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Examine yourself, stand by SDG 5: Gender Equality

I remember watching a Nigerian movie when I was younger. In this movie, a father who lived in a village had six children and only one of them was a boy. The father took care of the boy and sent him to school even though formal education was expensive in that village because students had to travel to the city to study. The other five children, the girls, were always on the father’s farm working and the money made from the sales of the farm produce was used to send the boy to school. This is because then, formal education was strictly for male children because it was the norm then that a female child always ended up in a man’s house and ultimately in the kitchen. As a result, sending a girl to school was seen as a waste of time and money.

Formal education in Nigeria is not called ‘male education’ neither is it tagged ‘female education’, it is education for all. However, the patriarchal nature of the country gave the right to education and empowerment to the male gender. Women were reduced to cooks, child bearers, subordinates and passive observers in the society. The right to education was denied girls and hence most of the girls who even had the opportunity of going to school did not go beyond the secondary school level. Women were made inferior to men and could not compete with men for any leadership position.

Also, while growing up as a girl child, I was made to understand that boys and girls cannot handle the same position and also cannot perform similar functions at home, in schools, in politics and in the society at large. Girls do the cooking while the boys do the eating, boys become class captains and girls were just allowed to sit in class (if at all they were allowed to go to school), boys can proceed to the university or college while a girl was already old enough to be a wife and a mother after secondary school. The females who do not go to schools have to marry at a very young age (from 13years).

Therefore, from childhood, girls have always seen themselves as being inferior to boys and women inferior to men. It was the world of men and women had no say. But the world has evolved, things have changed. Women now boast of having educational qualification and handling leadership positions. Organisations like the United Nations have over the decades ensured that women are treated equally with men. Through the policies made by the United Nations, the member countries of the organisation have given more attention to the role of women in the world. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework addresses gender equality under SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. One of the targets of the gender equality goal is to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.’ The female gender is still being discriminated against at the family level and in the society. In some parts of Nigeria, a female child has no right to inheritance, just as she does not have a say in family decision making even if she is the eldest.

However, the United Nations has continued to make significant progress over the decades to ensure that women are empowered and given equal opportunities like men. According to the UN, gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Women empowerment does not only fuel thriving economies but also spurs productivity and growth. As a result of the need to promote gender equality across countries, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women which was the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in July, 2010. UN Women works closely with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs as well as those in the States to promote gender equality and women empowerment.

In recent time, the organisation has implemented various projects and programmes in Nigeria. These included Women and Mastercard Launch: The Identity Registration Project for Women in Nigeria; Capacity Building Workshop for female journalists on Gender-Sensitive Reporting in Nigeria; UN Women launches Baseline Survey Report on the engagement of women in Peace and Security Processes in Northern Nigeria; Capacity Building Workshop on Gender, Peace and other Related Issues Conducted in Gombe State Nigeria; among others.

Examine yourself. Take a look at gender issues in your family. You can help end all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Stand by SDG 5: Gender Equality.

Written by Ms Olaide Olumide (An intern)

Inclusive education, the bedrock of development

As part of the global goals, the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG 4) seeks to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” SDG 4 establishes that equal access to quality education and life-long learning opportunities is a Universal Human Right. Hence, one of its major focal points is to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant effective learning outcomes. This informs that children’s access to inclusive and equitable quality education is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Education remains the bedrock of development.

Although Education in Nigeria has been at the top of the priority lists of some previous Nigerian governments yet the education system is still far from being ready for the challenges of the new century.  For example, while some experts have identified socio-cultural patterns, religious misconceptions, poverty, teenage pregnancy and early marriage as factors militating against girl-child education; UNICEF reported that millions of children are still out of school; just as poor learning environment has hindered the provision of quality education that would allow students to achieve their full potential. Also, there are still a lot of children- of primary school age- experiencing physical and psychological violence both in schools and within the family environment.

Instructively, UNICEF statistics show that girls’ access to basic education in Nigeria, especially in the northern states, has remained low. With only about 20 percent of women in the North West and North-eastern parts of the country being literate and/ or have attended school. In fact, the national literacy rate for females is only 56%, compared to 72% for males, and in certain states the female literacy, enrolment and achievement rates are much lower. For example, girls’ net enrolment in Sokoto, one of the six target states under the UNICEF African Girls’ Education Initiative, is 15%, compared to 59% for boys. In the North and some parts of the South most parents do not send their children, especially girls, to school with the attendant high rate of child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

Boys who are out of school are made to go through child labour which keeps them on the streets instead of school. Some others do not attend school because their labour is needed to either help at home or to bring additional income into the family. For others, the distance to the nearest school is a major hindrance.

