Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is There An Economic Cost Of Gender-based/Domestic Violence? [#16daysofactivism]

The U.S Consulate General Lagos in collaboration with ACTS Generation Organization and Women Arise held a one day workshop yesterday on Domestic Violence and Abuse tagged, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World,” with focus on the intersections of gender based Violence and Militarism.
The public affairs officer, Dehab Ghebreab, gave an overview of the trend of gender-based and domestic violence around the world. She reiterated that the purpose of the workshop was to increase awareness of the devastating impact of gender-based violence on our world.
In response to the current #16DaysofActivism, she said 16 days is not enough. It should be an everyday affair.
The floor was opened up to different speakers and activists.
Dr. Joe Odumakin, the founder of Women Arise for Change Initiative, gave an intense presentation. With vivid examples of some past and current cases of gender-based and domestic violence, she put a face [faces] to the discussion.
Since the organization’s inception in 2003, she has recorded about 11,000 cases of gender-based and domestic violence. So far in 2014, about 2,000 cases have been recorded. Out of the 2,000, only two cases of violence against men were reported. More women suffer from gender-based and domestic violence.
Meanwhile, Miss Titi Akosa, pointed out the difficulty involved in gathering data on gender-based and domestic violence. Different organizations and government institutions handle their own cases, thus no synergy in data collation.
Miss Akosa is currently working on determining the economic cost of domestic violence. She wants to find out how much it will cost to help victims in order to be able to better crowd fund support.
Data is very key, she says. We should be able to tell donors how much it will cost to support one victim of a domestic violence. Or know how many victims there are to determine the kind of shelter to build, while we await government interventions.
In Nigeria, only six out of 36 states have laws that prohibit gender-based and domestic violence, said. Mrs Grace Kelefe, the deputy director of Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre.
This is disturbing. Does it mean our lawmakers don’t understand the implication of having no legal protection for victims? Or laid out punishment for perpetrators?
Some members of Golden Movie Ambassadors from Nollywood were present at the event. Saheed Balogun, an actor, while making a remark emphasized the need for advocates and activists to hold female leaders more accountable. They can use their position to influence support on the issue, he said.
Mr. Balogun also pointed out the need for visual messages in local context to be used for campaign messages, for greater impact.
In the words of one of the later speakers, we cannot say enough, we cannot do enough about gender-based violence.
As the event came to an end, I began to mull over a few things—first the need for Nigerian NGOs to collaborate more. Tackling an issue as complicated as gender-based violence and domestic violence is not a one-man show.
I also wondered if perhaps we are not addressing the underlying issues contributing to the increase of gender-based and domestic violence? For example, no amount of advocacy will work in a society where an average man is subjected to inhuman conditions. Such a person is bound to react aggressively at the slightest provocation.
You might have also seen the horrific video of the Ugandan maid for example. But has anyone asked the parents of the child she almost killed how they treat her [the maid]? Do they pay her minimum wage? Where does she sleep? Does she have a mattress? How often does she eat? Does madam or oga [employers] shout on her and harm her physically or psychologically at the slightest mistake?
Little things we ignore in our society build up in different forms to be called exotic names such as gender-based and domestic violence.
I know, I know. Nothing at all can justify such crazy violence.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The U.S Embassy Introduces New Visa Procedures In Nigeria

For Nigerians and non-Nigerians considering applying for Visa to travel to the United States of America, there is something very important you need to know- the U.S Embassy has introduced new Visa procedures in Nigeria.

 In a press briefing held at the Public Affairs Section (PAS) in Lagos today, Stacie Hankins, Consular Chief of U.S. Embassy Abuja, announced that a new DHL Document Collection Center has opened in Port Harcourt.

"As in the case with our DHL partner locations in Lagos and Abuja, visa applicants with approved applications can now collect their passports with their new visas from DHL collection center in Port Harcourt," Hankins said.

Applicants can select any one of the three sites as their pickup location when they complete their online application. However, while Abuja and Lagos applicants can pick up their passports in two days, passport collection at the center in Port Harcourt will take an additional day.

In addition, effective from December 1, 2014, the U.S Mission to Nigeria will require that the DS-160 non-immigration visa application confirmation number used to schedule visa interviews match the application confirmation page that is brought to the interview. Applicants who fail to comply will not be granted interview and will have to purchase a new fee receipt to book another appointment.

The goal of this change is to make application processing faster and more efficient, Hankins said.

Meanwhile, during her opening statement, the Consular Chief also revealed an increase in visa applications. For example, between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013, the Embassy in Abuja and Lagos received more than 182,000 non-immigrant visa applications of which 65 per cent were approved. Between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, the non-immigration applications received increased to over 220,000. Majority of the applications were approved. For immigration visa applications, 15,400 were received in 2013 out of which 14,900 applications were approved.

