By JAMES EZEMA
Amidst blames and counter blames over teething issues of domestic violence, female harassment, and human trafficking, stakeholders were unanimous on Tuesday that overcoming the menace required every member of the society playing his or her role to increase awareness against the vices.
This was the resolution at the opening of a three-day conference on women in security, defence, law enforcement and judiciary, with the theme: “Women in National Security and Development: Daunting Challenges and Great Prospects.”
According to the director of International Institute for Security and Governance Studies, Dr David Okoror, the conference was to provide opportunities for networking among all the agencies for better handling of women issues.
Speaking in that light, Dr Okoror told the stakeholders that “This conference will bring professionals from various agencies to brainstorm, network and synergize while building collaboration across services, though little rivalry exist in the agencies but meetings like this will enable them drop their guards and have friends across several security outfits”
Also speaking at the opening, the dean of social sciences, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof Paul Pindar Izah said that the government needs to create conducive working environment devoid of sexual harassment, violence and remove stereotypes that prevent women from contributing to national development.
He said, “Women make up 50% of the country’s population, if this number is neglected, then the country is doomed”.
On his part, Dr Amaechi Anakwue of Daar Communications PLC, the owners of African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower radio, who spoke on Nigeria’s Leadership and Under-development Debacle: Can the Nigerian Women Save the Day, noted that even though there was increased need for women to get more involved in the governance process at advocacy and moral persuasion levels, he reminded women that power is taken and not given.
“It’s been more of advocacy and moral persuasions on the menfolk to concede more space for women. But, as we all know, power is taken, not given. This may explain why despite several promises, successive governments in Nigeria have not delivered on their promise to achieve 35% representation for women in elective and appointive positions.”
He advised that the key towards economic empowerment lies in education which would enhance women potentials to reach the climax of their dreams, urging women to rise above petty jealousy to rally round fellow women.
Dr Anakwue concluded that Nigeria’s development challenges will be better addressed if the country places women at the forefront “or better still, if our women take the initiative to become more involved.”
Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), represented by the first female Corps Secretary, Susan Ada Ajenge, observed that the Corps under the present administration has given a lot of opportunities for women to flourish.
She said, “I am the first female Corps Secretary, and the second commandant in the Corps today is a woman, and we have a lot of senior officers who are women”, adding that giving more women their rightful place was long overdue.
Her counterpart who representative of the Inspector of the Police, Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP Margaret Ochalla, noted that the police is aware of the challenges most women face in the course of performing their duties, which led to the creation of a force gender coordinator and advisor.
According to her, the unit is saddled with the protection and promotion of gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment, prevention and prosecution of Gender Based Violence (GBV), and promoting women’s engagement in peace, security humanitarian response.
However, on the issues relating to female harassment and human trafficking, Mr Josiah Emerole of the NAPTIP, who spoke on Women Trafficking, stated that women trafficking can be better understood when it is looked at from a global concept of human trafficking and trafficking in persons “because if you look at women trafficking alone, it may be difficult for you to place it properly. But when you look at it in a holistic form, which is human trafficking, trafficking in persons, then you will be able to understand some of the things we are talking about.”
He noted that every any person, no matter how highly placed can be trafficked, including kidnapping for ransom or for other illicit purposes.
According to him, factors fuelling human trafficking include poverty, ignorance, greed, among others, explaining that there two major types of trafficking, namely: internal, which is rural to urban trafficking, and foreign, from a country to another.
Arguing that women should be blamed the more for the increasing cases of trafficking, Mr Emerole urged the womenfolk to do more to end the menace by stepping up campaign against human trafficking in local communities.
Other speakers at the occasion include Dr (Mrs) Eugenia Akpa of the Sociology Department, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, who spoke on Sexual Harassment of female students and women in the workplace and Dr. Patience Ediri-Mudiare of the same department in the institution.
This is even as Abayomi Mighty, the Executive Director of WOTCLEFT spoke on unreported cases, while the Chief Executive Officer of Heart to Heart Missions, Barrister Beauty Lawrence-Uwaokhonye dwelt on Adequacy of Response of Law Enforcement and Courts.
The conference, which was jointly organised by the Faculty of social science, ABU Zaria, International Institute for Security and Governance Studies, Abuja and the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), had in attendance officers from the Police Force, Navy, Army, FRSC, Customs, Prisons, Judiciary, NCWS, National Assembly, NSCDC, WRAPA, NAPTIP, WOTCLEF and Women Affairs Ministry.