Women in Agriculture Advocate for Enhanced National Policies

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The Nigerian Association of Women in Agriculture, NAWIA, has convened a body of Civil Society Organisations to lead advocacy on national policies at national and sub national levels on the platform of National Policy Advocacy Network, NPAN.

Addressing the gathering weekend at the two days event, the National President and Programs Coordinator of NAWIA, Mrs. Ngizan Chahul stated that the invited organizations were selected based on their long standing records and reputation as well as achievements in the area of Policy and Legislative Advocacy at the National and Sub-National Levels.

Mrs. Chahul observed that the gathering became necessary “because as much as the evidence of our works are everywhere, the desire to continue carrying out our works of rights and policy advocacy has come under huge threats, owing to the fact that the physical and contextual landscape within which we carry out these works has continued to become more and more unfriendly.

‘Civil society has come under attack from those who have marked these advocates as enemies. Organizations are being targeted, and individuals are being targeted. A couple of times, we have been turned away from the gates of agencies, denied entry into premises, and are kept waiting at office lounges for days, all engineered by those who do not want to be accountable and responsive to society.

“Over the past, several bills proposed at the National Assembly for the purpose of shrinking civic space in Nigeria, abound. The Controversial NGOs regulations bill which sought to regulate the activities of civil societies thereby giving the government a hold on civil societies, that was introduced in the House of Representatives in June 2016, but vehemently fought against by civil societies resurfaced in 2019.

“The social media bill among other desperate moves made by those from whom the effective administration and governance of Nigeria is being demanded has continued to suck air out of the civic space.

“The enactment and promotion of harsh policies and the stifling of participation, amongst many other actions aimed at fighting civil societies, have posed enormous challenges to the contribution of civil societies to the development of the country, thereby repressing the civic space.

“Unfortunately, NGOs such as ours, who simply advocate for policies and legislations seeking the wellbeing of farmers, rural market women, the girl child, and other similar groups have been caught in the crossfire. We have been stood up at offices, turned back at gates of MDAs, refused entry into Legislative houses, and denied access to gatherings of decision-makers. They have put on deaf ears and developed a thick skin to the advocacy calls by concerned groups.

“We believe that if we shout (combine our voices with others), we will be heard from the inside. We also believe that; like the biblical Walls of Jericho, if we unite our voices to produce very high octave vibrations, we will break down the walls.

“It is important for citizens to be given the right structures to enable civil organisation and participation in the running and administration of policy in the country. Participation is key, especially for impact and policymakers, but the shrinking civic space has affected the involvement of key players, especially women.
“The decision to reach out to other organizations and share the idea of creating an advocacy network strictly for policy came as a result of challenges we encountered with gaining access to other important/key places for policy influencing. Some organizations are growing while others have grown; therefore, the impact of the shrinking advocacy space varies from one to the other. As such, it is only logical to create alliances and build networks that one or all members can collectively rely on in other to achieve effective and result-oriented policy Advocacy. We believe that many voices are more impactful than one.”

Mrs. Chahul said she believed that the gathering would brainstorm on the idea for which it was gathered, “and come up with our network which will serve the purpose of breaking down the walls of Jericho which are causing limitations to not only the Civic spaces but also, in specific terms; the Policy Advocacy Spaces within which we operate.”

Invited to the maiden meeting were the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN), Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC).

Others were the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Environmental Programme (WEP), Society for Women Development and Empowerment in Nigeria (SWODEN) and the Transition monitoring group (TMG).

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