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…And Yobe women made an unusual demand

Expectedly, many watchers saw the move by the women who are believed to constitute about 50 percent of the total population in the state as…

Expectedly, many watchers saw the move by the women who are believed to constitute about 50 percent of the total population in the state as quite unusual. “This is really surprising because on days like this, women usually ask for more appointments in government and also complain about the need for increase allocation to issues relating to health,” Barrister Sani Mahmud, a public commentator observed.

The women, many of them with children strapped to their backs were drawn from the Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAUEN) with representations from all the 17 local government areas of the state.

They spoke under the auspices of ‘Voices for Food Security’ (VFFS) and claimed that over 70 percent of   women in the rural areas were farmers but did not have direct access to land which according to them was a great impediments towards food sufficiency.

One of them Hajara Yunusa said that if given the opportunity, women had the potentials of making better use of lands through agriculture including farming and livestock production.

“Probably because of religious and cultural beliefs around this area, women are not considered when it comes to land allocation for agricultural purposes or any other economic endeavour”, Hajara observed.

She blamed certain provisions in the Land Use Act which according to her gave preference to men. “And when the land is allocated to men, they only keep it for several years only to sell it at exorbitant price basically for residential purposes.”

Joys Samuel said despite their predicaments, women in Yobe State always made use of small lands around their houses for agricultural purposes including irrigation and animal fattening which according to her contributed a lot to the sustenance of the family.

“I sold three cows last month and I gave part of the money to my children who are now in the polytechnic, my husband was really pleased because I assisted him,” she said.

Aisha Dikko, the officer in charge of the community development and gender issues of (AAUEN) said they used the World Women Day to appeal to various stakeholders to consider the plights of women who were worse hit by gender inequality, poverty and early marriage.

The women wrote two separate letters and addressed them to Governor Ibrahim Gaidam and the Speaker of the Yobe State House of Assembly.

“The Voices for Food Security is calling for improved support to women to have access to land, fertilizer, seedlings, credit and extension services”, Dikko said.

She said economic empowerment was the key to social and political empowerment and argued that if fully supported, women would be able to address the increasing challenges posed by food insecurity which now was a global phenomenon.

She said women also needed information and support services on climate change adaptation. “Research conducted by the National Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has indicated that the rains would come late this year and will end early, women need to know more on this”, Dikko said.

Dikko gave the reason for the women to mobilise themselves to the farms at the appropriate time. “The tendency is that if we go the farms at the wrong time, we may not get value for our sweat and the time we spent in the farm. Improved supports for women on small scale farming will enable them have access to both means of production and means of distribution,” she said.

At a press conference which held at the Ministry of Women Affairs in Damaturu, the women called on the federal government to increase the budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Agriculture and urged Yobe State government to do same.

“We want government to increase the quantity and quality of investment in agriculture and target the 10 percent benchmark as contained in the Maputo Declaration of 2003 to which Nigeria is a signatory,” the women said in their statement.

They argued that the allocation of 3.7 percent of the national budget to agriculture which was equally done by many state governments was grossly inadequate. “Increased budgetary allocation to the agriculture will definitely widen the chances of women to get agricultural inputs,” an address read by Dikko noted.

Dikko thanked the Yobe State government for including women in agricultural activities especially in programmes that were being supported by foreign donors such as IFAD, CSDP, Food Security programme and Fadama 111 project.

Speaking at the event, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam who was represented by Mrs Rifkatu Usman, the Director of Women in the Ministry of Women Affairs said the state government was always willing to partner with women in order to empower them.

Gaidam specifically thanked the women for showing interest in agriculture which according to him was a key to economic development.

Muhammad Bello, who witnessed the activities of the World Women Day, gave kudos to the organisers of the event for specifically narrowing down their demand to land ownership.

“Before this year, whenever the women gather to mark their day, they only lament their predicaments especially on issues relating to early marriage or diseases without actually making proposals on what they feel should be done to make them self reliant.”

He however cautioned them to be mindful of the environment they find themselves and more importantly their religion which according to him had defined the responsibilities of men to their wives and vice-versa. “There is the need for the women not to ask for something that will lead to confusion,” Mohammed said.

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