Igwe Blessing Nkechinyere, June 2022
As a young woman living in Nigeria, my existence comes with a mixture of various emotions. I consider myself on a journey to find myself, to have my voice heard and to survive in a world that constantly finds new ways to tear me down. In my effort to find freedom, my passion for advocacy for women’s rights continues to grow. Participating in the 8th session of the Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) was an exciting opportunity to take my advocacy beyond the national level. It meant more exposure, opportunities to network with far more experienced women who work in the space, and a chance to learn from their work.
The forum brought together participants across Africa to converse and devise solutions around the theme, “Building forward better: A green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063”. This was also linked with the theme for the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2022 on building back after the pandemic.
Before the main event in Rwanda, Akina Mama Wa Africa, in partnership with Education as a Vaccine (EVA) and other partners, also hosted an orientation, providing knowledge on engaging virtually, actively participating in proceedings, and influencing the outcome statement. The orientation was insightful for first-timers like myself to understand working modalities and ensure meaningful engagement at a high-level forum. Collectively, we developed key messages and a position paper with a focus on specific SDGs. The key messages addressed challenges women and girls face in Africa, especially climate change. A virtual panel discussion on “Creating a Just and Inclusive Future for African Women and Girls” before the main forum also provided insights on various interlinkages.
The call for actions on the recovery from education losses and supporting gender equality actions resonates with me the most following the insecurity, especially with the violent attacks on schools, further complicating recovery from the debilitating impacts of the pandemic. Additionally, gender inequality is at its apex in Nigeria with the National Assembly’s recent decision to reject five key gender equality bills. The bills included 35% Affirmative Action for women in Political Party Administration, indigeneship, 111 seats for women in the National Assembly, citizenship and a bill to give women a quarter in the Federal State Council. This resulted in a week-long protest which showed the determination of Nigerian women to change the status quo on gender equality issues.
Considering the inputs from diverse women across Africa, some of our cross-cutting recommendations made through our position paper were considered and reflected in the outcome document.
This shows how women’s voices as a collective can be powerful in creating the change that we want. It does not end here. We are currently working to ensure we continue to influence change at the upcoming HLPF.