Thursday, February 24, 2011

Concept Paper : March 8, 2011 Activity by BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights and Embassy of Sweden

This concept paper highlights BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights and the Embassy of Sweden’s activity to mark March 8, 2011 International Women’s Day.  The activity will bring together stakeholders from various sectors to discuss, commit to defending women’s human rights, and make recommendations for increasing the enforcement of women’s human rights in Nigeria.

The international Women’s day provides important platform for promoting women’s human rights and for gauging stakeholders’ responsibilities and achievements.   Since its inception in 1911, the International Women’s Day has been set aside as a day to mark the economic, political, social achievement of women all over the world.  Each year global themes are selected that form the focus of activities for that year. In 2010, for example, the International Women’s day was celebrated around the theme: “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”.   March 8, 2011 marks the centenary anniversary (1911-2011) of the International Women’s Day with the theme “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”. According to the United Nation’s Department of Public Information, International Women’s Day is “When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development” (

Come March 8, 2011 different activities will be organized all over the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day and examine women’s economic and social status and recommend as well as demand increased opportunities for achieving gender equality and equity.  UNIFEM, Australia, for example, plans to organize 100 events around the country to celebrate the 100 years existence of International Women’s Day. (

Over the years BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights has utilized the platform of International Women’s Day to promote women’s human rights through the organization of events that create awareness of women’s human rights and encourage the promotion of these rights in every sector.  It is against this backdrop that BAOBAB is collaborating with the Embassy of Sweden to organize a seminar on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.  The panel discussants at the seminar will include stakeholders from different sectors, government, corporate, civil society, amongst others, who will examine the status of women in Nigeria, identify challenges to realizing women’s human rights and commit to increase efforts in the different sectors to achieve higher level of women’s human rights protection and promotion.  The seminar will also form the basis for further collaboration between BAOBAB and the different sectors in order to increase the achievement of BAOBAB’s mandate within Nigeria and the region.    

Friday, February 18, 2011

BAOBAB and WLP invites you to a Panel at the CSW 55 Parallel events

BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights (BAOBAB) and Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace (WLP) invites you to a Panel at The CSW 55 Parallel events on " Women’s Political Participation and Leadership: Challenging Fundamentalisms". click here to view the flyer

Friday, February 11, 2011


The marginalization of Nigerian women in political affairs and decision making is as old as Nigerian society and actually predates the advent of colonialism in Southern and Northern Nigeria. Indeed pre and post colonial traditional cultures and European culture were deeply rooted in patriarchy. The normative systems they independently produced were male-biased and dominated. The marginalization of women was also evident in all other spheres of life such as the family, economic, social, labour and other relationships. It is widely believed that the marginalization of women in political participation and decision making processes has been responsible for the exclusion of the interests of women in governance and development paradigms. 

For the 2011 Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) presidential election primary, Mrs Sarah Jibril was the only female presidential aspirant amongst the three presidential aspirants; Abubakar Atiku and the incumbent president being the other two. That the incumbent president floored the other two aspirants is perhaps not news and not surprising given the power of incumbency and the nature of Nigeria’s politics.  The outcome of PDP’s primaries especially with regards to the single vote cast for Mrs Sarah Jibril reaffirms the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society and our body politics. It is also a reminder of an urgent need for all stakeholders to address the immediate and remote causes of Sarah Jubril’s poor performance.  No doubt, there were quite a number of female delegates at the PDP’s presidential primaries. What agitates one’s mind is why none of them voted for Mrs Sarah Jibril? Or could it have been that one of them voted for her and she forgot to vote for herself which is most improbable in this case?  A critical mind would also ask why the Honourable Minister for Women Affairs did not vote for Mrs Sarah Jubril assuming that she was a delegate and was at the convention. If she was and she did vote, then your guess would be as good as mine.  It is pertinent to ask how the Ministry of Women Affairs can truly assist women to increase their chances of representation when it fails to work towards their nomination at the parties’ primaries. It is not enough to provide funds for women who won primaries for their political campaign as support should actually start at the party’s primaries.

