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Women’s rights are human rights – UNIC

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It was an onset of the harmattan season on a dusty December morning last week in Zaria, Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria. The students, all girls, arrived in droves, eager to participate and host an educational briefing on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in their school, Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria City. The educational briefing was organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos in collaboration with UN Women and Arewa Women And Youth Empowerment (AWAYE) Foundation.

Excited by the gift of thousands of orange scarfs and a few branded T-shirts to ‘Orange the world’, the students, numbering more than 2,500, assembled and carved out a space for their drama presentation on ending violence against women and girls.

They set the ball rolling quickly and set the stage on fire as they highlighted, through drama presentation, issues of domestic violence, sexual harassment in school, girl-child labour, and challenges of girls’ health, among others. In all these, the importance of the traditional institution was emphasised as the Emir’s scene was constantly on the front burner.

“Women’s rights are human rights. When a woman’s rights are violated, then her human rights have been infringed upon. Today we bring the message of ending violence against women & girls.” The National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, took the cue from the drama presentations. He emphasised that domestic violence was not a family affairs but a human rights issue.

He noted that the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence started November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and would end December 10, the Human Rights Day. Explaining the 2017 theme, ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls’. Dr Soremekun said that it ‘reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.’

According to him, leaving no one behind, specifically women and girls that are threatened by or are suffering violence, or have been subjected to it in the past, requires resources, policies, commitments and programmes that focus on reaching the most marginalized communities. To end violence against women and bring change, the National Information Officer urged the students to raise their voices and speak out against any act of gender-based violence.

Speaking, Ms Iris Nxumalo, representing UN Women, highlighted the need for determination to speak out and bring change. She urged everyone, “Let’s Say ‘NO’ and UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and Girls during and after the 16 days of activism period.”

Addressing the students, the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria, Hajiya Safiya Abdul, thanked the UN team for the educational programme and informed the students that all women and girls deserve to live a life free from violence and fear. She implored them to report any act of gender-based violence directed at them.
In her remarks, the Founder of AWAYE, Hajiya Laila Muhammad urged the students to speak out against gender-based violence.

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Mum & Parenting

More than 100,000 children die from cancer daily

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Many years since it has been identified as one of the deadliest medical conditions the world has seen, cancer remains so potent that it is now responsible for the deaths of thousands of children across the world. This was revealed last Wednesday by the founder and president of Children Living with Cancer Foundation (CLWF), Dr Nneka Nwobi during an event commemorating the International Day of Children Living with Cancer for 2018.

At the event titled ‘Colors of Hope Sit Out’ and held at Relate Africa in Lagos, Dr Nwobi, while offering a background concerning the purpose of the event, said: “Today is February 15 and the day is the International Day of Children Living with Cancer every year and this sit-out is basically to celebrate the day and to create awareness about cancer in children as we look for ways to increase the cure rate in the country. Unfortunately, the cure rate for Nigeria is not fantastic; we have children dying from cancer every day. More than 10 children die as a result of cancer every day.”

According to her, the Child Cancer International (CCI) estimates that up to 100,000 Children die needlessly each year from cancer worldwide because they lack access to optimal treatment. This is about 250 children per day and more than 10 children per hour, with most of the children in sub-Saharan Africa. “Abroad, 8 out of 10 children would survive being struck with cancer but here in Nigeria, less than 2 out of 10 children survive. That is about 20% cure rate here in Nigeria as opposed to 80% in more developed countries of the world,” Nwobi added.

Speaking as members of a panel put together at the event, Mrs Adenike Ogunlesi, Janet Mba-Afolabi and Chief Mrs B. M Fadipe, condemned the state of facilities in Nigeria while they called on government and individuals to show more concern.

“Gone are the days when we used to think cancer was a medical condition for Caucasians as a result of their lifestyles but it is a trend that leadership in Nigeria does not acknowledge. Nigerians leaders do not accept that we have even the most basic of needs to survive in this country. Leadership should not be about you; it is about service to humanity and so CSR is not optional. We must raise a generation that teaches children how to care about other children,” Mrs Ogunlesi, founder and Chief Responsibility Officer of popular Ruff ‘N’ Tumble, said during her remarks.

On her own, Mrs B. M Fadipe, Directress of Pinefield Schools in Lekki, Lagos, who said she met Dr Nwobi 5 years ago through her son, said: “I was shocked to learn of cancer in children. She gave us statistics and we have been in contact since then. There are many things we can do to get involved when it comes to CSR and schools can really do a lot, organisations supporting fashion shows and entertainment shows like Big Brother Naija for instance, can do a lot to support in the area of fighting cancer in children.”

Like the other two, Janet Mba-Afolabi, a foremost journalist, said she was shocked to learn that cancer is affecting children also.
“I have had a first-hand case of a friend who died of breast cancer. We were covering Marwa together at Alausa and she came to confide in me. It was small like a pimple like this but it started growing and we started running around for money,” she said while relating the trauma associated with cancer in adults, let alone in children.

Afolabi further spoke on the essence of using the mass media and social media towards creating more awareness for the project, saying events without media exposure is deemed not to have occurred.
Also speaking at the event was Dr Seye Akinsete, who works with children with cancer at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Cancer, according to him, drains victims in many ways, not forgetting the financial and psychological scar it leaves on relatives of the children, either they eventually survive or die. He said along with members of his team, they have had to deal with cases of 179 children living with cancer in the last 30 months.

