POVERTY AS A VIOLATION OF WOMEN’S
LEGISLATING FOR THE POOR SUMMIT
BANQUET HALL, ROCKVIEW HOTEL, ABUJA
MARCH 26-27, 2002
CESNABMIHILO DOROTHY AKEN’OVA
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE
HEALTH AND SEXUAL RIGHTS (INCRESE)
150Y Bosso Road
POVERTY AS A VIOLATION OF WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS
I wish to thank and commend the effort of SERAC for bringing global trends in high-
level policy dialogue to our level here in Nigeria by creating an opportunity for the
perspectives of the female half of the population to be heard in this policy process. It is
an opportunity for us to appreciate the role of poverty in the violation of women’s human
rights. Since the Earth Summit on the Environment in Rio in 1992 (to the Vienna World
Conference on Human Rights in 1993, the International Conference on Population and
Development in Cairo in 1994, and the Copenhagen World Summit on Social
Development in 1995), the presence of women and perspectives of the interplay between
gender and all issues have been articulated in high level policy dialogue. I am glad
SERAC has not made this an exception.
It is therefore with great pleasure that I wish to lead this discussion on poverty as an
infringement of women’s human rights. To be successful in this, we need to have an
understanding of what poverty means and the indicators of poverty. We also need to
know what women’s right are.
Poverty has been described as a multi-dimensional phenomenon which encompasses the
inability to meet basic needs, lack of control over resources, lack of education and skills,
poor health, malnutrition, lack of shelter, poor access to water and sanitation,
vulnerability to shocks, violence and crime, lack of political freedom and voice.
What has poverty got to do with women’s rights? What are women’s right? Are they
These are questions we have to provide responses to. It is my desire that this dialogue
leads to transformation in policies that will be articulated henceforth on poverty and
result in new solutions too.
Women’s rights are human rights. They have earned their title women’s rights because
they are offshoots of the fundamental human rights – Political and Civil Rights and the
Social Economic and Cultural Rights – to respond to those human rights crises to which
women are the only victims.
WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS – A BRIEF HISTORY:
In the wake of the Second World War, and during the establishment of the United
Nations Commission of Human Rights, the modern idea of Universal Human Rights was
popularised. It was agreed that the main reason for which civilized countries would
perform such deplorable acts as witnessed in the Second World War was due to the
failure of make human rights fundamental in nation building. It was agreed that time had
come to put measures in place to prevent nations from trampling upon human rights of
During the drafting process of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights “All human
beings”, Everyone”, “No One”, were written in to the declaration rather than “All men”,
“Every man”, and “No man”. This is because feminists at the forum argued that the later
terms might be interpreted in the future to exclude women in the process of application.
Supported by 55 members of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became
a moral blue print in which principles of non-discrimination and equity, and the duties of
states to promote human rights.
Since 1948, various movements asking for justice or the elimination of certain violations
of rights have frequently challenged the definition and implementation of Human rights.
Examples are movements for indigenous rights, resistance to state sponsored abuses such
as tortures, with a good measure of success as a result of the spirit of the universal
declaration. Such movements have led to the broadening of the implementation of the
universal declaration of human rights – leading to efforts that have culminated into
recognition of the rights of the child, Economic Social and Cultural Rights, woman’s
The women’s rights movement brought to the front burner the invisibility of gender
based human rights violations and the absence of women’s perspectives on human rights
in international agendas. This effort was reckoned with at the second World Conference
on Human Rights (Vienna 1993). In Vienna, woman’s movement worked on the premise
that even though the civil and political rights that the human rights community focused
upon were important, they were limited. They believed that the issues they were
campaigning against were human rights crises, which were not being taken seriously
during international policy dialogues. These issues include battery, rape, female genital
mutilation, female infanticide, trafficking and forced prostitution, etc. What fuelled the
struggle was the need to move to non-biased application of human rights, which favoured
only men. This was aimed at filling the gaps created by the two principal instruments of
international human rights law – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which talked about right
of persons as opposed to rights discourse violence committed within the home, by a close
relative, which hitherto were considered a personal, private or a family affair.
