Nigeria’s reproductive health journalists’ network calls for end to insecurity, inequality, biases against females

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By Akanji Alowolodu, Bauchi

As the world marks 2021 International Women’s Day, (IWD), with the campaign theme: “Choose To Challenge”, the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN), has urged individuals, corporate organisations and governments at all levels as well  as other stakeholders to truly choose to challenge cultural stereotypes that prevent women and girls from accessing the full potentials of their sexual reproductive health rights,  end all forms of inequality,  biases and stereotypes against girls and women. 
The incessant kidnap, abduction and assaults of women and school girls especially by bandits and insurgents in Northern part of Nigeria, enslaving girls for child labour, as well as  trafficking in the South, including all forms of gender-based violence in the country are nothing but harms and threats that limit or cut short the potentials of girls and women in Nigeria.
NRHJN has chosen to challenge all of these unhealthy man-made developments.
The Network expects all concerned, including but not limited to the Federal, States, Local Government and other stakeholders to protect the dignity of Nigerian women and girls and give them more opportunities to enable them contribute meaningfully to the nation’s development.
The group is asking the Federal, States and Local Governments to do more to protect the sexual and reproductive health rights of all Nigerians, especially that of women and girls from predators; ensuring all states pass the VAPP Act, Child’s Right Act and give access to justice and equity in all forms of gender-based violations. 
“Already, there is evidence that pregnancies that are too early, too close, too late or too many carry extra hazards not only for the health of the woman but also for the child.”Therefore, the availability and access to family planning services to all women in safe and secured environment at all times and not limited to access to choice of medical protection, will ensure women can protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and achieve full potentials of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at all times”.
Also, on the benefit that family planning can prevent at least 34 per cent maternal death, the NRHJN said every pro-active government should embrace the scaling up of family planning services as one of the maternal survival strategies.
Although, it is incontrovertible that family planning is a life saver for women and children, the current 17 per cent contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) is poor (2018 NDHS). 
Consequently, achieving the new goal to increase the modern contraceptive prevalent rate (mCPR) to 27 per cent as part of Nigeria’s family planning 2020 commitment, should be a priority.
Another reason the NRHJN is clamouring for increased family planning uptake in the country is that, presently, the unmet need for contraception among married women ages 15 to 49 years in the country is 23.06 per cent in 2018, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognised sources.
Women with unmet needs are those who are sexually-active but not using any method of contraception and report not wanting any more children or wanting to delay the next child.
To this end, the NRHJN is seeking improved health budget and timely releases of the funds as well as spending for purposes meant, to pave the way for regular availability of family planning commodities and needed consumables.
Also, there should be inclusion of access to sexual reproductive health services such as the provision of ramp in hospital buildings and private health facilities, the provision of sign language in public places like hospitals and others to facilitate inclusion and access to care for all category of people regardless of disabilities, especially in women, girls and children.
In addition, the NRHJN is also clamouring for gender equality in every facets of human endeavour, geared towards the realisation of women’s rights in various areas including education, health, poverty alleviation, political and economic empowerment, among others.
“Women have a lot to contribute to the Nigerian society; women have the same brain that men have and with these, we believe that the Nigerian women could have the full benefits enjoyed by men in the country.”
However, notwithstanding prioritising certain women’s needs, giving equal opportunity to women, men, boys and girls will also ensure gender development in which all can contribute their quota to the development of the nation without the relegation of any particular group to the background.
The NRHJN is calling on women to rise up to the situation and equip themselves with the needed knowledge on how to contribute  their quota to country’s development economically,  socially and in all ramifications. 
Women in positions need to assist others to change their orientation particularly in the way they bring up male children. 
Women need to bring up male children in a way that they are responsible and see female as co-partners. The society needs to stop the idea of preferring the male child to the female.
The heightened insecurity all around the country in which women and girls are kidnapped and abducted from schools, highways, on their farms and homes for ransom are also worsening the Sexual and Reproductive Health issues of women and girls amidst covid-19 pandemic.
Kidnapped women and girls are raped and assaulted at will while being exposed to infections and unwanted pregnancies at will.
In addition to families paying the captives of loved ones ransom before they are freed, the violators of the dignity of Nigerian women are not apprehended and prosecuted for crimes against rights of these women and girls. These inhuman crimes are inimical to the healthy future of Nigerian women.
“Nigerian women and girls deserve safe spaces to be able to build a virile nation and attain their potential heights as their counterparts all over the world. 
“As media advocates, it is our belief that an equal world is an enabled world. Hence, all hands must be on deck to challenge all forms of violence against women and children as we celebrate the 2021 International Women’s Day”, as contained in a statement jointly signed by Yinka Shokunbi, President and Sekinah Lawal, National Secretary.

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