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Mum & Parenting

Police, please arrest my son!

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I was doing school runs one morning and after I had watched my son walk into the school building, I went to the admin office to discuss some issue with the head teacher. I waited for a while as she scolded a pupil in upper primary class who had been reported to her for misbehavior, “I will call Police for you”, she threatened. “No, not police, it’s the army I will call to come and carry you away! Do you know the army?” She asked and the boy nodded as his eyes went from the head teacher to the floor.

I smiled watching his reaction to the threat, apparently not moved. I had to wait for the boy to leave the office and then I asked what the poor boy had done to be threatened with police and solider. I found it hilarious. I had expected the head teacher to laugh it off too, but surprisingly she didn’t, she wasn’t laughing about it at all. She said the father of the boy had actually taken him to the police station asking the police to arrest the boy. And so she had to mention army just in case the boy was no longer afraid of the police.

I couldn’t help but have a good laugh…but I recovered quickly, it wasn’t a laughing matter at all. What on earth would make a parent take a 9 year old to the police station to be arrested? It sounded like a joke. And where was the mum anyway? I think the parent should be the ones to be arrested don’t you think?

Even if the intention was to put some fear into the boy, taking him to the police station, said one thing loud and clear: the parents have lost control and so also has the school, and now they need the police and possibly the army to intervene? And we are talking about the two foremost institutions for instilling value and discipline into our children? What a shame!

What could the child have done wrong to warrant police intervention? The head teacher explained that on a number of occasions they have had to invite the boy’s parents to the school to discuss issues involving the boy. And even the parents had shared their frustrations and helplessness dealing with the boy, and again I ask, a nine-year-old?

Could it be the little boy has some negative influence from the home environment, maybe some elder ones who are a bad influence? Surprisingly he happens to be the first child. Could it be domestic staff, neighbours, friends, the screen (media), and lapses on the part of the parents? Sigh.

I finished my business at the school and left but the thought of the boy lingered in my heart. This family certainly needs help and so does the larger society.

I remember listening to the very popular American televangelist, John Hagee and his message was directed to today’s parents, particularly those of us who choose to spare the rod and spoil the child. He said the beautiful bundles of joy in our loving arms, could turn out to become monsters if we fail in our roles to train them in the way of the Lord. It sounds rather unpleasant, but it is the truth.

We have a God-given responsibility to bring forth children into this world, to nurture them and instill the right values into them so they can grow to become responsible citizens and contribute positively to the society, anything short of this, we would have failed and should be ‘arrested by the police!’

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Mum & Parenting

Letter to mom on valentine’s day

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I found this piece of love note written by Sarah Skinner to her mom ( of blessed memory). She says, “Love from mom is one of the best things a girl can ever have.” I hope this little piece inspires us to build loving relationships with our daughters – our kids. Enjoy!

Dear Mom,
Happy Valentine’s Day! I just wanted to let you know that no matter how old I get, I won’t stop finding special ways to let you know how much I love you, and I will try my best to get especially creative on holidays such as these. Some people find the excess of candy and stuffed animals that fill the stores this time of year annoying, but we’ve always enjoyed the displays. Hell will surely freeze over before the day comes that one of those adorable teddy bears won’t be purchased as a “just because” gift. How can someone not be happy with something soft to hug?

There’s always a lot of bitterness that is floating around during this time of year, especially about relationship status. I think many people must have forgotten the days of childhood when Valentine’s Day was a day we all showed our classmates a little love, indiscriminately. No doubt, it is a great feeling to have a romantic Valentine, but there is so much more to love than just the romantic aspects of it.

I’d like to take the time to thank you, mom — to thank you for letting me know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved. Your love has served as my rock for as long as I can remember, keeping me grounded and giving me the confidence I needed to shoot for the stars. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, you help me see the situation from a different (and more manageable) perspective. Whenever I’m feeling vulnerable, you remind me of my value. No matter what holes I’ve managed to fall into, you’ve always helped me see the light and find the strength to climb out.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you are a cheerleader who always tells me what I want to hear; you will tell it like it is, and you are always honest with me. If you don’t have a good feeling about a guy I’m with, you won’t hesitate to tell me. But, when that same guy stands me up on a date, you won’t mock me with an “I told you so,” but rather, you will greet me with a “you look too good not to go somewhere.” Knowing what it feels like to be loved like that is an indescribably beautiful experience. You showed me the correct way someone is supposed to be loved.

I remember when we first started watching “Gilmore Girls” together. Man, was that our show. What made it comical was how similar our relationship was to that portrayed in the show. Everyone else in our lives saw it too. I’m able to (and want to) tell you everything because I know you never judge me and you always find a way to help me understand my life a bit better.

We hang out a lot because we always find a way to have an awesome time together and the conversations between us never cease.
A relationship like that comes once in a life time and our bond has never been out of any sort of blood obligation. If I had the choice of who my mother would be, I would choose you a million times over. I am thankful for our relationship, and I will never be too old to give you a Valentine’s Day shout out.

With love,
Sarah.

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