Women’s rights are therefore not different from human rights. They are rights that have
emerged as a result of the evolving process of engendering the interpretation and
application of the fundamental human rights. The fundamental human rights have been
applied to the lives of women and their various needs which are specific to women as a
result of their reproductive and productive roles as well as needs that have arisen from the
imbalance in gender power relations. These have been articulated at various international
for a and put together into consensus documents such as:
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women
(CEDAW) articulates the human rights of women to include equality with their
male counterparts. In its 16 articles, it also addresses area of women’s human
rights which include the rights to be free from all forms of discrimination, the
right to education, the right to work, the right to health, the right to participate in
political and public life, equality in the law, equality in marriage in family law,
and provides specially for the rural women.
The International Conference on Population and Development Programme of
Action (ICPD POA) recognised the need for women’s empowerment, the
elimination of violence against women, education of girls and women, ability of
women to control their fertility. It recognised that women’s reproductive health
and rights, including sexual health, along with maternal mortality and the health
impact of unsafe abortion.
The fourth World Conference on Women Platform For Action (FWCW PFA)
which states that the human rights of women include their right to have control
over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality,
including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and
violence. In addition to this, it also articulates in the 12 critical areas of concerns
rights of women to education, participation in public life and politics, elimination
of violence against women, the right to be heard, access and control over
The proof of the extent to which governments (including the Nigerian Government), have
acknowledged women’s rights rests in the success of the Fourth World Conference on
Women. Nigeria was there with the biggest delegation, and the first lady made a
presentation and commitments to the meeting some of which have come to fruition,
others, not (do not mind the “amala” and “moimoi” party, the shopping and excess
luggage scandals, etc, that took place alongside the process.
These rights are not exhaustive but give us an idea of what women’s human rights are.
How the fundamental human rights have been broadened and simplified to address areas
of protection required by women for the fact that they are women.
Because women hold only a limited amount of economic power they are more vulnerable
to various human rights abuses as illustrated in the following discussion. I have used
true-life cases to bring the issues closer to us:
INABILITY TO MEET BASIC NEEDS
Basic needs include food and shelter. International Instruments, which articulate
women’s human rights, include the rights to food and shelter. Since the structural
adjustment policy began in Nigeria, the experience has been the same as in other
developing countries with similar policies. Structural adjustment programme led to
removal of state subsidies from social services.
Quality life continues to elude most women and girls as a result of socio-economic
This has led women and girls into exploring alternative options to livelihood, some of
which constitute a risk to their already vulnerable health. Such options include sex work,
serving pornographic film industries, etc.
In the evening, here in Abuja, the streets are lined up with girls for the purpose of sex
work. Some are from the university campus, while some are low cadre civil servants that
need to make ends meet. In my university days when living standards began to plunge at
a very fast speed, I had a roommate who went round visiting her boy friends during the
holidays. She used the proceeds to purchase the literature texts we were asked to buy for
the next session. This does not mean that I am ignorant of a few who are there because
they want an extra pair of shoes.
Many girls spend a lot of time browsing for partners and hope they will find one in
Europe or USA who will marry and take them out to a more prosperous society where
their basic needs will be met. The risk in this option is very well known as the FBI
continues to hurt down Websites that provide a forum for abduction and violation of
women’s rights and the rights of children. In interviews conducted by the International
Media women and girls have shared harrowing experiences with partners they have
acquired through this means. These ranged from battering, forced sex, etc.
In some cases women and girls have become concubines, or live-in partners for the
purpose of securing shelter. These women are often subjected to abuses and exploitation,
as their partners are aware of their vulnerability. Some of them get battered, are exposed
to HIV and STIs.
