could not be quantified and urged that the works of the female gender in keeping the homes should be encouraged and appreciated.

She declared: “Empower the woman, you empower the home. Empower the woman, you empower a great nation”.

The stakeholders at the summit were drawn from government ministries and civil societies.

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