Women advancement in Nigeria no doubt has taken a back seat. Many have blamed it on our cultural practices which ensure that women were only seen and not heard. That is why the much talked about women’s empowerment and the liberation of women from poverty and domestic oppression and exploitation as pre-requisites for national development is not taken seriously. Ochiaka Ugwu reports on the recent ‘WATCH’ project launched by MIND which focused on women advancement.
There is no gainsaying that issues concerning women are hence left in the background and never integrated in our social consciousness. Even if when is captured in the national policies, it is never put to practise.
Often we highlight the giant steps taken by government in ensuring that women in Nigeria take full control of the issues that affect their lives – from the homes to the farm lands, to the functioning of the state machinery. They claimed modern equipment are made available to them in the farm fields to ease the intensity of labour, they have access to improved health service delivery, thus reducing the infant mortality rate, and, at the core of decision-making, ensure tangible representation of women, but in the real sense women in Nigeria are just mere existing.
This is why our women continue to suffer greatly in the midst of plenty. They seem not to have arrangement that is supporting them at all times. They need a system that will guarantee their welfare anywhere anytime, like free maternal health, educating the girl child for free and initiating a series of development projects that go a long way to better the lots of women.
It was based on this that Media Information Narrative Development (MIND) a civil society organisation based in the Nigeria’s capital city Abuja as its part of Women Advancement programmes launched the “WATCH project” . The event which took place in the residence of the Netherland Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John C. M. Groffin in Asokoro, Abuja offered people the opportunity of viewing for the first time MIND’s award winning film Daughters of the Niger Delta’, which has moved audience across the world and won 5 international awards including Al Jazeera’s New Horizon Award.
Speaking on the project the Netherland Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Groffin praised MIND for coming up with such human development programme through cinema showing. He also hinted how he had wanted to embark on such project in his home country being a cinema loving fellow but could not owing to tight schedule.
Groffin, however, said he has to embrace this project immediately it was sold to him by MIND giving the fact it was something he had wanted to do all his life.
Continuing, he said his position as the Ambassador has provided the ample opportunity as he now has a large space to host people for such project. He charged the media on popularizing the project which he said was all about uplifting the living standard of the down trodden.
The Programme Director of MIND, Ilse Van Lamoen-Isoun while speaking to the audience informed that MIND is the a civil society, non-profit organization based in Abuja with a mission to stimulate young Nigerians especially women and also to re-envision their lives and the world they inhabit by imaginative use of media, information and narrative development.
Talking about WATCH project, she said it simply means, Women’s Advancement Through Cinema and Human Exchange which was a special event for media and civil society professionals in Federal Capital Territory defending the rights of urban poor.
She further noted it was a participatory research project enrolled by MIND that advocates for the rights of the urban poor in the fast expanding settlements surrounding Nigeria’s communities.
Lamoen-Isoun stressed that WATCH seeks to draw public attention to the alarming level of extreme poverty in Nigeria, focusing particularly on the rights of women and girls who tend to be hit hard by the negative outgrowths of urbanisation.
She revealed that WATCH is funded by the embassy of the Netherland in Nigeria, saying that MIND was seeking to partner with media houses and fellow Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the FCT who are keen in drawing public attention to the human rights impacts of urban poverty.
On the award-winning film titled ‘Daughters of the Niger Delta’ which was shown to the audience, Lamoen-Isoun who was the arrow head of the film said the idea grew during one of MIND’s first projects called FEMSCRIPT funded by Cordaid and the Netherlands Embassy in Abuja following the training of a group of young women from the Niger Delta in gender and human rights.
Her words, “The idea grew during one of MIND’s first projects called FEMSCRIPT funded by Cordaid and the Netherlands Embassy in Abuja. We trained a group of young women from the Niger Delta in gender and human rights. Based on research in their own communities, they each made a short film about one issue that they considered key for promoting women’s advancement in their own home towns”.
She noted the film was produced for local advocacy purposes, but the messages seemed important enough to be shared with a wider audience adding that a grant from the German Embassy made them to collect additional footage that helped them in producing the documentary.
“The movies were produced for local advocacy purposes, but the messages seemed important enough to be shared with a wider audience. Thanks to a grant from the German Embassy we were able to collect additional footage and produced ‘Daughters of the Niger Delta”.
However, the film depicts a story of a forgotten people who have been subjected to all aforementioned in the society whether on their own advantage or not. It presents a different scenario about the Niger Delta than the usual media reports about oil outputs, conflict, and kidnapping, giving a taste of everyday life in the region through the eyes of three ordinary characters: Hannah, Naomi, and Rebecca Churchill. Their chilling tales revealed the true picture of what was taking place in the REGION. Through their personal stories it was learnt that the oil and gas in the region which supposed to be a blessing is gradually turning to a cause. As the problem in the oil communities have transcended pollution, because human rights violation affecting their lives are more pronounced in their everyday activities.
The Netherland born Lamoen-Isoun also said ‘Daughters of the Niger Delta’ was a bottom-up film production which was aimed at making the women tell their stories in their own way. She said that rather than bringing in external filmmakers to document the lives of women, young women from the heart of the region, they decided to equip them with the tools and skills to do it themselves. They were trained in filmmaking as part of a MIND capacity building program entitled FEMSCRIPT.
She said the aim was to give local women control over the information and images produced out about them, to enable them to say in their own words what matters to them. She held that the organisation felt it was extremely important in the Niger Delta context, where lots of people claim to be fighting on behalf of the Niger Delta people while merely filling their own pockets.
There is no doubt that this project by MIND is commendable in every aspect. It is a project that has posed a challenge to other organisations towards promoting women empowerment through human exchange. We need to do more projects like this in the country with more focus on women empowerment in their respective communities; we hope all other organisations will take lessons from the MIND’s initiative. It is even said that the degree of a country’s development can be gauged by the participation of its women in the development process. Much more, history has proven that despite their exploitation and subjugation, women, particularly those in Africa, have contributed immensely to the advancement of humanity. They were vanguards in the African revolution against imperialism; hence they deserve the right to become active actors in the determining of our collective destiny.