.Completes three days of intensive advocacy
In Nigeria and Kaduna State to be specific, there seems to be a reduction in the new waves of COVID-19. As a result, many residents at the community level are beginning to relax in compliance with COVI-19 protocols.
It was against this background that a group of women leaders from government, private sector and civil society organisations under the United Nations Women COVID-19 Response project came together as a coalition to support the Kaduna State government in its response to the new wave of COVID-19 in the State.
To get the job done, the coalition, which has 30 women with each of them leading their respective establishments and organisations, strategically mapped out and visited some allies and stakeholders which include government functionaries, religious and traditional institutions.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) has partnered with the UK Government Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office to implement a project on Strengthening state capacities and women’s participation in COVID response and broader peacebuilding initiatives in Nigeria.
Under this project, the UK Government Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in partnership with UN Women and Kaduna State will seek to develop and launch a framework for collaboration among women leaders in the civil society, private sector and politics which will enhance women’s meaningful participation in the COVID-19 response and recovery.
A Consultant with UN Women and the team lead for this coalition, Dr Lydia Umar, speaks:
“Though the state government is doing a lot in this regard, there are needs and concerns of vulnerable groups including old people, children and women which are some if the areas we are going to offer support.
“There are people who are still in self-denial because they have not lost any loved one to COVID-19, but, gender-based violence – sexual violation, domestic violence, rape, were on the increase due to the lockdown.
“We do tell such people only if they know that the money the state government spend on those that were infected by the virus would have been used for other developmental projects such as schools, hospitals and roads.
“I’m glad Kaduna state is leading with four assault and referral centres (one in Zaria, two in Kaduna and one in Kafanchan) to resolve and mitigate gender-based violence – one in Zaria, two in Kaduna and one in Kafanchan.
“We believe this collaboration will increase the trust of the people in what the government is doing especially at the community level since locals believe more in civil society and the private sector that they do when it comes to government’s projects.
“In all this, government, religious bodies and traditional institutions are very important to get the message across to the majority of people under them.
“COVID-19 had impacted on all sectors of the economy and the voices of women are being heard in Kaduna State with a female deputy governor and seven out of the 14 commissioners being women, distribution of palliative to poor and vulnerable homes to cushion the effect of the lockdown.
“However, more need to be done. We want to see to it that in all the COVID-19 recovery programmes, women and girls are considered. We expect our religious bodies and, Kaduna State office to have a presentation during the launch of the framework and work plan as part of activities to commemorate this year’s women day coming up on March 8, 2021.
The response of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI).
JNI is the supreme body that coordinates Islamic religious affairs in Nigeria.
Secretary, JNI, Kaduna State, Ibrahim Kufena, assured the coalition of the readiness of his members to provide support where applicable since the fight against COVID-19 is a collective one.
“I can assure you anytime any day we are for all that will better the lives of all of us. We have 23 functioning branches across the 23 local government areas of Kaduna State. The fight against pandemic like this one is a collective one and we promise to give this coalition maximum support as you engage our women.
“You have opened our eyes and we are just being reminded once again of the need to help stop community spread of the pandemic. We will relay the message to our people across the 23 local government areas of the state.
“When you make the framework and work plan available to us, it will help us to support better at the grassroots”, Ibrahim said.
The response of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
CAN is the umbrella body for Christianity affairs in Nigeria containing diverse Christian denominations including Catholic, Protestants and Pentecostal churches.
Acting Secretary, CAN, Kaduna Caleb Maaji, who hosted the coalition on behalf of the Association’s Chairman in the State, Reverend Joseph Hayab, assured the coalition of the association’s support in its quest to respond to COVID-19.
Ibrahim said, “having informed us of the composition of the coalition, we believed you will go places because God is with you. We will do our best to support the coalition.
“We appreciate you for considering it important to be here so we can interface and learn things we need to know to step such down in our various denominations.
“We know you are busy people as a coalition and God will reward you because no one can pay you for your services to humanity. Anyone that refuses to accept the reality of COVID-19 is living in self-denial.
“As much as we pray for the pandemic to end, we should continue to sensitise people about it. As leaders of CAN, we must continue to preach about this pandemic. We pray to God to keep us save and alive to see the end of this pandemic.
“CAN will always be willing to partner with organisations seeking the wellbeing of mankind”, he added.
The response of the traditional institution
Burnu Zazzau and District Head, Doka, Kaduna, Alhaji Bala Muhammed Tijjani, who had been deeply involved in the passage of Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAAP) law in Kaduna State, restated his commitment to developmental issues like COVID-19 response.
The traditionalist, who had spent several years in the private sector and civil space attested that “this traditional responsibility has brought me a lot of things including patience and the need to embrace development ideas which will bring me closer to the people.
“We believe in strengthening our work with regards to the developmental project in the interest of all of us here in Kaduna and Nigeria as a whole.
“I agreed gender issue is a developmental issue. So, ignoring it will be a mistake because, at the end of the day, the crisis will be brewed and set us back.
“Gender issues have been neglected in Kaduna State and across the north which is partly responsible for where we are now. The good thing is, we now have a responsive government in Kaduna State.
“We are not saying they have done 100 percent well, but, we need to encourage them to do more and for those coming behind them to see what they have done to build on those achievements.
“We will continue to partner with government and development partners to move our state forward.
“You can count on myself and my office whenever you need our support on the work you are doing”, he promised.
The response of Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Doctor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe
Deputy Governor, Kaduna State, Doctor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, who heads the COVID-19 Task Force in the state, was pleased that women are supporting her and the state government to reduce the statistics of women being infected with the virus currently put at 44 percent.
“It’s usually pleasing when you see women rise to do something within society and I thank you for what you are doing and much more that you will continue to do.
“I want to let you know that this is a government of equal opportunity which is why we have a lot of women as commissioners and head of agencies and we have been doing so much – excelling in various areas.
“We just finished launching a social protection policy which is just a way of putting a structure that preserves poor and vulnerable homes and individuals. With this policy, so many women will be lifted from the poor state. I pray this is going to be the beginning of better things to come.
“On COVID-19, I want to commend you for thinking of this and coming together to form this group essentially to provide support for women in this fight against COVID-19. 44 per cent of recorded cases of COVID now is attributed to women. That’s quite a number and we need to do as much as we can to bring that down.
“People are wearing masks but, are they wearing them the way they should? Why are some not wearing masks? What about hand washing which is for our good? We need to do more on the protocols.
“The State has not relented right from when we recorded COVID-19 in Nigeria. The state has not relented in its efforts to nip it in the bud. We have been on top of it because we want to protect our people.
“Like the governor will always say, we are looking at the protection of lives, livelihoods and all that. It is said that one of the biggest deterrents to observing the protocols is in behaviour. So, if we can get women to appreciate these protocols, we are going to make a lot of differences because they will tell their husbands, their children, their workers and everybody around them.
“We are always glad when we see people that want to collaborate with us because we are a government that believes in partnership and collaboration because we know these are the ways we can be everywhere”, she noted.
The response of Kaduna State House of Assembly (KSHA)
The Speaker, KSHA, Hon Zailani, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Isaac Zankai, assured the coalition of the House support as representative of the people of Kaduna State.
He said, “with the presence of the only woman in this house, Hon Comfort Amwe, be rest assured that you will get the support you require. What you are doing is to help the public and we are going to support you.
“Let me also assure you that the state government will give you a hundred percent support. This house is very open and you can come for anything at any time.”
Report and photographs by Sola Ojo