Hankins noted that the increase in application is a trend the Embassy has witnessed over the past five years.

She reassured Nigerians that no quota system is used to determine the number of those visa applications approved. The Embassy's goal is to facilitate travel process for all- whether 5 or 5,000 applicants. Those with unsuccessful applications are encouraged to apply after 90 days or when something in their circumstances changes.

"We hope that Nigerians' desire to visit our beautiful country will continue to grow, and we look forward to working with our partners to allow qualified tourists and business travelers do so," Hankins said.

Tourist and Student Visas remain the top most sort after type of visas at the U.S Embassy.

NOTE:
Applicants with existing appointments in December and beyond should contact the GCI Call Center at +234-014406218 to make necessary changes. For more information, please visit www.nigeria.usembassy.gov.


Friday, November 21, 2014

From Homeless To Harvard... #StartSmall #DreamBigger

When I was learning how to drive in Lagos, I met an interesting young man who also came to learn. While the purpose of my learning was for the 'pure' fun of it :-), his was to beat the unemployment crisis in the country. His goal was to learn, submit application and be paid to drive others. He was preparing to be ready.
Today, I met another young person. Her story is different. She serves as a cleaner in some big corporate firm. In addition, she makes extra income by helping busy staffs in the company buy lunch. And yes, the demand is high. She is running a one-man delivery company already. She might not know it yet.
You'll be blown away by the wisdom some young people are applying to beat the unemployment crisis or talented but broke syndrome in Nigeria.  It is no longer fashionable to sit and beg for money or sponge off people, every time. Being young in Nigeria should not be an excuse to be poor and unemployed.

Get up and create your own solution-- START SMALL!!! Welcome to a future, where begging is not an option. Don't make begging and pity-party a choice if you can.

"Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!" -Pope Francis.
"Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends."1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
And yes-- try watch the movie "From Homeless to Harvard" when you get the chance. Lizzy Murray's story? Amazing-ness! Maybe some of us should try to share ours more often... it will reduce the sense of entitlement some young people like to carry around.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Girls Are Barred From Nigerian Schools


Students sitting on the floor to take lessons in a public primary school in Lagos


Olawale Abosede stood shoulder to shoulder with four other shy young Nigerians – all of them school girls – to tell the reporters and camera crews how important it was for them to be educated.

Dressed in a red T-shirt, a black skirt and a black pair of peep-toe shoes Olawale stood proudly with her classmates from the government-run Ajuwon High School in far-off Ogun state in southwest Nigeria. The five were brought by the Oando Foundation to Lagos and the air-conditioned multi-purpose room of the U.S. Consulate General to exemplify the value of education in a country with the world’s highest proportion of unschooled children.

Those less fortunate were back home helping their mothers and other petty traders of the markets of Ogun state. Those friends back home are some of the 10.5 million Nigerian children who do not attend school.

The five girls were brought to Nigeria’s former capital by the Oando Foundation, which gives them student scholarships, to sustain their education pursuits.

“Investing in girl education is a smart thing to do,” Olawale said. She spoke softly, stumbling over her words as the audience stared wide-eye at her.

But not everyone embraces the relevance of educating the girl child. More than half of those millions of Nigeria’s children not attending school are girls. And the challenge to get girls in school is greatest in Nigeria’s northern states where culture, tradition and the economy bar so many girls from getting a good education.

More students start school, but many don’t stay to graduate like Olawale and her friends do.

Many Girls Start, but Many Don’t Stay

“When we now look at retention and completion, then in those areas you’ll see girls are still lagging seriously behind, you know,” says Dr. Uwem Esiet. He says more girls are enrolled in primary education, but many don’t stay for secondary school.

The challenge is keeping them in the classroom, says Esiet, who is the director of a youth-focused NGO in Lagos, Action Health Incorporated.

A boy or girl who starts primary school at the age of six will most likely drop out at the age of nine, he says. Girls are most affected. And according to a recent report from the Health, Human & Social Development Information Service the states with the highest numbers of uneducated girls are in northern states dominated by Islamic cultural beliefs - Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, and Gombe – coupled with the male-dominated customs that prevail throughout the nation.

Men make decisions for women, says Esiet. Young girls have no say in whether they will have access to a good education. In Borno and Bauchi states, Esiet says researchers asked community, traditional and religious leaders why they discourage girls from going to school.

The most common reply goes like this, says Esiet.

“If we allow these girls to go to school just like the way you are advocating, they will become sexually active outside of marriage," he said. "And if they become sexually active outside of marriage, all these HIV you people are shouting [about] they are likely going to be infected.”

