Building Gender Equality through Rural Devt

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In line with its support for gender equality as a veritable tool for mobilising men and women, the Education Co-operation Society has been able to carry out a number of community development projects across rural communities in Nigeria, reports Peter Uzoho

Till date, the issue of gender equality is yet to receive a perfect
resolution and application. This is because in spite of the
discussions and agreements reached on the issue at different national
and international fora, there still exists such conflicts arising from
misconception of such resolution by either the men or the women folks.

From culture to religion, politics to economy, down to social and
marital lives, men and women are on daily basis faced with each other
in what may be regarded as war of supremacy and dominance. This no
doubt has not helped in engendering the needed development that can
make life meaningful for the people, particularly the rural communities.

However, Education Co-operation Society, a non-governmental
organisation, understands gender equality as when men and women see
each other as partners for stimulating development for the improvement
of lives. It believes that a joint participation by men and women in
initiating and implementing rural development plans would reduce the
rate of under-development and poverty among rural people.

With its long experience working with rural communities in Nigeria,
the Society has found out that gender equality aside being a
subject of controversy, is a veritable tool of realising government
plans. It argues that, women, just like men, are influential enough in
driving development if only they can be properly incorporated by the
government, into developmental activities.

Consequently, with proper understanding and deployment of the
philosophy of gender equality to community development, the
Education Co-operation Society was able to mobilise men and women across communities in Nigeria to jointly initiate plans and execute them for the benefits of
their people. Just recently, the Society inaugurated and donated a block of 4 classrooms to St. Aloysius Catholic Primary School Iloti/Itamapako community, in Ijebu-Ode Local Government Area of Ogun State- a project initiated by the women of the community and jointly executed by the men and women for their children.

Speaking at the inauguration and handover ceremony, the Chairman of
Education Co-operation Society, Mr. Charles Osezua, said the project
was aimed at strengthening civil society in rural areas of Nigeria by
means of promoting rural processes that foster gender equality in
communities, noting that gender equality is considered a viable
strategy for social development and poverty reduction.

Osezua explained that when men and women are involved in development of the community, all hands are on deck for a common purpose, saying to acknowledge equality of persons is to observe the rule of civility and to set a good foundation for equitable development.
Osezua who was represented at the occasion by Mr. Soboma Ajumogobia, stated that the project was focused on equality of gender that is based on the principle that human persons are born equal.

“Consequently, the project had been geared to help rural communities
identify with this philosophy of equality of gender, through practical
approaches and the result is what is witnessed here today.
“Women planned for their community and made a five-year development plan which they brought to the attention of their community leaders for adoption and execution. Organised community women and men worked jointly to come up with social initiatives such as the Community Development Forum (CDF) and agreed to supervise the reconstruction of this new block of classrooms for their children. Women have taken steps in economic empowerment to augment their family resources. A curriculum has been developed to enshrine gender studies at primary levels in public and primary school in Ijebu-Ode.”

He urged the state and local governments concerned to encourage the
rural initiatives of the Iloti/Itamapako community by supporting their
development plans and spread the teaching of gender studies in their
schools.

“I know that the plans by the women include the improvement of access
roads to their community. We look forward to a cordial partnership
between the community and the LGA that can facilitate the
rehabilitation of one of the rural roads that lead to the Iroto
Community Rural Development Centre, which serves these cluster of
communities.”

Hinting on the sources of funds for their projects, Osezua added
“ECS partnered with the Association Zabalketa and the Itamapako
community. Most of the funding was received from the Diputacion Foral
de Bizkaia which is like a local government authority in Spain.”
Giving further insight on the development, the General Manager,
Education Co-operation Society, Dr. Emmanuel Iheanacho said the project was to develop the people by allowing them to take active part in
developing their communities, noting that their participatory
activities yielded the result.

“So what we’ve done is to prepare the people especially women to get
them make plans, work with their men, prioritise their plans and the
money was available for them to start implementing, and what you see
here is the result of the implementation to develop the educational
infrastructure for their children. They’ve got
the government to come and see and use the opportunity to let the
government to come and play their own part.”

Commenting on the seemingly special interest ECS as a body has for the
Iloti community, Iheanacho explained “It’s because we’ve known them
earlier in the 80s when we’re looking for a place to put a rural
project. Some of their sons approached us and they have land; they’re
ready to cooperate; we saw them and we saw other communities,
eventually we chose here, and since we put the rural women development and conference centre and the rural clinic here, the presence here has made us discover more needs. And this project we’re inaugurating here today is just a thought of the women. We had implemented similar projects in Adiba, Elekan, Badore and Idado, all clustered together in Ibeju Local Development Area. And then this is part of our commitment to do this type of project in Ijebu-Ode Local Government Area.”