While managing the Youth Action Project Ijebu-Ode, a project of the Women’s Health
Organisation of Nigeria, a case was reported to me of a 15 year old who was getting
herself repeatedly exposed to a Sexually Transmitted Infection. After interviewing the
service provider to make sure that they provided her with appropriate counselling,
including bringing her partner for treatment or the use of condom. I had an interview
with her. I found out that she was dating an older man who was paying her school fees.
She feared he would leave her if she told him she has had a STD even though she knew
she contacted the infection from him. She said that he could suspect her of indiscriminate
sex. She could not broach the topic of condom use with him despite the fact that she had
been told the risks she took by keeping that relationship. She knew he had a wife and
Women who have families are not left out of the nightmare. They are driven to their
limits by moving from one income generating activity to another in order to raise enough
resources to cater for the needs of family members – medical bills, rent, school fees,
water rates, electricity bills, etc. Since the Structural Adjustment Programmes had
demanded the removal of State subsidies, families have to generate much more income.
While the male counterpart may have been retrenched and awaits a life changing
government contact, the woman burns herself out on a daily basis on numerous small-
scale income generating activities.
The burden of poverty on women is more as a result of the additional gender inequality
resulting in additional chores, which are not considered as “work” since those do not
bring in cash. (They save cash though!).
First to wake last to sleep, the woman business herself cushioning the impact of poverty
on the rest members of the family. Her health including sexual and reproductive health is
compromised in the process. She is anaemic, malnourished, and stressed.
Her right to a satisfying sex life is also compromised. An NGO in India carried out a
survey on women’s sexual rights, and found out that women who had rich husbands
(domestic assistants, labour saving machines, etc,) enjoy sex more than their poor
These examples demonstrate the impact of poverty on the rights of women and girls to
bodily integrity, personal dignity, and sexual and reproductive health.
INEQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW
I have followed Safiya Tungar Tudu case. This woman was accused of adultery and
charged at the Sharia court in Sokoto. In the several interviews she has granted press
people, and in the most recent interview with the BBC World, she clearly stated that
justice has not been done. She said it is because she is poor.
As we all remember, the legal process at the lower Sharia court was faulted. Safiya had
no legal representation. She was not aware of the fact that she could have one, she was
not even aware that the charges attracted a death penalty by stoning. The level of poverty
she lives in till date has been a source of concern to many, including Sharia clerics who
believe that wallowing in poverty is sufficient enough a reason to acquit and discharge
Safiya. Unlike the man, Mallam Yakubu, who stood accused with her on the offence,
Safiya’s case had to go to appeal court to “prove her innocence”. Equality before the law
was not upheld for Safiya because she is poor. But thanks to the effort of civil society
organisations and the legal services they provided for her, she would have been stoned
and buried since the first ruling was given. While her partner remained alive. It is with
great relief that we received the appeal court ruling a couple of days ago.
In the Nigeria law, age of consent to sex is put at 14 for the males and 16 for females for
no articulated biological and social reason. This is probably based on the myth that
sexual desire in males is uncontrollable.
INEQUALITY IN MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LAW
Women have continued to experience unequal and unfair treatment within marriage and
in family law. Contrary to the provisions from the international instruments, a woman by
the Nigerian law and culture is only second to her make counterpart.
Sometimes, her position is even lower down the family tree. A child in the fourth year in
primary school was asked to draw family tree and position members of the family
according to their level of authority. He put his father first, followed by himself and his
younger brother. Then he fixed his mother and sister afterwards.
Women occupy the lower position in the family despite the contributions they make
within the home. In fact, they are treated and called the “property” of the husband.