The solution for the fathers is to take them out of school before it’s too late.

“So what we will prefer,” they say, “is to let them have sex within marriage where we can at least know who is their sexual partner- their husband.”

They often do not argue against school, at last not until their daughters reach the age of nine or 10. When they approach puberty, take them out of the classroom and get them married off, the fathers say. After that, then they can have education.

Not just a northern problem

Don’t put all of the focus on the northern state, Esiet cautions. Some states in the Southwest, including Lagos - Nigeria’s commercial hub - also have cases of girls dropping out of school.

In Iwaya, one of the slum settlements in Lagos, a team of researchers working at Action Health Incorporated found over 500 girls who were not in school even though free education is available in the state. The organization appealed to the state’s Agency for Mass Education, which set up a study center in the community.

Community engagement should be constructive, Esiet says.

“If we have information, we bring the information to the government,” he said.

The information on education of the girl child gathered by the organization is done through empirical research, literature review or observation. They learned the many factors that work against staying in school: ignorance, parents who cannot afford school uniforms and textbooks, and the failure of government to invest enough money in educational facilities.

Rescuing Youth at Risk

There are an estimated 170 million people in Nigeria. Thirty percent of them are children and adolescents. Of those eligible for primary schools, a third of them don’t attend. And about 25 percent of the older children don’t go to school either.

To rectify this, Esiet says that the strategy for making a nationwide argument for more and better education start with Muslim clerics and educated women.

Esiet organized a training conference to discuss some of the fears and beliefs about education common in northern Nigeria. The facilitator was a well-educated cleric, a man who several times referred to his well-educated daughters. The trainer’s wife, who was also well schooled, joined the session. Esiet realized this type of community engagement would overcome education’s critics and compel the people to embrace schooling.

Removing barriers, building communities

During the last International Day of the Girl Child, Nigerian women called for the removal of barriers to the potential of girls in society.

Countries that empower their girls achieve development, says Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. “Education is the fastest tool for social and economic mobility,” said Oby, who is a senior economic adviser for the African Economic Development Policy Initiative at the Open Society Foundation. She was speaking at an event promoting more opportunities for Nigeria’s girls.

Every human being is a resource, she said. When women are not given adequate opportunities to develop, they cannot contribute to the progress of their communities and their nations.

Esiet says Nigeria has many national and state policies guaranteeing girls access to education, but there is still a lack of implementation at the grassroots.

Will brides become good students?

“I am saying this coming from the backdrop of the work we’ve done in northern Nigeria, especially trying to get married adolescent girls back into school,” he says.

For seven years, Action Health Incorporated has worked in northeastern Nigeria to encourage married adolescent girls to return to school. With funding support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), AHI collaborated with community leaders and state government agencies in the state to enroll girls in school. They provided crèches for their babies within the school and also ensured availability of sanitation and clinics.

In a similar effort, UNICEF launched its Girls’ Education Project in northern states. The project sponsored by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) aims to enroll one million girls in school by 2020.

In Sokoto, UNICEF is working with the state government to give monetary incentives of about $31 so girls can buy school uniforms and books and return to school. In some states, the government provides meals for children during school hours in accordance with Nigeria’s Basic Education Law. It states that any child in public school from kindergarten to junior secondary school must have access to a meal.

Corporate organizations are also not left out. Oando Foundation works in collaboration with public schools in Nigeria to award scholarship to girls in under-served communities. As a result of their efforts, Olawale Abosede and many others are enrolled to complete their secondary school education.

“That is aside,” says Esiet. He argues that they cannot replace the government’s responsibilities to address significant lapses in the education sector.

Esiet says the Nigerian government must increase its commitment to educating all of its children.

“This is also a critical challenge because there is under-investment in the catalytic things that will make citizens to be knowledgeable and empowered,” he said.

If all boys and girls in Nigeria decide to go to school, there will not be enough classrooms and teachers for them. He says Nigerian leaders must devote more money and political support to education, and begin to see it as a moral obligation the government owes its citizens.




First published on Voice of America

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Announcing the Africa Great Lakes Reporting Initiative [@IWMF]

Washington, DC – The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) is proud to announce a $5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to expand its reporting initiatives in Africa's Great Lakes region. The African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative will provide training and support for in-country women journalists, as well as opportunities for international correspondents to work in regions of East and Central Africa that receive limited coverage abroad. These efforts will include essential security training to help journalists stay safe in the field.

"Women are vital to international development, so it is critical that their voices are well represented in the global conversation. The IWMF's unique programs are designed to include women's perspectives in international news reporting. We need more of those perspectives brought to Africa's Great Lakes region, a part of the world that has so much potential and yet faces so many challenges to development," explained Howard G. Buffett.

