Professors from the Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, have highlighted steps Nigeria can take to be better prepared for social emergencies such as the global pandemic and other social issues affecting the country, going forward.
The centre’s 2022 International Biennial Conference held at OAU’s African Centre of Excellence in ICT-Driven Knowledge Park, with the theme: “Gender equality and pandemics: Rethinking national, regional and international growth and development pathways,” was declared opened by the vice chancellor, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede.
It featured over 50 oral abstract presentations and five roundtable and symposium sessions attended via both virtual and in-person.
The conference identified that the prevalence of intimate and non-intimate gender-based violence (GBV) is still high and includes rape, assault, harassment, and femicide,” with the pandemic said to have thrown up points in the socio-economic structure of Nigeria.
According to the communiqué issued at the end of the conference, the pandemic and lockdown measures were exacerbating factors for GBV; as institutions, state and non-state actors were poorly prepared.
Conference participants noted that while there is a growing recognition of the need for countries to include GBV prevention and management in emergency response plans, “there is a more urgent need to institute intervention that mitigates the socio-cultural and religious ideations, beliefs and attitudes sustaining GBV. These interventions need to encompass academic, traditional, religious, and security measures.”
The conference also recognised marginalised groups, including women in their diversity, who were more affected by the pandemic. Many faced financial, social and economic insecurities. People with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and yet, had limited access to health, transportation and finance support services. Access of vulnerable populations of women to government support like the Conditional Cash Transfer programme and the palliatives offered by the government was poor.
Conference participants identified the need for communities to be involved in identifying members in need of support services, and for researchers to develop evidence driven inclusive pathways for reaching hard to reach vulnerable populations with palliative measures.
With inequality in accessing services also reported to have been further entrenched during the pandemic, the communiqué noted that access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and healthcare for many, was tough, with women and girls having to handle increased pressure to provide diverse household needs despite the challenges and dangers the pandemic posed.