Women in rural areas are evolving above the struggle toward only providing food, water and good health for their families.
They are, in various spheres of life, now defying limitations set by cultures and norms in their various communities to speak out for the good of their families and communities at large.
Hafsat Muhammad Baba, Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kaduna State, believes that empowering girls and women opens up great opportunities for human development and economic growth.
She said through her collaboration with Christian Aid, a non-governmental organization, women have been empowered and given voices despite their religion and cultural limitations.
“You know it is not something that is easy in the North, but through this intervention women can now come out and address the public about their communities’ and own needs. This lady for example, was able to get permission from her husband to be attending meetings to discuss issues of their local community with people that can help. When you empower a woman you empower the whole family,” she stressed.
Voice to the People (V2P) is a good governance project funded by Christian Aid to support communities in Kaduna State and the South-east region of Nigeria to take ownership of their own development.
The women are empowered and asked to form cooperatives and this builds good relationship between them which also fosters peace and unity and also enables them to work together for a common purpose despite their religious inclinations, traditions or culture.
She said linking the rural women with community development organisations is key for easy access to loans and other developmental opportunities.
“The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was able to access a special intervention loan that his Excellency the Governor of Kaduna State graciously gave to help these women with small businesses. I think this is a very giant step in what V2P is doing for Kaduna State,” the commissioner said.
“We have to sit down and find out how we can scale up what they have been doing, how we can replicate it in other local governments, because we have 23 local governments in Kaduna State and the intervention was in six local governments and 18 communities,” she also explained.
She revealed that her ministry plans more engagement through a policy called ‘Gender Equity and Social Inclusion’ and ‘Women Economic Summit’, a platform aimed to improve women with businesses and empower those without businesses.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs Kumasi Dankande from Juji Local Government Area said women in rural communities have been neglected as such, sustaining rural developmental is difficult.
“How can we raise women? How can we be able to tell women that we have high esteem; that we are important in our communities? How are we going to bring out our quota; that our community is being developed and our voice is being heard?” These have always been a burden in her community,” Dankande said.
She said, “Women have to realize that they are important; that they have a voice, have rights in their communities and know that everything they are fighting for is not going to be gotten in a forceful way but through a polite and friendly manner.”
“That is how we are gradually winning the support of our husbands and people like our traditional rulers. We have been given two positions for women in two councils out of the three we have,” she said.
Mrs Dankande said these involvements have spurred the need for adult education to help women that are not educated but already married, adding that women in Juji have also decided to help fight drug abuse in their community through a ‘one on one’ approach.
Breaking the limitations of rural development caused by culture, religion and tradition, especially those affecting women in the rural areas, Charles Usie, Country Director for Christian Aid in Nigeria explained that “grassroots sensitization and involvement is pertinent.”
He said: “When you see poverty, the first face you see is a woman and a child. So we believe if we must eradicate poverty, we must start with women. We must empower women and children and the way to empower children is to first empower women.”
The Country Director, Christian Aid in Nigeria, stated that, “‘Get do’ strategy is a community empowering technique used by V2P to mobilize women into groups and give them capacity to be able to speak about issues that concern them.
“This process, for the very first time in Anambra State, placed a woman in the Igwe council which was once considered a taboo,” Usie said.