In addition to continuing its work in the Democratic Republic of Congo [link to Congo pages], in 2015 the IWMF will lead groups of women journalists to the Central African Republic, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to report on the intersections between conservation and conflict, agriculture and food security, democracy and governance. Over the next four years, the IWMF plans to work with more than 350 journalists to reshape the media narrative about the region.

To address growing safety concerns for journalists, the IWMF will expand its security training to benefit both international reporters and hundreds of journalists living and working in the African Great Lakes region by conducting hostile environments training for all of its program participants. In addition, the IWMF will launch its journalism security app, Reporta™, to facilitate the implementation of security protocols and to gather information about incidents of violence and threats against journalists around the world.

"Media organizations, even those with an interest in Africa's underreported stories, are hard-pressed to find the resources to pursue them. With the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we will build a network of journalists around the world devoted to producing outstanding news coverage in and about Africa." said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF.

To learn more about the African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative and how to submit an application, please go to iwmf.org/greatlakes and follow the IWMF on Twitter and Facebook.


Join Us For GhanaThink Diaspora: Youth Mentorship, A Catalyst For Development [#DiasporaCamp]



GhanaThink Diaspora is excited to invite you to our discussion on the importance of youth mentorship to be held on 6th December, 2014. The next installment of our online engagement series aimed at encouraging conversations and collaboration between African youth home and abroad.

Below is the event information:
Date: Saturday, 6th December, 2014

Time: 14:00 GMT

Venue: Panelists will hold the discussion online via Google Hangout and the event will be live streamed on YouTube

Confirmed Panelists: Eunice Mintah, Emmanuel Gamor, Nina Werner, Elizabeth Patterson, Kofi Yeboah, Jennifer Ehidiamen, Cortni Grange and Ebenezer Buckman

Moderators: Gameli Adzaho and Thelma Boamah

How do you participate?
RSVP via Google+ today! https://plus.google.com/b/118390962426533883331/events/c941874fpvsqjbseh56fk7jbet0?authkey=CLTKjKq81YOUrAE

WATCH the live stream on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzFJ9UtKRsgjd0uyu8Qq16g


FOLLOW the hashtag #DiasporaCamp on Twitter, Facebook and Google+
TWEET your questions to panelists @DiasporaCamp and using the hashtag #DiasporaCamp

We value your contribution to this important initiative so please make time to join us on Saturday, 6th December 2014!




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Notes From Symposium: The Role of Journalism in Nation Building


“a time would never come when the Nigerian media will become a toy in someone’s pocket”

During the first couple of minutes into the symposium, I was a bit apprehensive. Political reporting is really not a beat I’m ultra-excited about. So when political coverage dominates a discussion around Journalism, I find myself tuning out. I can do this. I can do this. I CAN survive a few hours of political discourse. I tried psyching myself up. And then it happened. The discussion took a dramatic turn. It became more diverse. More exciting. More whole… to borrow the journalistic term, more balanced.

I am talking about the recent Symposium organized to honor Pastor Tunde Bakare on his 60th Birthday [HAPPY BIRTHDAY PASTOR B!]. The event, which took place at All Season’s Plaza in Agindigbi Ikeja, had in attendance key players in the journalism and political sphere. I call them the elders of journalism. The event was open to non-journalists as well.

This is a personal account of the event. Someone else will tell his or hers differently. That is to say, the views here do not represent that of the organizers or other attendees.

The chairman of the occasion was Chief Ajibola Ogunsola while the Keynote speaker was Mr Segun Adeniyi. The Panelists: Mr Simon Kolawole, Mr Azubuike Ishiekwene, Mr Edward Dickson, Mrs Funke Aboyade, Mr Femi Adesina, and Mr Dele Momodu, who later revealed that he would soon become Pastor Joseph. Yes—read on!

In his opening remark, Chief Ogunsola gave a brief historical context to the topic of discussion. What is press freedom in Nation Building? What is the role of journalism in Nation building?

Mr. Segun Adeniyi was called upon to give his keynote speech. In his overview, Mr. Adeniyi reminded us that the key function of journalism is to inform, educate and entertain. Journalists also investigate the work of governance, while playing the role of a watch-dog. He called for more collaboration between the media and the political governance. Without this, we cannot build the nation.

Mr. Femi Adesina was next on the panel. He spoke passionately about the role of media beyond political coverage. Mr. Adesina is said to be very passionate about human-interest focused journalism. He is also passionate about the future of Nigerian Press. To paraphrase what he said, a time would never come when the Nigerian media will become a toy in someone’s pocket. That is to say, people should stop trying to manipulate the media for their personal gain. Mr. Adesina reminded us that the Nigerian media was birthed from activism. It must remain so in its quest to build the nation.

