By Oswald Agwu.
The campaigns for the elimination of traditional norms and practices against the rights and dignity of women in Ebonyi State are gradually yielding results.
Community leaders in Ebonyi South Senatorial district are beginning to have a rethink and taking the lead in advocating for gender equity and respect for the rights of women and girls in their communities.
The leaders bared their minds during a Stakeholders Town hall meeting to promote and protect women”s rights and end all forms of discrimination and violence against women.
The event held Tuesday in Afikpo was organized by a non-governmental organization, Women Aid Collective, WACOL, in collaboration with 50/50 Women group.
It was part of WACOL’s Senatorial constituency outreach programme on translation and transformation of social norms in the Southeast and South-south States of Nigeria through engagement with Women’s Rights, Traditional and judicial institutions.
Speaking at the event, a community representative, Gabriel Isu of Agboride, Ugwuegu autonomous Community in Afikpo local government area of the State stated that it was his belief in gender equity and rights that motivated him to officially make his first daughter his Next of Kin.
He explained: “I decided to love my children equally to the extent that I use my first daughter as my next of kin.
“Even when my son attempted to question it, I explained to him that her sister is his elder.
“So, I don’t give gender preference in dealing with all my children.
“I am interested in equity, such that any of them who requests from me gets within the bounds of my capacity.
“Though she didn’t demand for the next of kin, I thought it wise to give it to her as my first child.
“I also encourage all my children to extend same measure of love they show me to their mother, and among themselves so that the family can grow together.”
Isu, a teacher and businessman who belong to the influencial ‘Esaa’ age grade of Ehugbo said he never missed any opportunity to advocate for gender equity in rights and privileges in his Community.
He however, acknowledged that it was not easy achieving a change of attitude towards long existing norms and practices against women in a highly traditional and cultural Community as his.
Another Community influencer and Traditional ruler-elect of Afikpo Autonomous Community, Ezeogo Patrick Oko Agha, in an interview pledged to employ his position to change the narratives of women in his Community.
Regretting that women sometimes, are the ones perpetrating some negative practices against their fellow women, OkoAgha promised to involve all and sundries in the campaign in his kingdom.
He said: “I will use my good offices to promote the rights of women, and encourage my subjects to give women their due rights in my kingdom.
” I will involve the youths, the elders and even the women in the enlightenment campaign because women most often are the perpetrators of these negative practices against their fellow women.
“I know that with time, and the coming on board of educated traditional rulers (Ezeogos), these things will end just like slave trade and the killing of twins.
Ezeogo Oko-Agha emphasized that he would be glad to have a good number of women in his cabinet.
“There’s nothing wrong in having women in my cabinet as a traditional ruler.
“I am a product of a woman; I live with a woman and a woman cooks for me and takes care of me”, Oko Agha added.
The resource person at the event and the Ebonyi State Coordinator of Gender-Based Violence Taskforce, Barrister Mrs Faithvin Nwanchor took the participants through the legal provisions on the rights of women.
Participants drawn from the 5 Local government areas of Ebonyi South Senatorial district, representatives of Civil Society Organizations, People with Disabilities, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as the media were unanimous in endorsing a communique to abolish all forms of degrading practices against women and girls in the zone.
They identified some of the negative practices against women to include deprivation of inheritance rights and right to ownership of landed property, obnoxious widowhood rites, Female Genital Cutting/mutilation, among others.