Based on this, the man has remained the decision-maker in the family, deciding over the
earnings of his partner, having the last say on what happens to the body of the woman,
Some family laws in Nigeria are repugnant to women’s human rights. An example is
found in Section 55 of the penal code in the north of Nigeria which permits wife
chastisement (beating) provided it does not result in grievous bodily harm. Bodily harm
is described in Section 241 of the penal code as emasculation, permanent loss of sight,
ability to hear or speak, facial disfigurement, deprivation of any member or joint, bone
fracture or tooth dislocation. When you think about “some woman or girl somewhere
being treated according to the provisions of this law, it is easy to wave it away. But take
a moment to think, this woman could be your daughter, your sister, or even your mother
and then you won’t look too hard before you find injustice and abuse of the rights of
women in this law.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
Women continue to be discriminated against in all spheres of life from birth. No where
else is this discrimination more visible than in the area of public life. Women continue to
be marginalized in the political arena. The affirmative action to which Nigeria is a
signatory has not been upheld in the political process in Nigeria.
For instance, during the LGA elections of Dec. 8 1990 for chair persons and councillors,
and subsequent November 23 1991 elections, only few women were elected in nearly one
thousand wards, only one female was elected LGA Chair person out of 589 LGAs
nationwide. In many state houses of assembly, there were no women (NGOs CEDAW
Report for Nigeria, 1998).
In 1992, none of the 30 resident electoral commissioners were women; no woman was
elected state governor, in the 30 states of the federation, only three female deputy
governors (Lagos, Kaduna, Cross River). And in the April 25, 1998 National Assembly,
only eight female senators emerged against 101 men (NGOs CEDAW Report for Nigeria,
The current dispensation does not depict a big shift from the above trend. We still do not
have a female government. We have only one female Deputy Governor (Lagos State),
One female speaker in the State House Assembly who later on resigned (Benue State).
Of the 109 Senators, only 3 are female.
Not because there are no qualified female members of our communities, but because
Nigeria operates a monetised politics. Chatting with a professional only recently on what
women can do to get more and significant elective positions at the party level, he replied,
“if a female multi-millionaire politician were to appear, she could get any elective
position of her desire. Politics in Nigeria is still at the level of how much you can give,
and not what your capabilities are and what you could deliver after election.” He
admitted that other factors, such as low literacy levels, lack of political consciousness,
etc, are also contributing factors.
Unfortunately, women are the poorest of the poor, they do not have the kind of resources
required to form a political party or buy into elective positions like the men do. It was to
bridge this gap and eliminate discrimination in this very important filed that the
affirmative action found a place in a consensus document of UN Member States.
Over five years, the affirmative action remains only a document in many nation states in
the world, Nigeria inclusive. In Niger State, only two members are female in the 27
members of the State House of assembly, and only one female holds the post of a
Commissioner in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the State Cabinet of 12 Ministries.
LACK OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS
The framework of Action to implement the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All,
the ICPD POA, the FWCW PFA all place priority on education of women and girls as a
human right. Among the targets set by the PFA towards bridging gender gaps in
education include closing gender gap in primary school enrolment by the year 2005, and
also to eliminate gender disparities in access to higher education.
The world’ women 2000 published by the United Nations reported that school enrolment
for girls has improved then boys especially in areas where there was significant
difference in the enrolment of girls than boys. Sub-Saharan Africa inclusive. But the
same report casts doubts on whether the target date of 2005 will be met.
There is concern over the completion of primary education as a significant percentage of
girls drop out of schools, especially girls in the rural area. Surveys have shown that most
parents are likely to withdraw girls from school or not enrol them at all if they had to
choose whom to enrol or leave in school when there are financial difficulties within the
Enrolment into schools as evidenced by results from National and international sources of
data remain discriminatory in favour of boys. In 1995, the total number of graduates
from tertiary institutions numbered 32, 262 and 15, 613 for males and females
respectively (NGOs CEDAW Report for Nigeria, 1998).
