Promoting Women Inclusion in Communities

Bekeme Masade-Olowola (Host): Hi, guys this is Bekeme and this is the Good Citizen Radio Show. I hope you have had an amazing week as I have.

You know, today I am going to be talking about something that you all know that I am passionate about women. And this is not because I hate men. No, I am happily married to a man. But I do think that women need to be giving more chances. So, those of us who grew up in townships, we have had better opportunities, but for those women in rural societies, and those women who are not as lettered, it is that much harder, literally just trying to get by, you know, I remember story that my father once to me about his mother. In those days, he tells me, she used to make as much as 400 pounds or something crazy like that, which was a good amount of money. And guess what should make all of that money, and she would bring it back to her husband. And he will take everything and give her maybe like 50 pounds or less, to go and start all over again for a new market cycle. And this is what tended to happen because it literally was as though her husband owned her. Now it is up to you if you have a relationship with your partner where you feel like you have to join revenues and all of that. But it is sad when a woman has no choice but to be subservient to people around her or to not aspire in the society were she is in, or to think that she has limitations to think that if you are going to be allowed to be great, for instance, then you must bow to us in some way. Men and women are born equal. And that’s why today we’re talking about promoting women in conjunction in community living, especially because we have an up coming conference that’s going to be delving into this deeper.

Okay, and with me tonight is Dr. Mina Obanga. Dr Mina is a seasoned community specialist, she founded and manages the Centre for development support initiatives, CEDSI Nigeria, an institution that promotes good governance and sustainable development in rural communities. She also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of reverse Community Development Foundation, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of Medical Sciences and a master’s degree from Cambridge University. Some people like book Sha. Welcome to the show. Dr meena you are an experienced community development expert from the heart of the Niger Delta. All right, we know that so, just for us to get to know you because you know, what, discussing inclusive communities inspired women and somehow you have made something of the success of yourself, but then you know, what really, really happens in these communities, you know, the challenges that women face. So tell us about yourself, how you’ve traversed the male dominated terrain, what has been your best and worst experiences, personal or maybe something that happened to somebody else?

Dr Mina: Okay, so my name is Dr Mina Obanga and I feel very honoured to be here to deal with you all talking history and women inclusiveness from way back to birth and let me say to current. Early in the days when I was born we experience alot in terms of a more balanced systemic society, in the sense that then we did not hear much about oil explorations and expectation related crisis, that I think was for obvious reasons. One of the obvious reasons being that, fuel at that level was not as high as it came out later and you know as at that time you would find it interesting to know that, we were excited for communities that had gas fuel filing station, and pipelines. When we drive back at night, maybe on our way back from the village you will see women drying their cassava, their fish with the heat from the site. It was so exciting, those who were close to the gasoline site were the privileged few, they were the ones enjoying permanent light, because it kept going on and on and they didn’t need to do connection for external light and people were using it for buisness means, people came out to the market no matter how late it was people were buying because there was light. So, the sensibility of each and everyone of us were literally not worked on, because we saw that as an exciting opportunity, if your community was among the communities that was enjoying those things we will be like you are so lucky. We had constant light, the policies and administration then with the dollar exchange rate and everything that, made it look like Nigeria was really having fun plus colonial era, and alot of things were happening that we are actually drawn in a lot on one side, and then on the other side we had an opportunity to take advantage of dollar advantage then Naira advantage which would have saved us currently and presently in terms of our economic growth. So, that is exactly how things were and everybody was happy because you had light, and also you are not happy because you did not have light, but at least you had one light and didn’t have the other around the Niger Delta.

And then by the time we were finished, and I wrapped up with primary school, I did not actually finish primary school, I went to paboi model primary school  from there I went halfway from there I went to Yolsidee international college, and when I went to Yolside it’s in cross Rivers State, it is in Calabar right before my Federal girls college experience in Calabar.

BEKEME; Oh, really that’s where you went. So I Know people who went there, amazing.

Dr Mina: Are you an Alumni too?

BEKEME: Of course, like you know how we roll now. You know what they say about federal girls being heavy chicks.

