OVERVIEW OF THE NIGER DELTA WOMEN’S SOCIAL FORUM HELD ON THE 1ST OF DECEMBER 2016 IN EAST LAKE HOTEL, PORT-HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE

Introduction

Gender and Development Action GADA) under the auspices of the National Coalition of Gas Flares and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), hosted the first ever Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum on the 1st of December 2016, in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. The social forum was geared towards amplifying key Niger Delta issues that affect women the most;

  • Environmental Justice
  • Peace and Security
  • Livelihoods

In 2010, GADA alongside other Niger Delta Women’s Group came together to form the Niger Delta Women’s Movement. The movement was geared towards the broad based articulation of women’s issues in the Niger Delta and also a platform to mobilise for social and change.

In 2013, GADA carried out consultative meeting in 6 out of the 9 Niger Delta states, Namely, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers States. These consultative meeting were carried out with the Ministries of Women Affairs, Women Groups, and other relevant stakeholders in each state to ascertain the key issues women face and the proposed solutions to mitigate and solve these issues. Women in all the 6 states were mobilised under a platform called the Niger Delta Women’s Movement (NDWM), which was convened by GADA with support from CORDAID.

It was identified that women were mostly concerned about three cross-cutting issues which were; their livelihoods, their environment, peace and security. After these issues were put together, a final convergent meeting was held in 2014 were a draft charter of demand was put together to be validated at a proposed Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum.

The Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum 2016

On the 1st of December 2016, GADA in partnership with NACGOND and with support from the Dutch Embassy, the First Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum was held in Port-Harcourt, with impressive representation of Ministries, Department and Agencies from within the 6 target states, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.

As part of the preparation to host the 1st Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum, GADA paid courtesy visits to the Ministries of Women Affairs within the 6 Niger Delta target states, to ensure the Ministries of Women Affairs fully participate as the gender coordinating organ of each of the states. The involvement of the Ministries of Women Affairs was critical for the sustainability and the implementation of the Outcomes of the Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum.

All the state ministries of women affairs were ably represented, The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development for Delta state, Rev. Mrs. O. C Williams was present at the event as the Chairman of the occasion.  The Sustainable Development Goal offices of Delta and Cross Rivers States, The office of the First Female Deputy Governor of Rivers State was also present at the occasion, the only Female Paramount Ruler in Rivers state and her cabinet members were duly present, Civil society from the 6 states, Faith based organization from the Muslim and Christian faith, community representatives, women leaders, market women association and media organization amongst others.

The social forum commenced with introduction of key participants and a welcome and an overview of the Niger Delta Women’s Movement and Social Forum by Susan Bassey-Duke, the Programmes Director of Gender and Development Action (GADA Port-Harcourt)

She thanked everyone for honouring the invitation for the First Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum, stated the key thematic areas which include;

  • Environmental Justice
  • Peace and Security
  • Livelihood and Economic Empowerment

A brief introduction of GADA was made as a Women’s Rights organisation, working to ensure gender parity, social justice and peace and sustainable development in the Niger delta, through gender responsive development.

She gave a background and journey of the Niger Delta Women’s Movement that gave rise to the need for a Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum, stating GADA’s relationship with NACGOND and how it has brought about the realisation of the first Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum with support from the Dutch Embassy.

She ended her speech by saying the point of Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum is to pool state and none-state actors to discuss and provide new achievable answers to the region’s unending problems.

Father Edward Obi, the National Coordinator of NACGOND also gave his opening remarks as he welcomed all to the NDWSF2016. He stated that the NDWSF2016 was long overdue and is happy NACGOND is part of the facilitated organisation. He went ahead to state that this was not a time to sit back and feel sorry for oneself amidst the barrage of problems but to stand up and demand for what one wants. Adding that any system that fails to recognise and serve the needs of the most vulnerable persons in society is an immoral system. Stating that the 1st of December is the world’s AIDS day, he encouraged women to rise up and occupy the centre and reclaim their dignity. The SDGs have no chance of being realised unless women are given their rightful roles in society. He ended by stating that men are here to assist the women achieve their purpose and should champion their cause at all levels.

After these, good will messages were given by the Ministries of women affairs from each state present. Overview of activities and opportunities for women within regional developmental organisations were taken by the representatives of PIND foundation and Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP)

Key areas of concern were discussed during the course of the forum (as seen in the activity report). NACGOND’s Documentary on Gas flares in Bonny was screen alongside Daughters of the Niger Delta.

Two paper presentations and a panel discussion was carried out and finally the Niger Delta Women’s Charter of Demand was read out and validated

Outcome

This achieved a greater appreciation of the impact of environmental degradation on Women in the Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Women’s Social Forum has become a rallying point for a regional push for women in the Niger Delta

Better understanding of the Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill was achieved and climate change causative factors were identified and climate actions discoursed

Click here to download The GADA Presentations
Click here to download Presentation on Women and The 16-Point AGenda

To view the live tweets of this event click the link below

https://storify.com/tamunowarisoma/niger-delta-women-s-social-forum-december-1st-2016

 Direct Beneficiary feedback

 Participants were concerned about how the recommendations from the social forum will be implemented; they raised concerns about the seriousness of the issues highlighted but also citing the non commitment of the government to tackle such issues

 Attendees were concerned about sustaining the tempo of the Social forum to ensure that the zeal for change will not wane away from lack of engagements and follow up activities

 Participants also recommended that the social forum should be held annually

 

 

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