Primary school enrolment in the same year recorded 7011657 for female and 8729421 for
I watched a neighbour and older family friends send their early adolescent daughters to
marriage. Baby, the older daughter was withdrawn from her final year in the primary
school and married off at the age of 13. Jummai her younger sister was withdraw from
her fifth year in the primary school and married and Ladidi, at the age of 11, was also
withdrawn and married. Maman Baby’s explanation was that they did not have resources
to keep a family of seven. With the older girls married, their husbands will take care of
their wives and also support their in-laws.
Another area in which women suffer inequality is health. Health and quality of life of
women is affected to a very large extent by poverty, especially their sexual and
reproductive health. There has been low allocation of resources to the welfare of women
resulting in increased maternal mortality rates, which ranks among the highest in the
world. Maternal deaths as a result of pregnancy related causes rose from 800 in
1994/1995 to 1,800 deaths out of 100,000 births in late 90s, and it is reported that in some
States of the federation, up to 2000 deaths occur per 100,000 births. For each one that
dies, twenty more sustain pregnancy-related disability, some of which last a lifetime.
Data from the World Bank indicate that only 11.3% births among the poor are attended to
by a medically trained person while the figure is 74.3% among the rich.
Pregnancy rates among female adolescents are still high and often result into
complications leading to death. Early pregnancy and complications from unsafe abortion
contribute immensely to the maternal death rates.
Girls and women seeking abortion services are unable to obtain safe abortions because
they cost more, and lacking resources to seek quality and safe abortal services, they
patronise unskilled persons who operate underground, in an unsterile environment. The
CAUP research reported that unskilled personnel perform 60% of abortions, which take
place in Nigeria.
Another factor responsible for high maternal mortality and morbidity is long distances
from home to health care centres where women can access quality maternity care. It has
been reported from a study of the distribution of married women residing in rural areas
served by the Maternal Child Health Centres, by distance to the nearest facility that more
than 40% live 10-30 miles away from the nearest health centre. Obstetric emergencies
from these areas often arrive too late. Where they get there early to be helped, they often
do not have resources to pay for the services. Since removal of subsidies as a result of
SAP, all government hospitals have become mere consulting centre. For women who
need surgical intervention, a minimum amount has to be deposited before they are
A medical Doctor from Kastina shared pathetic experiences with me – “Often when they
come, they have trekked for 2 to 4 days and the woman in labour is tired and the fortus is
dead. Because they do not have sufficient money to pad for admission and surgery,
relatives walk back to the community to raise the money and before they are back, it is 4
–5 days. We used to help them pay, but we discovered that we were unable to cater for
ourselves after doing so for two to three patients.”
I have also seen a woman who became public spectacle at a hospital in Lagos. She had
been in labour for over 24 hours. Before she was brought to the hospital. The hand of
the baby was outside while the rest of the body was still in the woman. Her family
members were begging for money from other patients to pay for the woman to be taken
to the theatre. There was no more foetal heartbeat. Other patients were going to look at
her, telling others to go and look. The amount she needed to deposit was Five Thousand
naira (N5,000). These woman and many more like these are unable to enjoy their
reproductive health as a result of poverty.
HIV/AIDS infection rates have risen among women and girls. In 1994, CASSAD reports
the HIV male to female ratio to have been 3:1, wile the 1999 Sentinel Sero-Prevalence
survey in Nigeria reported male to female radio of HIV possivity as 1:1.
Several studies have indicated that socio-economic inequalities put some groups at an
advantage and others at a disadvantage. The disadvantaged groups are as a matter of fact
vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Women fall into the group that suffers socio-economic
discrimination. They are therefore unable to effectively negotiate for safer sex with their
male partners. They do not have a say on their partner’s sexual behaviour, they are
unable to propose condom use for the male partner. Most women cannot afford the
female condom, the other alternative, because they are expensive. Because some women
can not able to afford treatment for STIs, they live with them, becoming more vulnerable
to HIV transmission upon exposure, because the presence of other STIs makes it easier to
contact the big one HIV/AIDS.