Dr Mina: You can imagine. So, fast forward to when I got into high school, because I was opportuned to go to Queens college and then I was opportuned to have two admissions. I was told Queens college is far, and I must go to Calabar because it is closer, so I took the Calabar option. Why am I stressing on this Calabar option? It is the fact that you know the Dominace of the gas fuel exploration and expectation, the Dominace of this activities in Calabar of Rivers then was not as much as it is when I came from my Homeland. So, we did not have to deal with going from one street and the next thing you are seeing gas fuel and the next street you are seeing pipelines, those were not as dominant in Calabar as it was in my home land. Then Calabar was and it still is a civil service town, so people were doing a lot in terms of administrative activities,there were no crisis led or triggered by oil exploration actions. There were no light extras that we used to play back then, we just settled for the NEPA light, so, we settled with one form of light or the other at that point, I was away from the daily dose of oil exploration and expectation which i witnessed daily on the other side. But then the beauty of it is that I was opportuned to hear and discuss with colleague and partners on the kind of issues that were going on, and we were doing comparative analysis I think those kind of things triggered the human rights aspect of my life. I was opportuned to start early enough, especially when I got into medical school,to know that there are health hazards that this causes and this happens to be one of the things causing health hazard and I was like no, I cannot condone that knowing the health hazard, and I thought it was supposed to be a benefit to everyone including the oil company that gives us the opportunity to see always. So, why should that be a challenge to us, you know we should be greatful for the little we were seeing then, and then I was thoroughly tutored early enough to understand the differences and that triggered effective inquisitiveness, wanting me to know if this could be the reason why we are having alot of challenge in the health in many parts of our environment, then it may not be something that I need to take lightly. So, on graduation, right immediately when I finished my graduation, because of my vocal nature, when the community women in our community had issue with “White soup”, they had issue with acid rain, it’s one of the outcomes of the oil exploration and expectation, I was among the first people that they called. I did not know what was happening.

BEKEME: So, why did they call you then?

Dr Mina: They called me because any time they have issues, I always come out and always want to make my voice heard among them and see how we can work together with them to result. For example they want women doing this, I will come out and mobilize this women, I will work with them.

BEKEME: So, they got you on board?

Dr Mina; They did not know that all which I do among them, I use the experience to enter into competition and win awards, I will take the award money and do something for the women, buy things for them and also go to motherless home. So, they were inherent in the activities that was going on without my knowledge that this is a classified activity that is going on. Right from nursery School, when we used to do collection of gifts to give somebody or secondary school when we were buying gifts to give someone, they discovered that I was always ready to serve.

BEKEME: Ready to serve and to be a part of you know, the change but, you know, I say what, from what I have heard you say you are saying that you face no marginalisation whatsoever as a woman I do not know so maybe because I grew up in the township.

Dr Mina: At that time, as a child you were not marginalised as a child, because you were children by your parents.

BEKEME: What about as a young adult and as a young adult when you attained on Did you see other women for instance?

Dr Mina: At that point, when you were exposed to the world directly, you will discover that there are certain things that are opportunities for men that women are not allowed to be a part of.

BEKEME: Such as?

Dr Mina: If you go for a meeting as a young adult man, you can speak as much as you like but they do not expect a woman to speak. So you now discover that yes there were those moments, but two things were in place at that Time, you were continually in a school setup and I went to a school that were literally gender strict so I did not have a chance to feel okay because this boy did this that’s why I did that. So, I grew up to understand that women have a certain level of ability to dominate as well, because in any federal, if you are a federal Alumni you are not scared of oppression, or opposition,  we were built in character to be confident, so that made it easy for me to adapt to the world when I got out there.

BEKEME: Sorry to cut you short, and I think that when people go to all girls schools, or I mean same sex schools, what then tends to happen is that there is no opportunity for distraction of the other sex, no opportunity to feel like you are not good enough, you know, because you go through a growth phase that you have to face all set, all different levels of uncertainties, but you do not get to face it with the other sex watching and so, you become who you really are. With your contemporaries who are of the same sex, so I think I think it’s it helps to build more confident people, especially women. I mean, as a woman, I knew that it was very good. Now Dr. Mina I got this. It does help. So, I got this excerpt from literature that we recently shared, the increased and I’m quoting it now, the increased vulnerability of women due to gender discrimination, exclusion from resource dialogue and benefits, loss or lack of sufficient means of livelihood, coercion, intimidation, gender and sexual based violence, which often results in teenage and unwanted pregnancies, causing dropout from school and deaths from attempts at abortion and other issues.