Some persons are of the opinion that Mrs Sarah Jubril’s poor outing could be attributed to the fact that she did not campaign at all as the tabloids only featured President Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar, and as such the delegates might not have known that she was contesting. Consequently, the delegates must have made up their minds on whom to vote for before being aware that she was contesting. Whilst this could be a possibility, however, this reasoning may be incorrect because Mrs Sarah Jubril is a veteran presidential aspirant and should understand that she ought to campaign and woo delegates to herself at the primaries. However, if the view that she did not campaign is correct, one should not lose sight of its financial implications for Mrs Sarah Jubril as the aspirants are not similarly situated. Prima facie, she is most likely to be economically disadvantaged amongst the three aspirants.  It is also pertinent to ask if she could muster the financial muscles of the other two aspirants. This reinforces the feminization of poverty especially in the context of Nigeria’s political climate. Given the politics of money that pervade our political landscape, would Mrs Jubril have been able to outwit the other two aspirants? Your guess is as good as mine.  To paraphrase Williams Shakespeare, the fault is not in Mrs Sarah Jubril, but in a political and party system that places value on money and not programmes or agenda or manifestoes of aspirants. It is also politics of god-fatherism. The accusations and counter accusations by the campaign organizations of the other two aspirants, should ordinarily question the suitability of the candidates which should have given the delegates the choice of voting for a less controversial candidate. This was not so.  

The outcome of PDP’s presidential primaries questions one of the strategies for achieving the fifth objective of the National Gender Policy, which is mainstreaming gender into party politics at all levels, Federal, State and Local Government Areas.  Given this strategy, does it mean that PDP honoured the fifth strategy more in breach than in its observance or does it mean that even the card carrying members of PDP and the entire delegates are not aware that emphasis is now on inlcusivity of women into party politics? Are the women delegates also not supportive of their own kind and by implication sold out on efforts geared towards women’s political participation and representation in decision-making?. Doesn’t the outcome frustrate efforts also made by NGOs and donor agencies in ensuring that women count and participate in the entire political process?.

The performance of Mrs Sarah Jubril indicates that we do not have a monitoring mechanism  in place to ensure that parties put in place structures geared towards mainstreaming gender into party politics.  It brings to mind the fact that the policy strategies remain a mere academic exercise, as they have not been used to develop and implement a viable action plan.  Politically focused women NGOs should re-strategise in ensuring women’s political participation. Efforts should be made to involve stakeholders in designing and implementing programmes that would de-emphasise money politics at every level.  Activities of NGOs should extend to political parties as well.  The process might be slow, but it is doable and achievable.  As an immediate step, politically focused women NGOs in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs should examine issues arising from the poor performance of Mrs Sarah Jubril at the PDP’s presidential primaries and the performance of other women aspirants at the primaries of other parties for other elective positions. This exercise must include the women aspirants themselves as their experiences would provide a road map towards strategies that could be developed to address the immediate and root causes of poor performance at political parties primaries by women. Lessons can also be learnt from female aspirants who scaled through parties’ primaries. This is crucial given the discriminatory return of male aspirants by some parties for second term elections whilst female aspirants are dropped to be replaced by another woman.  Given our patriarchal structures, affirmative action must be put in place even at the party level to ensure that the outcome is met. This can be achieved by waiver of nomination form fees for female aspirants and by aggressive campaign to deconstruct the mindset of politicians and de-emphasising politics of money bags. There is a need to legislate and monitor the source of funding of political campaigns of aspirants.
Shortly after Dr Goodluck Jonathan assumed office as the President, the First Lady Dame (Dr) Chief Patience Jonathan launched the Women for Change Initiative which had as its focus mobilization of women towards the 2011 general elections. It encouraged women to contest for elective offices.  The extent to which the initiative partnered with political parties to ensure that female aspirants win the primaries in respect of the elective offices in their various parties leaves room for differing opinions given the outcome of PDP’s presidential primaries held on January 20, 2011. The outcome of PDP’s presidential primaries truly makes mockery of the Women for Change Initiative. PDP’s presidential primaries was a litmus test of the true motive of the First Lady’s pet project. The question that comes to mind is whether the Women for Change Initiative was aimed at getting women to vote or whether it was aimed at encouraging women to seek for elective positions?  If the latter then PDP’s presidential primaries is an indicator of the charade embarked upon by the First Lady. 

