Tina Balewa is the executive director of Ziongate Empowerment Initiative for the Less Privileged (ZEIP) a grassroots civic organization working around gender mainstreaming and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria. Here, she speaks about her organization’s #Women2030 project which seeks to ensure women play important roles in combating climate change and achieving the 2030 Agenda
Tell us about your organisation’s work around #Women2030?
The #Women2030 project is designed to build capacity of women’s and gender-focused civil society organizations to advance local, national and regional gender-responsive sustainable development policies (2030 Agenda), through participation in policy development and monitoring, mobilizing citizens support and demonstrating best practices.
The project is targeted mainly at ensuring gender is mainstreamed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that women play important roles in combating climate change.
A coalition of 5 major women-focused civic organizations across the globe namely: Women Environment Programme (WEP), Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), Global Forest Coalition (GFC), Gender and Water Alliance (GWA), and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) are the organizations leading the project.
Therefore, Ziongate Empowerment Initiative for the Less Privileged (ZEIP) is working in collaboration with one of the five organisations, the Abuja, Nigeria-based Women Environment Programme (WEP) on the #Women2030 project.
The project commenced in November 2016 when a total of 60 women-focused civic organisations from across the globe were trained at Marrakech, Morroco and they in turn trained 200 CSOs from across the globe which are now saddled with the responsibility of training another 2000 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and carrying out community projects designed to empower women as agents of development.
ZEIP was part of the 200 women CSOs that were trained in March 2017 at Abuja to work around the #Women2030 project or rather the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We represented Kano state and emerged the lead organization [and were asked] to form a coalition along with other Kano-based CBOs. We therefore held a step-down training for our partner CBOs on 25 May 2017, and also carried out gender assessment in schools and communities across the state.
The Kano CBOs will focus mainly on Goal 4 which is about ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (building and upgrading of education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and providing safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all).
During the training, we drafted strategies, limitations, relevant actors, team players and action plan to ensure implementation of policies designed to advance education within the state. We are going to be involved in policy making process, advocacy to relevant actors, training and sensitization of parents, teachers and students on the importance of inclusive learning environment for all.
We are of the opinion that the reason why we have less and less persons living with disability (PWDs) in schools is due to the fact that facilities are not disability friendly; no mobility instruments, no ramps to aid movement, no disability sensitive toilets, no safe environment and no necessary support needed to ensure that they stay in school.
Our task is mainly to ensure that all government schools (primary and secondary) are equipped with necessary facilities to support PWDs, employ more qualified teachers and that classrooms are decongested and gender sensitive toilets provided. Furthermore, we want to ensure teachers and students are sensitized against discrimination of this special group of people. We believe the present administration in Kano state has been doing a lot to ensure more children get education, we are not only interested in them getting an education rather we are also interested in the quality of education they get. Educate the child, elevate the future, we believe.
What is the relationship between gender inequality and economic growth; how does the former affect the latter?
Gender inequality has been a topic of discussion of recent globally. First, it is important to understand what gender is, it is a socially constructed definition of women and men. It is not the same as sex (biological characteristics of women and men) and it is not the same as women. Gender is determined by the conception of tasks, functions and roles attributed to women and men in society, both in public and private life.
Global and local policies are made without due consideration of their effects on women and children (been the most vulnerable), and ensuring they attain sustained economic growth and development. Thus, it is pertinent to ensure all sectors are very well included. Women contribute a great deal to economic advancement as such they should be given priority when it comes to policy issues.
Gender inequality and gender equity are sometimes used interchangeably although they mean different things altogether, while the former means equal access to opportunities the latter means creating platforms to access these opportunities.
Economic growth is no longer only determined by the increase in GDP but also by increase in the total wellbeing of humans, this means there is adequate provision of basic amenities and access to facilities that helps upgrade the standard of living of citizens.
To achieve economic growth there has to be a balance in all areas/ sectors and this can only be achieved when both males and females have equal access to opportunities meant for the betterment of human life. Economic growth is guaranteed by improvement in every aspect that makes up a nation’s economy which includes agriculture, solid minerals, manufacturing and infrastructure.
Agriculture which has become the focus of revamping the Nigerian economy is mostly being practiced by rural dwellers, women are fully involved in farming activities that is the entire process of production, processing and distribution of farm produce but when policies are made they are left out. Thus, if women withdraw from these activities the effect on the sector will be disastrous, hence ensuring women get equal access to interventions would invariably improve the economy.
How critical is gender mainstreaming to the successful realisation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria?
It is very critical. The overall guiding themes for the SDGs are People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Justice, Partnerships and Integrity, none of them can be achieved without inclusion. For the success of these policies gender has to be mainstreamed to ascertain who needs what and in what proportion it is needed.
What do you think are the greatest challenges affecting the successful implementation of the Global Goals in Nigeria?
The challenges affecting the implementation of the Global Goals have to do with the fact that we are still a developing country, our system is not very functional as such it will take us longer time to achieve these goals. For these goals to be achieved in good time, every sector of the Nigerian economy has to develop and function independently. There are so many factors affecting the development of these sectors which include corruption, tribalism, and conflicts etc.
Others are lack of cooperation between the government and the third sector and finally, we have the present economic downturn the country is experiencing leading to lack of adequate resources. If these issues are properly addressed, there will be improvement and we will surely attain all set goals.