The Women On Women Initiative in partnership with ROWEAD held a thought provoking and lively discussion at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Chaired by Hon. Justice Victoria Okobi (Rtd), a predominantly female audience discussed the role of women in the pursuit of peace and unity in Nigeria. The event featured three renowned speakers, Professor Abiola Awoshika, Chief (Nze) Charles O Anyiam-Osigwe and Mrs Onari Duke, who presented their thoughts to the audience before a wider debate opened up.
Professor Awoshika, spoke about the role of women in resolving the ethno-religious crisis currently gripping the nation. To counter this problem Professor Awoshika argued that more women are needed at the table of decision making in all levels of society. She went on to warn the crowd that this would not be easy, “Things will not be handed to us [women],” she said. “We have to want it, we have to demand it.”
She went on to discuss tribalism, suggesting that it adds to the country’s division. It is important she said to “foster relationships with other tribes and religions,” in order to counter stereotypical prejudices. She highlighted the importance of seeing things objectively and not ‘tribalising’ negative experiences as such behaviour does not solve problems. “You can have your view,” she said. “But do it objectively.”
As the discussion opened up, others gave their opinions on how best to resolve mistrust and prejudice in terms of tribe. An audience member emphasised on the importance of the home in tackling the problem an opinion echoed by Chief (Nze) Charles O Anyiam Osigwe who stressed the role of mothers. “You [mothers]have the power to make us biased in any way,” he said. “As you are the first point of indoctrination.”
Hon. Justice Victoria Okobi asked the audience if politics or the economy was responsible for creating ‘this monster [tribalism.’ and went on to talk of its increase in recent decades. She implored the younger generations in the audience not to ‘buy into it.’
Chief (Nze) Charles O Anyiam Osigwe’s talk centred on globalization and its effect on Nigeria’s identity. “As Nigerians we embrace all things foreign,” he said. “[But] we haven’t taken the time to think of how these things are impacting us.” He spoke of the dangers of allowing non-stop foreign influence to erode Nigerian identity and challenged the audience to be ‘guardians of our culture.’
As the discussion went to the floor, the home was again highlighted as a crucial factor in safeguarding Nigerian identity, butit was noted that child rearing is a community wide effort and that it is our responsibility as a nation to ‘get our values back.’
Mrs Onari Duke spoke on the importance of educating the girl child. She said that in spite of numerous reforms, educational disparity still existed especially in rural areas where access to education is still a challenge for some. She challenged the audience to question the effects of UN goals and reforms and to be spokesmen for women and girls in rural areas.
The audience then discussed ways in which they could personally ensure the education of girl children, through sponsoring house helps or mentoring younger women.
The discussion drew to a close with audience members pledging their support for the initiative and committing to take action in their day to day lives in relation to the issues raised.
For more information on the ROWEAD visit: www.rowead.org