Women affairs ministry still struggling to save women, girls
By Olayemi John-Mensah
Jun 4, 2019
Hajiya Aisha Abubakar was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 30, 2018, as the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development immediately after the former Minister, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, tendered a resignation to pursue her political ambition. The ministry’s objectives include stimulating action to promote civic, political, social and economic participation of women; coordinating and monitoring women’s programmes; providing technical and financial support to women’s Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), especially the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS).
The Ministry of Women Affairs is required to review substantive and procedural laws that affect women. Established by Decree 30 of 1989, the broad mandate of the ministry is to advise the government on gender and children issues and issues affecting persons with disabilities and the elderly.
It also initiates policy guidelines and leads the process of ensuring gender equality and mainstreaming at both the national and international levels. The vision of the ministry is to help build a Nigerian society that guarantees equal access to social, economic and wealth creation opportunities to all irrespective of gender, places premium on protection of the child, the aged and persons with disabilities; focuses attention of key operators in both private and public sectors on mainstreaming the concerns of these groups of people in national development process.
The ministry, under the leadership of Hajia Abubakar, attended to many issues that related to women empowerment, children and persons with disabilities with the help of some partners that invested in some projects to keep the ministry moving. Skills acquisition The National Women Empowerment Fund (NaWEF) is a scheme established by the Federal Government to tackle poverty and unemployment among women, especially at the grassroots, and a total of 4,977 women benefited from the scheme under Hajiya Abubakar.
The former minister who was speaking at the 18th National Council Meeting on Women Affairs and Social Development recently in Abuja, said the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari initiated and implemented various skills acquisition and empowerment programmes that had impacted positively on the lives of Nigerian women, and that among the programmes were NaWEF and the concession of skills acquisition centres to states.
Through NaWEF, the ministry continues to execute its goal of developing women to own small and medium enterprises by providing soft loans to them. Since its commencement in the eight pilot states, the programme recorded great success, and effort is being made to scale it up nationwide. On the concession of skills acquisition centres, the ministry concluded arrangements to relinquish the various centres across the nation to states.
These centres were established to train women in diverse vocations and skills to improve their standard. Children with special needs The ministry under Hajia Abubakar remained committed; ensuring that vulnerable persons, including women, children and the aged were given the opportunity to develop their potentials in order to contribute meaningfully to the overall growth of the country.
The minister devoted her time to help children with special needs because they were often not receiving the needed care because their caregivers lacked skills and knowledge to impact meaningfully on them. In recognition of this, the ministry, in partnership with the Embassy of Israel, in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, decided to train teachers and caregivers so that children with special needs were properly taken care of.
The ministry under her achieved this through policy formation and constant review of its programmes as they affected persons with disabilities. People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) The Ministry under the watch of Hajia Abubakar remained focused in attending to the needs of Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD).
At the 2018 International Day of PLWD with the theme: “Disabilities: Breaking Down Barriers”, the minister had said, barriers were those environmental factors that made it difficult for PLWD to function in a given society while listing impediments to include transportation, social stigma, physical barriers and work place segregation.
Therefore, to ameliorate the suffering of the PLWD, the ministry, in partnership with ISHK Prosthetic Limbs Centre, donated limbs to amputees in the FCT and Niger State.
Telecommunication giant, MTN, also in partnership, donated crutches and other aids to those in need of them. Challenges The rights of the child lingering Although the ministry was at the forefront in ensuring that the rights of the Nigerian child was fully protected as the government continued to invest more on programmes that were geared towards that, but 12 states were yet to domesticate the Child Rights Law despite its benefit for children; protecting their rights.
The states that were yet to pass the law were Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi, Jigawa, Adamawa, Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Zamfara, Gombe and Katsina. Some of the setbacks on the passage of the law were said to include religion and cultural beliefs inherent in the affected states. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) by its resolution of November 20, 1989. The resolution of the convention which spells out same meaning for every child around the world takes into consideration cultural, social, economic and political differences and realities of individual states.
The resolution also made provision for each state to seek its own means to implement the rights equal and common to all. The provision for children in need of special protection measures: mentally, physically challenged, or street children. They are to be protected in a manner that will enable them achieve their fullest, possible social integration, and moral development.
Expectant and nursing mothers shall be catered for, and every parent or guardian having legal custody of a child under the age of two shall ensure its immunisation against diseases or face judicial penalties. Drawing tattoos or cutting marks on the body and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are punishable offences under the act, and so are the exposure to pornographic materials, trafficking of children, their use for transacting in narcotic drugs, or the use of children in any criminal activity, abduction and unlawful removal or transfer from lawful custody, and employment of children as domestic help outside their own home or family environment.
Children are entitled to so many rights. But how many of these were put in place for the child to enjoy when some states refused to domesticate the Child Rights Act? Number of out-of-school girls skyrocketed
There are several reports that Nigeria has a very high rate of school dropouts and that most of them are girls. Research revealed that one-third of out-of-school children in Nigeria were girls, amounting to over 5.5 million school-age girls.
Net enrollment rate for girls at primary level were five per cent lower than for boys; gross enrollment at junior secondary school level followed this trend; which was below the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target. Girl child marriage still in practice In Nigeria, underage girls are still given out in marriage in some parts, thereby bringing an end to their education and exposing them to early adulthood.
The ministry tried but could not stop the practice completely. Domestic violence Domestic violence, especially against women and girls continued. There were so many reported cases, including the issue of rape. Women and girls continue to suffer violent acts at home and the perpetrators keep escaping judgment in many cases.