Speaking on the expansive nature of their projects, he said “Our
projects extend to other states as well. In Igbora in Igbarapa Local
Government Area of Oyo State, we’ve worked in 2001/2003. Igbora is one of the rural areas in the world where there is still high infestation
of guinea worm.

In Igbora there is no water- water is their major
problem. So we managed to put water in their schools and in their
public places. We even brought in other NGOs to come and put their own there. In Nsukka, Enugu State, the water they have now in Obukwa, we provided it- it’s in one borehole that the radius is about 4kms. We
have equally done school refurbishment in Nzeagu, Idu area.

“We have a rural clinic that is very functional and a rural
development centre as we have here in Iwolo which is also in Idu Local
Development Area in Enugu State. We’re in Oyo; we’re in Benin in Edo
State. So it depends on the need and the readiness of the people;
because you must have a community that is ready to receive and ready
to protect and implement that. The toilet that this community has is
the only pit toilet there and it was put in place by ECS and it’s
still there.”

Correcting the impression that only the government has the
responsibility of developing and improving education in the country,
Iheanacho said “What we’re trying to teach the people is that it is
they more than government that is supposed to do it.

Because
government has taken over people now sit back and the schools have
gone down. We are teaching them that these things are for their
children. So they should take initiative and decide what has to be
here. We are also teaching them how to approach the Local Government.
So instead of quarreling, they are able to attract those things. And
when there are funds to help they should try to help themselves and
start doing it and government will come and help.

Like as we’ve done this now, it’s obvious that the government has agreed to come to do a road that leads to their clinic and to come and renovate other infrastructure here. So the main project is on the people which the government is not doing-to make participation from grassroots to them.

“It’s not infrastructure that we’re after, it is the people. So we inform the women and the men to realise that there is equality between men and women in community service participation. If you have 50 per cent of Nigerian women and you don’t use them and you use only men you’re just undoing yourself. So government should incorporate and
make use of both males and females for effective participation.

Appreciating the Society for the gesture, the Head Teacher of the school, Mrs. Kehinde Afusat Oguniyi, said “I’m highly delighted because I’m posted to this school when good things are happening. This surely, is a sign of many good things to come during my tenure here. I thank Education Cooperation Society for giving us a conducive learning
environment through this project. I pray God to grant them success in their future endeavours.

Similarly, the immediate past Head Teacher, Mrs. Mercy Onadeko said “Education Cooperation Society has done a remarkable thing in this community. They renovated the classrooms; they gave us seminar on civil education and even provided us with the textbooks; they don’t want us (women) to be jobless and suffer in poverty. They gave us free cassava stems for our cultivation. They love our children so much and want to give everything to them to make life meaningful to them. In fact, they are like parents to us and I pray that God will reward them abundantly.”

A nine-year-old primary six pupil of the school, Miss Adesoya Busannya in her closing remarks thanked ECS for coming to their aid. “I thank them for building these classrooms for us. May God bless them abundantly.”

For Mrs. Felicia Adeleye, a teacher in the school said that ECS has been their ultimate helper. “Since they came here the face of this community has changed. Any project we tell them we need they will come in immediately to see that it is actualised. They have been our ultimate helper in this community and in this school. So I thank them so much
and I pray that God will bless them in return.”

The Baale of Iloti community, High Chief Omonitoju Fesobi, represented by Mr. Felix Ayinkola started by thanking Education Co-operation Society for coming to their need. “We really appreciate their labour, money, counseling, mentorship and all resources they put in here for the benefit of our community. This community has not benefitted from any government project. All the projects in this community were built by ECS and other non-governmental organizations.”

Also speaking, the Chairman, Ogun State Universal Basic Education
Board, Alhaji Abdul Jeleel Olatunde Okewole, represented by Mr. Gbenga Ogunsola praised Education Cooperation Society for the refurbished block of four classrooms. “Indeed, your gesture at renovating this block of four classrooms is worthy of praise and in line with the present administration’s determination at improving physical structures by building a befitting edifice for our pupils.

“From all available facts, Education Cooperation Society has had a lot of influence in developing many schools in this area since 2003. I’m also aware that this non-governmental organisation had supplied 21 chairs and desks for pupils of this school. It has also provided 40 plastic chairs and tables as well as 10 plastic tables for the Early
Child Development Classes (ECDC). Information reaching me also had it that the philanthropic non-governmental organisation made available a water distiller for the use of the pupils, teaching and non-teaching staff of the school.

“Accordingly, permit me to use the opportunity of this occasion to appeal to other well-meaning corporate organisations as well as the well-to-do in our society to emulate the laudable philanthropic gesture of this non-governmental organisation in supporting government in the provision of necessary infrastructural facilities for a conducive learning environment and making education free and affordable to the good people of the state,” he said.