The role of Journalism in Nation Building is very crucial. We can’t see a new Nigeria without the media, Adesina said.

Mr. Simon Kolawole was the man who brought in the fresh perspective to the panel. He said we think of Nation building in terms of politics. When discussing nation building, we should be looking at the quality of lives of the people. Media Independence is also a very critical issue that must also be addressed. Who are the people founding and funding Nigerian media? The history of Nigerian Press shows that the early media organizations were created to project the political ambition of the founders and funders. This has remained the case, which is limiting the media in its quest to keep the government accountable. To put it simply, journalists cannot question those who pay their salary.

Talking about journalists, Kolawole said journalists must be well informed if they want to be able to build the nation. Some journalists only scratch the surface of issues because they themselves lack in-depth knowledge about them. For example, the first Nigerian newspaper is called Iwe Iroyin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba. Does that not mean that as far back as 1859 when the publication came into existence the Egbas were not considered Yoruba? What does that have to say about our cultural history? Journalists must empower themselves with knowledge to be able to empower others. My thoughts.

Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene brought a theoretical perspective to the discussion. He said today’s journalism is not a monopoly. Thus journalists must stop seeing themselves as the sole actors in the field. He highlighted the four theories of the press and how they intercept today’s journalism practice. He also pointed out that the Nigerian constitution covers the profession in terms of ownership and watch-dog role of keeping the government accountable.

Journalism that will build a nation must first redeem itself and focus on context, connectivity and connection, Ishiekwene said. For context, reporting must go beyond merely breaking the news to telling the audience how such information affects them. For connectivity, journalists should learn to network with others, across the globe. On content, the media must produce useful contents others can share. The dominance of the future belongs to content providers that can be shared by others.

Mr. Edward Dickson, brought a human face and emotion to the discussion. He shared how the practice of journalism frustrated him at the early stage. Aside working in a media firm that was shut down twice due to political interference with the media, he also observed/experienced people’s poor attitude towards journalists.

He said the government sees journalists as a dog that must be trampled upon. Even the people whose interest the media protect do not think well of journalists, a self-less group who put their lives in line to serve them. It is difficult to be a watch-dog in Nigeria, Dickson chirped. Referring to the poor welfare of journalists, he said this group of people who are expected to be veracious cannot be so on empty stomach.

Journalists are often shackled, muzzled, blackmailed and intimidated in Nigeria. He gave an example of how his newspaper did a cover story about the poor condition of education of a particular state, only for representatives of the government to send them a letter asking for the building plan of their office. How did an office that was build way before Nigerian independence suddenly become of interest?

As daunting as it is, journalists must not shy away from their role as nation builders. Dickson is optimistic that someday the Nigerian media will be able to join forces with the publics to check the excesses of government leaders.

Don’t be despondent. We have taken off on a journey. It will lead us to a good success, he said.

And then, the only lady on the panel, Funke Aboyade SAN, brought a legal angle to the discussion. She pointed out the different lapses of the Nigerian media, sighting the poor coverage of the kidnapped Chibok girls as an example.

Nigerian media must learn to hold the feet of government leaders to the fire. Our Nigerian media can be more robust, she said.

Dele Momodu wrapped up the panel discussion with a high level of humor. First he commended Pastor Tunde Bakare for being an exceptional Journalist—he runs a column on TV called Moment of Truth :-). A very effective medium that has gathered dedicated viewership from across sector, Mr. Momodu noted.

Then he announced he feels he now has a pastoral calling. He will take up his English name and be called Pastor Joseph or Pastor Jo, for short.

Aside his jokes, Mr. Momodu touched on a very important angle. He said if we want journalists to build the nation, the nation must build journalists. [I hope managing editors and media owners are reading]. The need for training opportunities for journalists cannot be overemphasized.

While reacting to the outcome of the symposium, Pastor Tunde Bakare appreciated everyone for their contribution and also commended Nigerian journalists for the incredible role they play in building the nation. Awards were given to all the speakers for their immense contribution to the journalism profession.

And yes, Gbenga Adeyinka was the anchor for the day, with cool jokes. There was so much to laugh about! Now I understand why people really pay thousands to attend his comedy show.

I’m glad I attended the event! So grateful for the opportunity to learn, learn and learn. 

It is time to take the root downward and produce fruits upward.

The celebration continues.

See some of the pictures of the event:
The panelists

Pasto B and Mrs B

Pastor B and Chief Ogunsola