Women inability to defend themselves from their male counterparts and the non availability of or ineffective implementation is, you know, something that we constantly still face in society. How true would you say this is?

Dr Mina: First and foremost those things exit and in various level, it could be dominant in some areas more than the other, the increased vulnerability of women due to the gender discrimination still plays out strongly in some communities. It is still seen in some other communities, but more dominant in some localities.

BEKEME: Is it true that women are the biggest or suffer the most from conflict within extractive communities?

Dr Mina: First, you need to know that both men and women suffer, but the emphasis on women suffering the most is because of their vulnerable nature, and the duties they have to perform. You see a woman is carrying her baby sucking and there is a war, she will definitely not leave that baby and run. A man can wake up and start running, a woman cannot leave the children and start going, irrespective of how hard her heart may be, she will carry that sucking baby, infact she will cover the baby he will keep sucking and she will run. Does that not give you a picture? That the vulnerability of women increases in crisis born situation. In crisis born situation,, you will see that you have to deal with it, like somebody driving, you are driving for both the person who is careless and both for yourself. So, in crisis born situation you will see that the women have to deal with multiple issues at the same time, because they are not thinking of themselves alone. At that point, they think of their family, and child, the vulnerability of women increases in any form of conflict or crisis, so you see that conflict also increase the vulnerability, compared to no conflict and the harsh kind of it, you see that wives are not expected to go and fight these wars, but they are expected to bear the worst of it if the head of families are not able to meet up with expected deliveries, sometimes they loose the womb and they have to bear with taking care of this womb, and you also need to know that during conflict situation, the human rights valuation against women increases slot. For example, you know exactly what happened during the time that we had to deal against this issue, they call it Food for sex  or sec for school as the case may be, you don’t have food, if you don’t give them this the army people will not give them food.

BEKEME: Yes, Interesting thing is I hear men who say that is an advantage for women but go on. That it is an advantage that women even have bodies to sell did you show you that? You know many people do not even understand.

Dr Mina: That is the height of insult, that is the height of vulnerability, your body now becomes your tool for survival which is not supposed to be. When the Bible talked about the body being made in the likeness of Christ, it didn’t say it was coming to be abused, to be used and to be exchanged for sustenance and basic need of life, no that is not what the Bible designed the body of women nor any other person who is a child of God for. And if you go to the prophets it states clearly on how a woman body is supposed to be catered for,so this is biblically, ethically, physically and socially in any way possible psychologically and mentally, it is an abuse emotionally for women to share their bodies to have that role to play. And, it is against the body rules that the body is supposed to be covered so that they can serve the babies which they will bring forth to the world, serve themselves the work that they are supposed to do and a lot of other things that women body are supposed to be used for. So,we refuse to accept such nomenclature, as part of our existence.

BEKEME: Thank you doctor Mina now we will go on a short break on the good citizen show. And the number to call is 0700-923-923-923. Again 0700923923923. Remember that when you do call in, we want only positive contributions. No insults no Nigeria is useless. We do know the problems that we face in Nigeria but would like to hear your voice to make your contribution to this conversation around inclusive women in communities. My name is Bekeme and we will be right back.

BEKEME: Okay, so, we are back on the Good Citizen Show we have been talking to Dr. Mina Obanga, who is the country director Centre for development support initiatives, she is also a member.

Dr Mina: Thank you so much, you were asking of my worst and beat experiences.

