JUSTIFICATION OF THE CENTRE
One outstanding issue that has continued to dominate public discourse not only in Nigeria but the world over, particularly among the academia, law makers, policy formulators and implementers is gender sensitivity/equality and child development. Whereas, gender sensitivity gauges the response of stakeholders to the plight of women, gender quality advocates the need to engage more women in productive ventures to make them self-sustainable and reliant. Child development focuses on projects and programmes related to the realization of the rights of children to survival, proper development and protection as well as participation in issues concerning them. The child in this case refers to a person between ages zero to eighteen. As a young but fast growing citadel of learning, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) has in line with her vision and mission decided to play a leading role towards research and education on gender mainstreaming and child related areas through the establishment of Centre for Gender and Child Development. The need for the establishment of such Centre is reinforced by the (continuous) unabated abuse of women by the society dominated by men and prevalence of child labour as well as increasing cases of vulnerable children in Nigeria.
Secondly, typical African and Nigerian societies place much premium on the training and development of the male-child, while the girl-child is merely tolerated. This situation had placed the girl child at the receiving end of male chauvinism, thus making her feel inferior within the social milieu expressed in the victim/victimization syndrome as in:
- Pre-marital sex/Rape
- Teenage pregnancy/Abortion
- Selective education (in favour of the male child)
- Selective Job opportunities (Men more in high paying jobs)
- HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted diseases
- Political marginalization against women.
Consequently, the view point of women and their needs are not fully taken into consideration when taking key policy decisions.
In addition, young girls are forced into early marriage; virtually by the men as house hold property leading to increasing cases of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) in Nigeria. They are pawns for masculine and gender violence, discriminatory policies and sex objects for the pleasure of the men. Hence, prostitution continues to thrive because the women have been reduced to the level of believing that her only valuable asset is her body.
Available statistics reveal that women comprise half of the world’s population and yet they are seldom consulted on issues that affect them. In many countries especially African traditional societies, women are excluded from leadership and decision-making processes which determine development activities intended to benefit all citizens. Of the world’s one billion poorest people, three-fifths are women and girls. Of about eight hundred and seventy-six million adults in the world who cannot read, two-thirds are women. Despite these negative biases against women in the society, no much effort is being made to reverse the tide. However, the negative stereotype is gradually been dismantled as more women are coming on stream especially in this administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. More so, in keeping with the 35% affirmative action of the present administration, MOUAU has decided to complement government efforts (in this regard) by the establishment of the Centre that will be charged with the responsibility of research and training on gender/child related matters.
The principle for this campaign for gender mainstreaming and empowerment is predicated on the saying that: “Train a man you train a person, but train a woman, you’ve trained a community”. Hence, the need for a concerted approach to unlock the barrier inhibiting the potentials of women in the family and society development. The Centre in achieving this desired objective will move to promote adequate systems and mechanisms to ensure equal distribution of resources so that government expenditures should benefit men, women and children (and not mostly men). This is noble, if sustainable poverty alleviation is to be achieved in Nigeria.
The vision of the Centre is to promote gender mainstreaming and child sustainable development within the University, its catchment communities and Nigeria at large and to be a vehicle for attainment of both National and United Nation Action plan for gender mainstreaming and Child development.
The mission of the Centre is to promote equal participation of women, men and youths as well as child sustainable development at all social, economic and educational levels by increasing public awareness and promoting advocacy with policy makers.
- Integrity and respect for women
- Adequate protection for the Nigerian child
- To promote women’s right and participation in economic, social and political spheres;
- To increase literacy level among children and women in the University catchment areas and beyond;
- To increase the number of children accessing child development services;
- To reduce the number of women and children at risk of deprivation;
- To increase stakeholder’s co-ordination and participation in the implementation of social development programmes for poor and vulnerable groups;
- To improve the capacity of the University to effectively deliver on its mandate to women and child targets;
- To increase the number of stakeholders with a view to improving living conditions and participation in community-based programmes;
- To reduce the number of school dropouts;
- To provide focused guidance and counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS;
- To build capacity for women co-operative scheme and skills acquisition programmes for women in doing these improve family living standard;
- To develop ethical and moral up building of the Nigerian child;
- To develop strategies for tackling sexual exploitation against women; child labour and trafficking and other forms of abuses;
- To promote baby friendly initiatives among mothers;
- To canvass for the establishment of institute for gender studies in Nigerian Universities.
