As Michelle Bachelet Visits Nigeria:A Partnership To Push Gender Advocacy Communications

By Jim Pressman, Freelance Gender Editor, Abuja

It’s a move even ahead of the visit this week by First Chilean female Defence Minister and later President, daughter of a Chilean Air force General, Alberto Bachelet and archeologist Angela Jeria, Michelle Bachelet United Nations Under-Secretary-General who is now Executive Director UN Women, a UN Agency with an advisory-status to the UN General Assembly and which is fully accredited to Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWA&SD) has been working in  partnership with a Consulting firm in Gender and Communications and UN Women to set the Agenda for the new partnership between Nigeria and UN Women under the new leadership, to boost, promote, enhance and protect Women’s Rights, which they remind us, “are also Human Rights.”

During this, her first official trip to West Africa: Senegal, Mali and Nigeria, multilingual Madam Bachelet [speaks Spanish and English and has a command of German French and Portuguese!], who led students’ political affairs during the United Popular (Popular Unity) government of Salvador Allende, in which she participated in the Socialist Youth Movement will, according to a January 4, 2013 post on the Internet, “highlight the urgent need for increasing women’s participation as the foundation for nation-building and economic progress.”

UN Women’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Grace Ongile, a Kenyan, said she was happy to welcome media practitioner-participants and others, especially from outside Abuja to the one-day Interactive Session/Workshop, facilitated by the FMWA&SD under the leadership of Mrs. Zainab Maina MFR, who Ogile said has assiduously worked for the visit through the past one year.

Ogile noted that Nigeria is important in Africa and has an influential role to play in development matters in the region, adding that she was therefore privileged to be heading the Agency in the ECOWAS sub-region and to be stationed in Nigeria. Describing Mass Media as key players, she said journalists were not to be ignored, as partners in progress.

The Consultants, Bronz and Onyx International Limited, whose Executive Director, chronic Health, Gender and Development reporter Moji Makanjuola [who recently retired from the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA], said the session was aimed not meant to teach reporters how to do their jobs, but to help them understand and empathize with gender and development issues, such that they can better the quality of their reportage through deeper understanding and improved ability to showcase Gender Advocacy as Change Agents, which according to him is what development communicators all are and should proclaim!

Elated, the Minister of Women Affairs recalled how Prof. Joy Ogwu, Nigeria’s former Permanent Representatives at the United Nations was pioneer President of UN Women and first to Chair its Board, thus occupying on behalf of Nigeria a position at the UN which is the bastion of pushers for Gender Equality and Equity.

She was also happy to note that Nigeria is currently blessed with a gender-sensitive and women-friendly President Goodluck Jonathan, who shares a passion for women empowerment on all fronts with his soul-mate and wife Lady Patience Jonathan. Together, she said, they have constantly put the plight and future of the Nigerian woman on the front-burner of national discourse at every opportunity, home and abroad.

Full of  praise for and gratitude to Nigerian Media despite what she described as their occasionally mischievous antics, Mrs. Maina before declaring open the Workshop, recalled how even when she started her Rights Advocacy under the military jackboot when it was dangerous, the Media supported her openly through their reports and tacitly by offering her technical advice covertly on how to proceed. On behalf of the Ministry and herself therefore, she thanked the media generally even as she gave NTA and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) for special mention for their consistency.