BEKEME: Yeah, so just one second Doc, I was just going to tell our listeners that you are actually a juror on our CAHR Awards, our Community and Human Rights Awards, where we have other notable personalities like Rugged man, schullzz of classic FM, we have Mrs Tokunbo Durosaro, who is also on our board, we have Emem Okon   From the community, she is a community activist, and all of these people are giving us the time pro bono to arrive at the best best persons, the best humans and the best entities. And all of you who took time out to vote, I want to say thank you, we had almost 10,000 votes in such a short space of time. And I want to thank Dr. Mina on air, to tell her that we appreciate you for your time. Thank you for continuing to support the work of communities. All right. And so back to what you wanted to say you wanted to talk about your best and worst experiences shoot Dr. Mina.

Dr Mina: Okay so my worst experience was the fact that there was a period when we had alot of terrorism attacks in the 90’s, so you see that you are going to a community thinking this is what you are going to do to provide a sourcyof support, and the next thing you hear is the boys are here and people will start running for cover. It was a massive crisis during that period and that led to lost of lots of lives, alot of things happened and you see that development under those environment do not get sustained. So, I think the conflict that existed then was a very rash reality we had to deal with, and it was good to discover that we were part of the solution to put an end to that community crisis. One of my best moments also was winning the European Union award for women in development.To whom much is given,much is expected so at any point when am called on to receive any form of award what comes to my mind is that there is something I need to do, there is something more I could do, somebody globally was watching what you were doing locally and even though my mission and primary objective was improving better quality of life socio economic development and environmental sustainability for my tatget even at a very young age. When I knew little of what NGO was, because I discovered that one of the things is need to note is, in other for me to absorb that public of my donor you need to get into it, you need to be organized, you need to get into an organization that was what led to the birth of CEDSI in 1999. We now had to get a structure in place, to Access resources, to build the capacities of those community women and that was part of how we helped them solve that problem in that community.

BEKEME: And I hope that people who are listening can learn from this because oftentimes people say, Oh, I want to help this group of people, I want to do this, I want to do that. But I have no funding to do it. I think from what you have said, and things that we keep on saying over and over, oftentimes, what you need to do is to start First, if you are passionate about something, you need to start it First, you need to give it your very best. And trust me, when the time is right, you will not find the resources, you will not have to look for the resources that you need. There will be people watching you people that you didn’t know were watching you, they’ll be there to provide what you need, at just the right time.

Dr Mina: Absolutely, I love that someday soon it will be great to have people share their stories on how they design to the sustainability of their organization so that people know it in practical terms, start and run and sustain a non governmental organization.

BEKEME: Absolutely, I think we should organize a session on social media and just have an open frank conversation so that people can learn from it. Thank you so much

Dr Mina: All the lessons learnt over 20 years, we are going to be twenty next week eleventh of November. It will be so amazing to be able to share with others.

BEKEME: You are almost birthday mate with us at CSR-in-Action. We are going to be ten this November as well.

Dr Mina: So that is it, you know that competition the award that was given to me by European Union and Angela Makrel was part of it, so many prominent women were part of it, at the end of the day I won globally. It was inspiring to see that from your local corner the global people have been watching, the crisis that put a near halt to a community activity, to see that you were a part of solution to that was really amazing. So, for me that is one of my best moments.

BEKEME: Thank you so much. I think I don’t know if there’s anything more to say I just want to thank you for your time. You know, your continuous time for CSR in action for the work that you do at CEDSI for the communities. Unfortunately, that conversation is long and useful. So we couldn’t take calls but I want to thank you again Doc for coming on the show. Take care.

Dr Mina: Thank you so much Bekeme, keep up the good work and happy birthday in advance.

BEKEME: Thank you, bye. Okay, so you all, you have been listening. She’s made my work easier for me. She literally told you what the ethos of CSR-in-Action and the Good Citizen Radio Show is about. Thank you for listening to the Good Citizen Radio Show. And everybody out there remember that the SITEI conference is coming up. The SITEI conference is on the 17th and 18th of November 2020. A virtual conference you can register free of Sitei is spelt sitei. org you heard me registration is free. Go on there and be inspired. If you are a man or woman who’s interested in extractive industries that is oil and gas and mining, and he wants to be a part of the solution, especially at this point, the challenges that women and by extension children face, you need to be part of this. Thank you for listening to the show. And Bye Bye.

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