In the last few years, especially since the launching of the Universal Basic Education Act, much has been achieved in the reconstruction of dilapidated school buildings and construction of new ones, supply of desks and other needed furniture as well as the provision of toilet facilities.

Nevertheless, there is still more to be done to ensure equitable access to quality education especially in the Northern states of Nigeria. Every Nigerian must always be conscious that education is an important tool to attain development while education of the girl child has a double impact on not only her but also her children and her community. Some other efforts of the Nigerian government, and UNICEF to ensure that this goal is achieved include passing into law the Child Rights Acts, the Universal Basic Education law- which provides for a nine -year free and compulsory basic education to fast-track education interventions at the primary and junior secondary levels. All these are geared towards achieving girl child education.

The government of Nigeria and UNESCO Abuja Regional Office, under the project, ‘Revitalising Adult and Youth Literacy in Nigeria’ are addressing literacy issues across the States with low literacy level. However, this should not be left alone for the Nigerian government and the UN system to handle. Every individual, community, public and private entities need to ensure that both boys and girls are given access to education and more importantly that girls in the Northern part of Nigeria be given more opportunities to be educated. By so doing, Nigeria as well can achieve the target to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant effective learning outcomes. As government provides the right policy and learning environment for inclusive and quality education, parents should also ensure that no child is left out. Every child is entitled to go to school. Do not deprive children of their right to education.

Written by Ms Ifeoluwa Akinola (An intern)

Contributing to SDGs 3 through healthy lifestyles and healthy eating habits

As beautiful as the world is, mortality plagues humans of all gender and ages- especially women and children. Hence, as part of the 2030 agenda to ensure sustainable development in the area of health; the third among the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on “Good health and well-being for all at all ages”. Some of its major targets include to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030; and reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being; among others.

No doubt, lifestyles, eating habit, access to primary health care, maternal care and many others are catalysts to good health and wellbeing. Reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases is strongly linked to lifestyles and eating habits which of course, requires personal discipline. Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are now receiving more attention all over the world, including Nigeria in view of increase in cases of NCDs and associated fatality. World Health Organisation (WHO) records that 12% of deaths in Nigeria, is attributable to cardio-vascular diseases (CVD), such as systemic hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and other rising incidence of Cardio vascular Disease risk factors. Diabetes mellitus which was hitherto rare is now on the increase, as a result of obesity, physical inactivity and urbanization. In fact, it has been projected that by 2020, cancer incidence in Nigerian males will rise to 90.7/100,000 and for females to 100.9/100, 000.

Meanwhile, concerted efforts have been made by the Federal Ministry of Health since 1988 to reduce the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria. The Non-Communicable Disease Control Programme, now a Division, was established in 1989 with the mandate to serve as the arrowhead of the response to NCDs in Nigeria. Also, in 2014, Nigerian Federal Government made effort through the Non-Communicable Disease Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health to put together a National Nutritional Guideline on Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, Control and Management. This guideline was supposed to be used by all Nigerians especially health professionals and those who have already developed any of the diet-related NCDs.

Individuals and communities must adopt healthy lifestyles and healthy eating habits as their personal contribution to the realisation of the SDG 3: “Good health and well-being for all at all ages”. Culturally, diets in Nigeria are largely made of fibre-rich carbohydrates, minimal fat, and sparring protein however, this has been replaced with an increased consumption of fast food restaurants – serving meals with high salt and sugar content, often also containing saturated fat. This goes hand in hand with an increase in the availability of bottled drinks. Furthermore, canned fruit juices are becoming fashionable and are replacing natural fruits.

Additionally, in recent times, a sedentary lifestyle and low energy-demanding vocations, facilitated by the availability of mass transportation systems across various parts of the country, and further complemented by more people using private vehicles to commute are contributory to the health and well-being of the people. Similarly, advancements in technologies, such as live television broadcasts, computers, the internet, and electronic games, have also made millions of Nigerians more stationary.

As individuals, inactive people at all ages should start with small amounts of physical activity, as part of their daily routine, and gradually increase duration, frequency, and intensity over time. Some of the things every individual can do to achieve this SDG 3 is to engage in sports, and other activities such as playing, walking, household chores, gardening, and dancing.

These activities- be it for work, to walk or cycle to and from places, or as part of leisure time- have a health benefits and they can help achieve a good health and well-being for all at all ages. Most importantly to achieve the target goal of reducing by one-third the rate of premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 2030.

