Thursday, 28 August 2008

Immersion Fellows set out for 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Three Devcoms Network Immersion fellows: Yusuf Ibrahim of The Nations Newspaper, Mr. Onche Odeh of the Daily Independent Newspaper both in Lagos Nigeria and Alex Abutu of the News Agency of Nigeria Abuja are among the eleven international journalists participating at the upcoming 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness taking place in Accra Ghana.

While in Ghana, the three Immersion fellows will be receiving on-the-spot mentoring form a mentor of the program.

Ministers from over 100 countries, heads of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, donor organizations, and civil society organizations from around the world are gathering or the three day meeting to deliberate on helping the developing countries and marginalized people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and results-oriented.

Recently, critiques of the impact of aid have become more vociferous as the global campaigns to increase aid have gained momentum, particularly since 2000. Many people argue that aid is never effective but believe that aid will achieve significant impact when properly directed and managed, particularly in areas such as health and basic education.

Aids is only one factor in the complex process needed for poor countries to develop, as such effective economic growth, good governance transparency in budgeting and spendings are to be advocated and assured. There is an urgent need for the adoption of a democratic, instead of institutional system in the process of aid effectiveness that would include the participation of all stakeholders and the broader masses, if real transformational change would occur.

This meeting would build the capacity of journalists to act as watchdogs to ensure that governments are committed to be transparent in the utilization of aids and live up to their political commitment. Messers Yush, Onche and Abutu --Devcoms Network fellows --are part of the core group of Nigerian health reporters being immersed in organizations across Nigeria to effect the media advocacy for better Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria.

The 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness intends to:
• review progress in improving aid effectiveness
• broaden the dialogue to newer actors
• chart a course for continuing international action on aid effectiveness

The official forum website:

* By Nnenna Ike

Monday, 25 August 2008

Addressing Gender Equality: A Persistent Challenge for Africa

The issue of women and children and how they fare will be the topic of the high-powered Conference of Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs jointly organized by the African Union and the United National Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) kicks off today Monday 25, August 2008 with a two-day meeting of the Committee of Experts. The Ministerial segment of the Conference will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 28 to 29 August 2008.

The major agenda item of the Conference is the discussion and adoption of the AU Gender Policy a coherent strategy for the achievement of gender equality and the advancement of women on the continent. The Plan of Action for the effective implementation of this Gender Policy will also be reviewed and endorsed.

The Conference will review the preparatory process for the Beijing +15 regional review due to take place on the African continent in 2009 and in 2010 at the global level. The Conference will also take stock of progress achieved in the implementation of the AU Heads of State Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) and debate on how to effectively use the African Gender and Development Index.

Given the alarming and persistent violation of the human rights of women across the Continent, the Conference plans to discuss and recommend a strategy for adopting a multi-sectoral approach to fast track the implementation of commitments on women’s rights. To address this critical issue, the Economic Commission fort Africa and the United Nations Development Program, Regional Gender Program (UNDP/RGPA will be launching the African Women’s Rights Observatory.

This is an innovative project, aimed at following up the status of Women rights in Africa and creating a forum for knowledge and experience sharing among countries, institutions, partners and individuals who are involved in advocating for the promotion of women’s rights across the Continent.

Addressing experts today, Ms Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Officer in charge of the African Centre for Gender and Social Development says, “The pressing nature of the development challenges facing Africa including gender inequality made necessary for our continental institutions and other development partners to collaborate in order to harness resources, ensure coherence and avoid duplication,"

Likewise, the Conference is expected to discuss the establishment of the African Women Trust Fund. The African Development Forum (ADF) VI scheduled to take place in November 2008 in Addis Ababa is also on the agenda and options of making this major multi-stakeholder event a success will be deliberated.

In light of the upcoming review of the Paris Declaration, the Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs will reflect on the gender dimensions of aid modalities and development cooperation. Strengthening national women’s and gender machineries will also feature high on the agenda of the Conference as the momentum gathered during the Beijing Conference in 1995 seems to be on the wane.

The convening of this ministerial conference coincides with the renewal of the Bureau of ECA’s Committee on Women and Development, whose work and new mandate will be examined during the Conference.

Over 25 Ministers and 3 Deputy Ministers will attend the Conference, which is a collaboration between the Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD) of the AU Commission, and the African Centre for Gender and Social Development (ACGS) of UNECA.

Participants also include over seventy five experts from gender ministries and resource persons, representatives of Regional Economic Communities and UN agencies, as well as African and international media.

*By Nnenna Ike

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Oba Erediauwa commits to saving women’s lives

Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa CFR, the Oba of Benin, was in his element on the day a team of advocates came calling to solicit his support to stem the tide of the senseless deaths of Nigerian women and children. Displaying an indepth knowledge of key issues in traditions and the application of modern day science and public health, it did not take long for a royal consent to address the need of women and children in the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria in general.

The Omo N’ Oba Edo Uku Akpolokpolo added his weight behind the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health during an advocacy visit to the Palace in Benin. The Benin monarch who received the partnership comprising the Family Health Unit of the Federal ministry of health, developmental partners, International and Nigerian non-governmental organizations, and the media, was enjoined to speak about the health and lives of women and children more often. The partnership pointed out that when a high ranking monarch such as he talks, the society and political authorities are most likely to heed the call and act accordingly.

To His Royal Highness “Education is key, but we need to work at it from traditional perspectives too. People need to be educated to address maternal and infant mortality. Our culture is very dynamic, so people need to know the implications of their actions.” To this end, the Monarch ordered an inventory of the state of Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities in the seven local councils in the kingdom promising to do something, but the state and national assemblies need to do something for a holistic solution to stem the tide, he says.

Despite modernisation, Nigerians still hold certain traditional and cultural practises very well to heart. This has led to the continuation of cultural practises which are detrimental to the health of the people especially to women and children. Some of these practises include forced marriage, traumatic puberty initiation rites, gender based violence, wife inheritance, child marriage and widowhood rites. Religion also plays a very significant role in the lives of Nigerians with adherents obeying the opinions of their leaders despite laying claim to modernisation.

These, added to the patriarchal system of the Nigerian society, has led to reproductive/maternal health problems not being given priority consideration. Thus any strategy to address maternal and infant health need to take these influences into consideration.

Indeed monarchs and religious leaders in Nigeria are beginning to take more proactive roles in the advocacy for better Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH). This is because of the influential role they play in the lives of the people and the high esteem people have for traditions and culture in Nigeria.

Professor Friday Okonofua, the Convener of the Advocacy Panel supported by ENHANSE/USAID states that “the strategy is to meet with high ranking government officials, key traditional and religious leaders, and politicians and convince them on the need to place priority on reducing maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.”

*By Nnenna Ike