- Research in Gender Affairs and Child Development
- Training of youths and women to acquire skills to empower them and to give them a measure of independence and self-actualization
- Seminars on Gender Affairs and Child Development
- Workshops on Gender Affairs and Child Development
- Organize rallies to enlighten the society on gender matters
- Convening meetings to inspire Gender Relations and Child Development
- Initiate Pilot schemes to be emulated by women co-operatives
- Mobilization of relevant government ministries and agencies to support positive gender policy and attitudes
- Mobilization of relevant NGOs to support and canvass for positive gender attitudes and the abolition of obnoxious customs and traditions inimical to the feminine gender
- Sensitization of women in all spheres
- Value re-orientation and enlightenment programmes for children
- International Agencies, UNICEF, UNESCO and USAID
- Relevant Federal and State Ministries/Agencies
- Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
- Community-Based organizations
- Nutrition-based organizations
- Private/public companies
STRENGTH, WEAKNESS, OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS (SWOT) ANALYSIS OF THE UNIVERSITY
The political, economic and social strength of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike include:
- Highly professional manpower/personnel
- Centrality of the University in the old Eastern Nigeria which is the core catchment area
- Homogeneity of religion and culture of the catchment area i.e. women tend to practice serial monogamy (they are faithful to one partner)
- Political stability of the zone
- Availability of resource person for the execution of the Centre’s programmes and activities
- Enterprising, industrious and family oriented women
- Supportive government agencies
- Children are highly treasured in the zone
- Poor funding
3. OPPORTUNITIES (ASSETS)
- Community development spirit of the zone
- Large and accessible population of women and children
- Social responsibility of women in nurturing children and domestic work
- Growing number of NGOs and collaborative bodies
- Global growing trend in gender and child sensitivity
- Enterprising attitudinal spirit of women in the zone
- Weak gender and child policy implementation
- Poor childcare and social services delivery
- Poor infrastructural base
- Growing crime and drug addiction among youths
- High level of illiteracy
- High rate of school-dropout
- Virtual absence of Child Right Protection Act
- Large population of orphans and vulnerable children
- Poor co-operative framework for women
- High rate of sexual promiscuity resulting in high rate of sexually transmitted diseases and children born out of wedlock
- High rate spread of HIV/AIDs
- Prevalent gender based violence
- Growing number of indigent widows
- Improper placement of women by cultural and traditional institutions in the zone
- High incidence of teenage pregnancy
- High incidence of kidnapping in the zone
- Prevalence of child labour in the zone
- To increase socio-economic empowerment of women
- To reduce child mortality in line with United Nations millennium development goals (MDGs), through effective participation in health service delivery
- To partner with other stakeholders in ensuring child survival and development
The Centre for Gender and Child Development is the University’s (MOUAU)-based gender advocacy and sustainable development initiative for women Empowerment and Child Development. It is established by the University Senate under the leadership of the amiable and dynamic Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hilary OdoEdeoga. The Centre was born out of the strong desire to introduce a paradigm shift in planning and execution of programmes aimed at ensuring effective gender integration of equal women participation in decision making and to chart a new course of sustainable Child Development in Nigeria.The over-riding policy thrust of the Centre is to encourage gender mainstreaming (equal women participation) in development issues in Nigeria as well as to correct the socio-economic and cultural based structural inequality among men, women and youth.
The foundation of the new strategy would be based on participatory approach that will ensure the involvement and participation of all stakeholders in the catchment communities and beyond, with the view of proper gender mainstreaming (equal women participation) in policy formulation and implementation. This will ensure devolution and decentralization of responsibilities between the Centre and its stakeholders which in-turn will encourage sustainable development.The main objective therefore, is to create an enabling environment that will foster household economy, reduce HIV/AIDs pandemic, promote equal educational opportunities for both sex, reduce child mortality and thus, improve livelihood.
- The strategies shall be through sensitization/awareness campaign on HIV/AIDs pandemic among youths and children.
- Seminars/workshops and educational programmes which shall be proactively conducted to increase participation in immunization programmes.
- Training workshop with a focus on economic empowerment which shall also be mounted for women.
- The Centre will on a regular basis conduct public lectures within the catchment communities to enhance political awareness of the women.
The reporting line and flow of communication will be as structurally presented above:
There should be a Board for the Centre, with the Vice-Chancellor as Chairman and the Registrar, Bursar, Director of the Centre and three other members appointed by the Vice-Chancellor under the ratification of the University Senate. The Board shall be involved in policy-making, budget preparation, staff recruitment and the general welfare of staff of the Centre.
- Chairman of the Board:
The Chairman of the Board shall be the Vice-Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.He will guide the Board to take strategic decisions on related issues affecting the organization.
2. Registrar and Bursar:
For effective and efficient administration of the Centre, the Registrar and Bursar of the University shall be permanent members of the Board.The two statutory officers shall guide the board to ensure that all policies are in conformity with the objectives of the organization.
3. Director of the Centre:
The implementation of decisions made by the Board willbe carried out by the Director of the Centre (that is the First Lady of the University).Her responsibility shall among other things, include:Resource allocation, Project implementation, and so on and give a lay out in policy guidelines.The Director shall be responsible for effective and efficient co-ordination of projects and programmes being carried out by the Centre.She shall delegate duties to the Deputy Director.Instruction flows from the Board through the Director of the Centre, to the subordinate officers.By implication, all matters for the attention of the Board must be routed through the Director of the Centre.
4. The Deputy Director
The Deputy Director shall monitor all projects of the Centre to ensure compliance to laid down procedures and policy framework.The Deputy Director shall be directly responsible to the Director of the Centre.He/She shall in synergic manner, work with the Administrative staff and management team to achieve the set goals.
5. Administrative Staff/Management Team:
The general administration and management of the staff and material resources resides in the hands of the Administrative Staff and Management Team.They play such roles as: implementation of Centre’s programmes; staff training and development.They shall also undertake resource acquisition and allocation.Communication between the Administrative Staff and Management Team is routed through the Deputy Director to the Director of the Centre.However, the Director of the Centre can communicate directly with them.
SCOPE OF OPERATION
The broad scope of operation of the Centre in the long run is the entire nation Nigeria. The Centre strives towards the eradication of gender restrictions against the Nigerian women, child abuses and hostilities. The Centre shall on the short run focus its efforts on the South-South and South-East Zones of the country. The States within this geographical consideration include: Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Edo States. These Zones which constitute the catchment area of the University are known for their high population density, massive land and economic potentials.
COMMUNITY SERVICE UNITS
The Community Service Units comprise those, which render services for the welfare of the University Community.
- Health Service Unit: The Health Service in the University is provided through the Health Services Unit, which runs an in-patient and out-patient clinic. The Unit renders medical services to the staff, their spouses, their children and the general public as well as oversee the environmental and community health matter in the University.
- Physical Planning and Works Services Unit: The University’s Physical Planning, Development and Maintenance Services will be through the Physical Planning and Works Services Unit. The Unit will conceive, plan, develop and supervise all University Physical Planning and maintenance services. In addition the Unit in conjunction with the Academic Planning Unit will determine the space requirements for staff and students.