Written by Ms Ifeoluwa Akinola (An intern)

Achieving Zero Hunger requires the commitment of all

Having good nutrition is an important factor of living a fulfilled and disease-free life. However, this is not achievable if hunger is in the picture. Despite the increase in agricultural produce in some countries, majority of the citizens still do not have enough to eat and this leads to malnutrition which makes individuals prone to diseases. It is therefore, not a surprise that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has as its number two goal, the need to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

“Zero Hunger” as it is smartly called, focuses on ending hunger and ensuring that food security is achieved through the strengthening of the agricultural sector of the member states. Also, the government of each state is expected to develop programmes and initiatives which are targeted at ensuring good nutrition and sustainable agriculture in their states.

Hunger is a global challenge, especially in the developing countries. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016. Almost all the hungry people, 780 million, live in developing countries, representing 12.9 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties and there are 11 million people who are undernourished in developed countries.

UNICEF reports that ‘Child nutrition in Nigeria has improved in recent years, but around 11 million children under the age of five are stunted. There are regional and social disparities, with particularly high levels of stunting in the north-east and north-west and among the poorest quintile. Stunting is what happens to a child’s brain and body when they don’t get the right kind of food or nutrients in their first 1,000 days of life. It is irreversible.’

Extreme hunger and malnutrition are factors which can affect the sustainable growth and development of any nation. A nation which has a high number of hungry citizens will face development problems because the productive level of the citizens will be reduced.

The Nigerian government, the United Nations system in Nigeria and other stakeholders are working together to achieve the targets under the SDG 2. For this initiative, global partners, former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and major stakeholders of SDGs had a deliberation in April 2016 on ways to achieve Zero Hunger in Nigeria and African continent by 2030. A committee was later set up at the end of the meeting to ensure that the deliberations are carried out. This led to the formation of the Zero Hunger Initiative.

In October 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria started the school feeding programme. This was done under the programme “National Home Grown School Feeding” programme which involves feeding of the 5.5million pupils in public primary schools in Nigeria. The programme is also designed to improve agriculture in Nigeria.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations also provided aid to farmers who have been displaced by bombings and killings in North East Nigeria. FAO provided the farmers with vegetables and tons of fertilizers to encourage vegetable farming which can provide the IDPs with good nutrients such as minerals and vitamins.

Similarly, the World Food Programmes (WFP) provides cash assistance in the form of money credited electronically to mobile phones. The spending helps to stimulate local markets, prevent and treat child malnutrition; children under the age of five receive a highly nutritious, peanut-based supplement, while pregnant and nursing women receive nutritional support. At the individual level, backyard farming/ subsistence farming should be encouraged. No peace of land around the house, however small, should be left fallow.

To achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030 all hands must be on the deck.

Written by Ms Olaide Olumide (An intern)

Security Council Press Statement on the attack against a UN monitoring team near the Nigeria-Cameroon border on 31 January 2017 ‎

01 February 2017 – The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack against a United Nations monitoring team, near the Nigeria-Cameroon border, on 31 January 2017, during which one UN independent contractor, three Nigerians nationals and one Cameroonian national were killed and others injured.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of victims, as well as to the Government of Nigeria and to the Government of Cameroon, and to the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission. They paid tribute to the UN employees who risk their lives.

The members of the Security Council called on the Governments of Nigeria and Cameroon to swiftly investigate these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.  The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.  They stressed that those responsible for these killings should be held accountable, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with all relevant authorities in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.  They reaffirmed the need for all States to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern about the security situation in the northern Cameroon-Nigerian border areas, as a result of Boko-Haram related violence, which adversely affects the work of the Commission.

The members of the Security Council stressed the importance that Cameroon and Nigeria take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of UN personnel and staff operating in their territories.

Ending Poverty in all its forms everywhere starts with you

It is no longer news that there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an offshoot of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended 31 December 2015.  It is also not news that the SDGs, otherwise known as the global goals, were adopted and signed by all the 193 member States of the United Nations in September 2015. The new thing is about how to contexualise the global goals within the local environment. The SDG 1: ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’, for instance, means so much to everyone, including Nigerians. Poverty is a socio-economic issue that knows no tribe or religion.  It is present in every part of the country.

According to the UNDP National Human Development Report 2016, the poverty rate in Nigeria is 62.6% of the population while the Human Development Index is 0.47. The World Bank’s Poverty and Equity data for 2009 record that Nigeria’s poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day is 53% (% of population). In fact, Nigeria is one of the strongest economies in Africa, yet with a large number of the population living below the poverty line. A UNDP Multi Dimensional Poverty Index Report states that as at 2010, 46% of Nigerians lived below the national poverty line (Only 28% in Urban areas, and near 70% in the rural).

