Senior Correspondent, ONYEWUCHI OJINNAKA, captures some of the activities that heralded this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 in Nigeria.  


International Women’s DayInternational Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. In different regions of the world, the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women, to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements.


In Nigeria, the occasion was celebrated with many activities, including presentations, medical checks for women, prayer and fasting sessions against gender-based violence (GBV) and women empowerment programmes.



Alcatel at Project Alert
In Lagos, the management and staff of a telecommunication services provider, Alcatel-Lucent Nigeria Limited, visited the office of Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that promotes and protects the rights and interests of women, to felicitate with it on the occasion.


During the visit, the firm, represented by its Human Resources Director, Adebimpe Ayo-Elias, and some members of staff, donated two laptop computers, two smart phones and one wireless internet device to Project Alert for the enhancement of its work towards eradication of violence against women.


While presenting the items, Ayo-Elias said Alcatel Nigeria Limited was aware of the tireless efforts of Project Alert on Violence Against Women (VAW) under the leadership of its Executive Director, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, in championing the struggle against domestic violence such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and economic abuse/strangulation, saying that it is in recognition of its struggle that the company deemed it fit to present the electronic gadgets to further enhance the performance of the organisation.


While appreciating the magnanimity of Alcatel in donating the items to Project Alert, Effah-Chukwuma said the organisation is a non-profit making outfit, disclosing that funding of the organisation comes mainly from supports, such as individual, group or corporate donations, grants and perhaps little sales from the booklets it produces.


She stressed that younger people are mostly the victims of sexual abuse, adding that most women are subjected to harmful traditional practices. She made reference to male child preference, genital mutilation and maltreatment of widows, pointing out that culture is dynamic and therefore the need for a change.


According to Effah-Chukwuma, Project Alert also empowers women. Its activities are mainly centred on three areas which are human rights education, research and documentation and support services programme.


“We offer help to women and young girls, legal aid, counselling and other support services” she said.


She thanked the management and staff of Alcatel for their kind gesture.



Victims of VAW
During the visit, a victim of domestic violence, Mrs. Uche Egbo, narrated her ordeal with her husband, an army officer, which eventually led to the dissolution of the marriage by a court, following the intervention of Project Alert which assisted the woman, a mother of three, with free legal services while the matter was in court.


On February 26, 2015, Justice Yetunde Adesanya of High Court of Lagos State, Badagry division, delivered judgment on the case in favour of the woman.


The case of another victim of violence, Blessing Isanbor, whose right cheek was allegedly shattered by a gun shot from her purported would-be husband, Cpl. Emmanuel Okujo, was narrated by her brother, Stephen Isanbor. He said the police corporal, who is attached to Ifako Police Station, Gbagada, Lagos, shot his sister on February 2, 2012.


However with the intervention of the Project Alert, the case is presently before a Lagos High Court, while the victim, who was being treated at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), has been referred to another hospital for plastic surgery, which would require a lot of money.



Cancer screening in Abuja

Also celebrating the IWD in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, a group of women in Jabbi organised a cancer screening session for the women in the area. The women were screened of breast and cervical cancer, and a health enlightenment exercise was carried out to inform the women on the need to know their health status.



In Nasarawa and Akwa Ibom
In Nasarawa State, the event was marked with prayers and fasting against violence on women and sexual abuses, while in Akwa Ibom State, the wife of the governor, Mrs. Ekaette Akpabio, sought involvement of women in the governance of the country.


She said: “Empowering womanhood will not only mean progress for women, but also progress for humanity in general because when women are well positioned economically, socially and politically, the family and community are also empowered.”



Empowering women  
With the high spirit in the celebration of IWD, Nigerian women have been charged to aspire to higher positions in the political and corporate worlds, rather than playing the second fiddle to their male counterparts.


According to the Public Affairs Section of United States Consulate-General, in conjunction with Idea Builders Initiative and Access Bank Plc, the organisers of the 2015 International Women’s Day edition with the theme, ‘Make it Happen’, the event was aimed at encouraging and arousing effective action for advancing and recognising women in the immediate environment, state and nation.


The U.S. Consular-General, Jeffery Hawkings, who was one of the special guests at the event held at Access Bank Headquarters, Victoria Island, Lagos, charged Nigerian women to assert their authority in all spheres of endeavour, expressing the hope that Nigerian women would soon rise beyond their current political status. He noted that the highest political position reserved for them, at present, is the deputy governor.


Hawkings said: “There continues to be a Nigeria where we have a deputy governor syndrome. How many women are governors and how many women are deputy governors? Why is that happening? I have not quite figured it out.”


Also speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), AD Consulting, Mrs. Olajumoke Adenowo, while stressing the need for Nigerian women to make a difference in their chosen careers, posited that women should serve as catalyst for social change. Pointing out that for women to make things happen, there must be a common denominator, she urged women to unite for a common cause.


The CEO of Gemstone Group, Fela Durotoye, described women as true nation-builders and advised  them to learn how to walk away from opportunities that do not respect the principle of gender equality, adding that women must know their worth and ensure that their demands are commensurate with their true value.


“God could have put Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden; instead put Adam and Eve. God actually brought in gender equality,” he said, adding that “researches carried out have shown that companies with gender equality turn out to be better organisations. “They have better perspective, better reasoning, better experiences, products and services.”



Jumia honours women activists
Jumia, an online retailer/shop, on Wednesday March 11, hosted an event to honour women who are standing up against domestic violence.


As part of the event, representatives from Jumia made a presentation about two of their programmes: Jforce and Marketplace, which are great opportunities, especially for Nigerian women, to achieve economic self-sufficiency and gain financial independence.


The presentation was aimed at helping eligible distressed women to have additional access to better choices than staying in abusive homes.