I congratulate Mrs Sarah Jubril for aspiring and venturing into a political space seen as the exclusive preserve of men.  What Mrs Sarah Jubril has started will certainly not end with her. I am confident that there are a lot of competent women who will consolidate on the doggedness of Mrs Sarah Jubril and emerge winner of the presidential elections after the order of Barak Obama in the United States. Just as nobody gave Obama any chance of winning the Democratic Party’s primaries in the United States, let alone becoming the president of America, a woman will contest and win the presidential elections in Nigeria sooner than expected. It is gratifying to note that Liberia, a sister West African country produced the first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Africa at the end of the civil war in Liberia. We certainly do have qualified women to vie for the coveted office of the president in terms of suitability, intellect and experience in governance. 

Favour Omoye Irabor
Tel: 07068459019; 08191608433

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Critical Look into the Jos Crisis from a Feminist Perspective - Maryam Kazeem (an Intern with BAOBAB, 2011)

Over the past five years there has been an escalation of sectarian violence in the Middle-Belt Zone of Nigeria. In the North-Central city of Jos, the army sent to protect, and the residents supposedly acting on behalf of their respective religious communities, have carried out extreme acts of violence against innocent victims. In the month of January of 2011, there have already been over 200 victims.[1]
As we saw in March of 2010, the women of the region have had enough of the violence. In response to an attack, which left hundreds dead (many of whom were women and children), hundreds of women in Abuja and Jos rallied against the violence. Wearing all-black ensembles, the women carried photographs of the innocent victims, as well as posters calling for an end to the violence. [2] While the rally captured some attention from both the Nigerian government and the West, the violence in Jos continued throughout this past year and into 2011.
Earlier this week, thousands of women gathered again in Jos to protest against another massacre, which left hundreds dead in just thirty days.[3] One must ask what role women’s organizations in Nigeria have taken to put an end to these political massacres and their innocent victims?
Before contemplating that question, I want to highlight an effective example of women’s activism, from one of our neighboring countries, Liberia. In 2003, WIPNET, a women’s organization in Nigeria played an instrumental role in ending Charles Taylor’s brutal regime and Liberia’s Second Civil War. The documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008) directed by Gini Reticker, highlights the activities of Liberian women to end the civil war, with the inspiring result of the election of the nation’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. While the film emphasizes many aspects of women’s activism- one of the most important factors, which can go easily unnoticed was the socio-economic diversity of the women activists. While the filmmakers laud the fact that Muslim and Christian women in Liberia worked together, they do not necessarily recognize that additionally, women of different economic status partnered. Leymah Gbowee, who is featured in the film as the leader of the women, was an educated social worker; several other lead members of the women were as well, educated, professional women. I would suggest that the war created a state in which women of different socio-economic status had no choice, but to work together in order to have an impact.
While the recent protest in Jos, involved university students, it is not clear that professional women such as lawyers, police officials, etc. participated in the activism against the violence. I illuminate the example of Liberia, to pose a question of which women are engaged in activism in Nigeria? Is it possible that part of the reason these atrocities, which mostly affect women, keep occurring is due to the lack of involvement of women from “higher” levels of society? I would suggest that women of all socio-economic backgrounds need to be involved in order for change to be truly implemented. This includes market women, police officials, social workers, lawyers, and the women in Nigeria (albeit few) that hold positions in the government. Without the involvement of these women that have tangible authority in Nigeria, these protests will continue to be seen and not heard. It seems clear that unless Nigerians, from all different regions of the country, feel as though the perceived distant violence in Jos affects their livelihood; the violence will continue to persist. After all, one cannot claim that progress is being made in Nigeria for women, when poor women and children, in cities such as Jos continue to suffer.