This underscores the imperative of eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, which is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Of course, this is the first goal of the SDGs. Shortened as ‘No Poverty’, SDG 1 has seven associated targets which seek, among others, to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty, and implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.

To eradicate poverty is not a goal for the government alone. It is a goal which every individual should aspire to achieve. Get engaged today. Be productive. Turn waste to wealth, even in your own little space. Surely, poverty would be far from you. Ending Poverty in all its forms everywhere starts with you.

Defend the vulnerable, bring tormentors to justice  – UN Secretary General


UNIC Director, Ronald Kayanja addresses the audience

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the defence of the vulnerable while tormentors are brought to justice. “We must always defend the vulnerable and bring tormentors to justice”, he said in his message on the observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust held on Friday, 27 January 2017  across the world.

Presenting the message of the Secretary General at an educational briefing attended by 900 high school students and held at Sacred Heart Catholic College, Abeokuta Ogun State, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja, noted that ‘We can never remain silent or indifferent when human beings are suffering.’

UNIC National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun curates the Poster Exhibition

Mr Guterres said further that the world had a duty to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others. “It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis,” he explained further, “On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred, scapegoating and discrimination targeting the Jews, what we now call anti-Semitism.”

He called on everyone to honour the victims of the Holocaust by joining hands to build a future of dignity and equality for all.

The message of the Secretary General had preceded series of educational activities including screening of the film, “The Path To Nazi Genocide” and a Poster Exhibition titled, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”.

The students who expressed shock and dissatisfaction about the events that led to the Holocaust as detailed in the film, unanimously resolved never to be involved in such. Responding to a question on the lessons learnt from the film, scores of the students, one after the other, chronicled key lessons, amongst which are ‘We should not be cruel and wicked’, ‘We should regard fellow human beings as equal’, ‘We should not discriminate based on race or religion’, ‘We should love one another’, among others.

Curating the 16 posters on exhibition, the National Information Officer of UNIC, Mr Oluseyi Soremekun, spoke on how the Nazis used propaganda to manipulate the people at the time. Drawing from the posters, he explained to the students that propaganda ‘is a biased information designed to shape public opinion and behavior.’

Propaganda, he said further, ‘uses truths, half-truths, or lies; omits information selectively; plays on emotion; attacks opponents and targets desired audiences.’ This obviously informed a student who noted that her lesson learnt was to always think twice before believing or acting on any information picked in the various media. Mr Soremekun therefore, urged the students to be wary of information they come across on the social media.

Other speakers included Barrister (Mrs) Chinyere Agu of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs; Reverend Father Patrick Oke, the Administrator of Sacred Heart Catholic College, Abeokuta and the Principal of the school, Sister Cordelia Onyenagubo, SND.



Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on The Gambia

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Earlier today, the Secretary-General called Mr. Adama Barrow, the President of The Gambia, to discuss the latest developments in the country and to congratulate him on his inauguration.
The Secretary-General expressed deep concern about the refusal of outgoing President Yahya Jammeh to step aside and about the high outflow of Gambians into Senegal.
The Secretary-General told President Barrow of his full support for his determination, and ECOWAS’s historic decision, with the unanimous backing of the Security Council, to restore the rule of law in The Gambia so as to honour and respect the will of the Gambian people.
The Secretary-General conveyed the readiness of the United Nations system to support President Barrow and his government in their efforts to promote democracy and achieve sustainable development in The Gambia.
New York, 19 January 2017

“HERstory: A celebration of leading women in the United Nations”

María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN, at the opening of the exhibition “HERstory: A Celebration of Leading Women in the United Nations.” UN Photo/Mark Garten

A celebration of women’s achievements has been taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York this month, through photography. On 13 December 2016,  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General-designate António Guterres attended the launch by the Group of Friends for Gender Parity of an historic exhibit to illuminate some of the crucial contributions that women have made throughout the world body’s history – or, as they refer to it, ‘herstory.’

“Through today’s exhibition, the Group has managed to capture both the impact of women at the highest levels of the UN and an historic push for gender equality in employment and decision-making that goes far beyond these halls,” said Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, during the exhibition’s launch ceremony.

The exhibition: HERstory: A Celebration of Leading Women in the United Nations highlights a host of women’s “firsts” at the UN – such as the first woman to be appointed Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Frechette and the first woman to be appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for a peacekeeping operation, Margaret Anstee.

Here, we take a photo journey back in time to witness just a few of the critical roles women have taken on since the UN was but a fledgling institution.