Other factors have been mentioned above in relation to trafficking, sex work, sugar-
daddies, and the imbalance in those relationships, which make it difficult or impossible
for girls and women to negotiate for safer sex.
TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN GIRLS
Trafficking in girls and women constitute a violation of the rights of women because of
coercion and exploitation that take place within it. It is occasioned by poor socio-
economic conditions as has been experienced in Nigeria since the past decade have
facilitated trafficking from Nigeria to other parts of Nigeria and/or outside the country.
When trafficked, girls and women are forced into prostitution or domestic work under
extremely dehumanising conditions.
Adverse economic conditions in Nigeria resulting from the Structural Adjustment
Programmes have increased the likelihood that girls will be lured into forced prostitution
since they had fewer educational and economic opportunities than their male
counterparts, including the burden to provide care.
Over ten years of embargo on employment and promotion, there has been a very high rate
of unemployment among young women. The desire to earn a living, the attraction of
foreign countries, better paying jobs, and a better life have caused girls who have few
options at home to accept alleged job offers or marriage far away. Even if the girl herself
is not tempted, the promise of immediate payment, or advance cash payment often lead
some families to give their daughter out to be trafficked. The traditional responsibility of
women to care for their families also make offers of employment or marriage difficult to
resist for girls.
Once adolescents have been trafficked for the purpose of prostitution, most of the girls
become depressed. They experience coital lacerations as a result of their incomplete
growth resulting into trauma. Trauma can also result from fighting or physical assault by
a client or during punishment for attempted escape in cases of those who have been sold
Sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS occur at high rates among the girls.
This is caused by their inability to negotiate for safer sex with their clients; especially
those who are sold to brothels, and are not allowed to negotiate the terms of sex. In
Nigeria, HIV screening of girls deported from other countries back to Nigeria have
continued to indicate that girls in sex work are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
Some of them undergo clandestine abortion and sometimes suffer from fatal
complications, including death. With all of these risks, girls who have been trafficked for
sex work do not have control over their earnings, they have a debt that continues to grow.
They are unable to escape. Their reproductive rights, sexual rights, rights to bodily
integrity and dignity, are violated.
FEMINISATION OF POVERTY
“Although women do two thirds of the world’s work, they earn only 5% of its income”.
Is this not unfair, that women’s remuneration is not comparable to the labour
Many studies have documented the fact that women are the poorest. There have been
statements such as feminisation of poverty, etc, as a result of the current economic
policies that are being pursued globally and at country levels, which negate the gains
women had made through informal small-scale enterprises. Current trends are placing
more importance on corporate profits causing women to face greater impoverishment
with adverse impact on their well-being.
Policies in Nigeria on the expulsion of girls when they get pregnant in school compel
women to remain in the vicious cycle, unable to break out of it. Once they are sent out of
school, they lack skills that may have qualified them for employment, a means of
Revenue policies such that pretend that the children of a marriage belong solely to the
man and therefore provide only him with tax relief. This policy does not exclude female-
headed household. The same policy is applied to widows and divorcees. Even among
couple, oftentimes, women bear a lot of family burden and are the breadwinners, yet they
are not granted any tax relief on the assumption that the male partner is performing these
Gender disparity in work related benefits reinforce poverty among women. In Kano State
Civil Service Rule 03303, it is stated that “any woman civil servant who is about to
undertake a course of training of not more than six months duration, shall be called upon
to enter an agreement to refund the whole or part of the cost of the course in the event of
her course being interrupted on grounds of pregnancy”.
Gender stereotypes which feminise professions also play an important role in keeping
women within the cycle. This is supported by findings of the Gender Monograph of the
NPC. Reports indicate that except for the sales and service sectors, the rest occupations
are male dominated. These include:
OCCUPATION MALE FEMALES
Professional/Technical 7.2 6.1
Administrative/Managerial 3.0 1.5
Clerical and Related Work 3.3 2.8
Agriculture and Related Work 50.5 35.5
Production and Related Work 16.7 9.0
Sales Worker 12.3 39.4
Service Worker 3.2 3.3
This indicates that there has been no remarkable shift from 1993 – 1994 as demonstrated
by the student enrolment into polytechnics (NGOs CEDAW Shadow Report 1998).