Maryam Kazeem
African Studies, Sociological Research
Northwestern University 2010

[1] Ayo Okulaja “Governor Weeps as Women Protest in Jos” 234Next, February 1, 2011. “
[2] “Women Protest at Jos Killings” BBC News, March 11, 2010. “
[3]“Christians, Muslims protest at Nigeria sectarian unrest” AFP, January 31, 2011 “

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Press Statement: African Women’s Health and Rights Day February 4th 2011

The African Women’s Health and Rights Day (AWHRD) is an annual event to raise awareness and advance critical debate around Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women throughout the African continent both national and local levels. This year’s event is another opportunity to assess the state of women’s Health & Rights advancement across the region from the Referendum in Sudan, the tensions around elections in Nigeria, the crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo which includes sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war, the Women’s Human Rights abuses in Uganda based on sexuality, and the crisis in Cote D’Ivoire arising from that country’s last elections and the impact of all of these political issues on the political will to implement measures towards the protection of women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

BAOBAB for Women’s Human rights is a not for profit, non-governmental organization working to promote and protect the human rights of women under customary, statutory and religious laws. As part of the organization’s advocacy work into February 4th commemoration this year, based on the fact that Africa is saddled with a lot of issues tied to the continent’s development including but not limited to the poor state of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and the lack of political will on the part of the various governments to implement all the regional instruments they have committed themselves to, BAOBAB calls on various governments to adhere to provisions they undertake to protect the Human Rights of citizens. This includes women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Until all the issues surrounding these rights are resolved or at least reduced to the barest minimum, moving forward will be difficult and development will be meaningless.

One critical factor, amongst a host of others, is the lack of information on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women on the continent which is fundamental to the development of the continent as a whole; governments MUST make concerted efforts to make this available so that women can make informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health, for example having information on family planning, HIV/AIDS, etc and reverse the lamentable rise of gender based violence.

BAOBAB is once again using this occasion to call on all governments on the continent to expedite action on their commitment to the regional instrument - Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. BAOBAB insists that the protocol if well implemented will not only raise the status of women‘s health on the continent but will be a factor for fast development in the various countries. We believe that fulfilling the protocol is equal to taking a giant step towards the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, specifically goals 4, 5 and 6. BAOBAB also calls on all the governments to review and implement the African Union Maputo Plan of Action for Universal Access to Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Services. Most governments in the region are yet to expedite actions on this and we say delay is no longer an option – the time is NOW.


Sindi Medar-Gould
Executive Director

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Uganda: VNC statement on brutal killing of Ugandan LGBT rights defender David Kato

The Violence is Not out Culture campaign condemns the brutal murder on 26 January 2011 of LGBT human rights defender, David Kato, of Uganda and extends its condolences to his colleagues at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). David was a long term activist for rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Uganda, and was a highly respected and admired human rights defender within his community and worldwide.

David’s murder comes only three weeks after successfully suing a tabloid paper for calling for him, along with many others, to be hung for his sexual orientation. Whilst the Ugandan police have stated that there is no evidence his murder was a hate crime, homophobia in Uganda is on the rise.

National dialogue and understanding of homosexuality in Uganda is widely known to being strongly influenced by American Evangelical Christians, some of whom visited the country and took part in an anti-homosexuality conference that immediately preceded the filing of the anti-homosexuality bill in the parliament in 2009. The first draft of the bill called for the death sentence as a punishment for ‘repeat offenders’ of homosexuality. If it becomes law, the bill would violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations. David Kato was one of the main advocates campaigning against the bill, and received numerous death threats for his activism.

At the funeral for David Kato, the Anglican priest conducting the service broke into a rant condemning homosexuals, after which activists took over and buried the body. An excommunicated priest who has also campaigned for rights relating to sexual orientation conducted the rest of the service.

The Violence is Not our Culture campaign denounces the use of culture or religion as the justification for the hatred and violence being sowed against the LGBTI community in Uganda. We hold the Government of Uganda accountable in ensuring full investigations into the death of David Kato. Now more than ever is the time for the authorities to reassure Ugandans that it will protect them against threats and violence regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The government must provide guarantees that members of Uganda's LGBT community have adequate protection from violence and will take prompt action against all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination, or hostility toward them.

Monday, 31 January 2011