CURSES MALE FEMALE
Building Technology 2087 479
Civil Engineering 3114 340
Mechanical Engineering 3958 222
General Agric Technology 1130 140
Animal Production and Forestry 202 64
Soil and Water Engineering 229 8
Catering and Home Management 478 1059
Secretarial Administration 2737 5880
Most of this boils down to the low status of women in our societies that are patriarchal in
nature. A major characteristic of patriarchy is son preference. It causes discrimination in
the allocation of resources, opportunities, rewards and benefits given to children on the
basis of being males or females. This is done under the pretext that female children will
get married and their husbands will provide for them. This assumption provides an
excuse for the total lack of or little investment in girls.
Globalisation which brings unequal market forces to negotiation tables dictates consistent
increase in economically driven human rights abuses which affect particularly women
and girls. These result from current economic development, restructuring and transition
in all the regions of the world further impoverish women as discussed earlier. The IMF
Agenda, the SAP, leading to removal of subsidies by the state, privatisation of public
facilities and services, make women suffer even more as they lack access to these
services. An example is the privatisation of Women’s Hospital, at least that is what it
was originally meant to be.
It became National Hospital without any consultations with the women who initiated the
idea and brought it to reality. The shocking news is that this same facility gets privatised!
How could these women who have always been the poorer of the poor afford medical
care in this facility? The slogan “As the nation privatises, the people benefit” is not true
and constitutes an infringement of the rights of the already grossly disadvantaged group-
women. No, as the nation privatises, only the few have-always-been-rich benefit.
Women and girls working in the context of the private home and family are not visible
and therefore undergo gross physical and sexual abuse.
A parent came to seek support to deal with a case in her family a couple of weeks ago.
Her sister who has been finding it difficult to make ends meet sent one of her daughters
to live with her sister. The girl was engaging in sexual intercourse with her cousin and
this resulted into pregnancy twice and twice, she forced her niece to terminate the
pregnancy. The family did not investigate the nature of relationship that existed between
their son and her niece, whether the sexual activity was consensual or obtained through
intimidation, coercion, threat, or physical force. And she did not think of punishing her
son or removing her niece from the house for protection.
Poverty, it has been established is a principal factor which increases women’s
vulnerability to violence and abuse.
We have often read stories of girls from papers who have been lured to have sexual
intercourse with animals for a fee. As a result of poverty, they do it and face severe
Women have also been subjected to domestic violence and have remained in it, some till
death, because they do not have alternative means of livelihood and shelter but their
marriage. Some stay and live with it because they cannot cater for the number of
children they have with their meagre income or nothing. This abuse is occasioned by
From the survey conducted by the World Bank in 2001 where the poor were interviewed
for their perspectives, the report established that the poor still greatly value government
programmes and feel governments have important roles to play in their lives.
This makes it pertinent for us as policy makers, to commit ourselves to the following
We must approach human rights as truly universal and indivisible. Believing that
no rights of a group are more important than the rights of the other, and that no
right of a single individual is more important than the rights of the other.
Domesticate the international instruments cited above. Nigeria is already a
signatory to them.
Increase economic opportunities to women and participation in politics and public
Support women’s networks
Operationalise the Affirmative Action in an effort to bridge the gap between men
and women. Set aside a number of seats in the State and National Assembly for
women and get them to contest for those seats on party lines in Bangladesh.
Articulate clear measures for operationalising and measuring progress made in the
area of eliminating poverty among women.
The government should go an extra mile and return the subsidies withdrawn as a
result of SAPS
Mainstream gender in all the stages of state programmes and in our budgets at all
levels of the governments.