November 27, 2022
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Using Arts as Metaphor to Draw Attention to Women's Health Needs in Nigeria – THISDAY Newspapers

  • October 28, 2021
  • 7 min read
Using Arts as Metaphor to Draw Attention to Women's Health Needs in Nigeria – THISDAY Newspapers

In prioritising health of women and children and ensuring gender in governance, which will set the right foundation for development and economic recovery of the country, an Art Gala presentation was recently hosted by a notable health advocacy group, the Nigeria Health Watch in Abuja.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo who was at the event writes on the key messages of the advocacy
Women suffer great pains during child delivery and are exposed to all kinds of health risks that are avoidable but for our weak health infrastructure. In addition, the female gender is not getting their fair share in politics and governance in Nigeria.
Therefore, creating public awareness on the health and social challenges facing womanhood in Nigeria was apparently the main the target of the Nigeria Health Watch Initiative. However, one may ask what has Arts got to do with health and social advocacy. Or of what business have artists to do with the politics of women participation in governance?
But the one-day event that brought notable personalities from the artistic world and the health sector tagged “Health-Meets-Art-Gala, Celebrating Womanhood’ turned out to be a very thought provoking one. The organisers, Nigeria Health Watch had a very crucial and fundamental message which they delivered to the public using the unique ambiance of the works of art to achieve their goal.
With an array of drawings, paintings and sculptural displays all depicting potentials and challenges of womanhood, it was clear that what was about to be unleashed was a strong message of hope for women .
Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in several low-and-middle-income countries is alarming, with about 34 per cent of global maternal deaths occurring in Nigeria and India alone. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the MMR of Nigeria is 814 (per 100,000 live births).
Therefore, one of the key objectives of the Nigeria Health Watch campaign was to draw people’s attention to the plight of womanhood, especially during pregnancy ordeals and in seeking for fair representation in governance. The event also tried to recognise women in all their diversity, showcasing their strengths and resilience and at the same time highlighting the neglect and unfair treatment most women are subjected to in the Nigerian society.
Speaking at the event, wife of the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Vivianne Ihekweazu said the reason for hosting the event was to create awareness on some of the challenges that women and the girl-child face in Nigeria today.
She said Nigeria’s quest for economic recovery will be difficult task without significant involvement of women in governance.
Ihekweazu urged Nigerians to support course of gender equity so as to secure the best for Nigerians. Ihekweazu also drew the attention of government to the need to implement policies that will help check all forms of abuses to women in the country.
Citing series of challenges facing women in Nigeria, especially during pregnancy and child birth, Ihekweazu said women deserve more recognition and appreciation because they are making a lot of sacrifices for the society.
“Women participation is crucial to economic recovery because women constitute half of the country’s population.
” Facilitating and promoting women participation is needed in core areas. If we are committed to empowering women, it had to be a strategic decision, with full participation of the private sector”.
Again, Ihekweazu said the reason for hosting the event titled, “Celebrating Womanhood Art Gala” was to create awareness and highlight some of the challenges that women and the girl-child face through a story telling event.
“Today, we are working with the female Association of artists in Nigeria and the Nigeria Gallery of Arts to create artistic work that really speak to issues and not just to celebrate women but to highlight their strength and challenges facing them in our society”.
She said that creative arts provide an opportunity to think about issues in a different way and helps us to imagine things.
Highlighting the need for women participation in the economy of the nation, Ihekweazu lamented that the voices of Nigerian women are not heard enough in government whereas the female gender constitutes about half of the country’s population.
For instance, Ihekweazu said that the present make-up the present National Assembly is about 90 percent men.
” We want a situation where every girl child is given an opportunity to express herself and we are using the creative arts to try to promote awareness on that.
According to her, the girl child is often neglected in the Nigerian society, she is deprived of going school and by so doing prevented from achieving her best in life.
Also Ihekweazu spoke about the poor representation of women in governance, giving instance of the current state of affairs at the country’s legislative chambers. She said that despite the women constituting about 50 per cent of the Nigerian population, less than 10 per cent are members of the Senate and House of Representatives, with men making up 90 per cent.
One of the key messages canvassed for by the Speakers at the impressive event was that more space should be given to Nigerian women to contribute their quota to governance.
They said that they want to see a Nigeria where every woman has equal opportunity to participate in the affairs of the country with no let or hindrance.
On her part, the Wife of the Kebbi State Governor, Dr. Shinkafi Bagudu emphasised the need to give more attention to the education of the girl-child.
“I am glad that they have chosen this time to celebrate womanhood and to combine the two to tell the story of the various challenges facing women in Nigeria.”
Dr. Bagudu said that the COVID19 pandemic has brought out all the weaknesses in the country health system so that they can be effectively addressed.
Major highlights of the evening event were speeches by gender advocates, inspection of art works, paintings, drama depicting the many travails the female gender in marriage and music renditions by a band.
Beyond the speeches and arguments put across during the event, the Nigeria Health Watch has also articulated key issues of concern that it wants government to begin to address. It is seeking the expansion of maternal death and perinatal surveillance and response (MPDSR) activities to communities.
This is because of the findings that community-owned process and families share account of the woman’s death. Therefore Nigeria Health Watch is recommending that the federal government, through federal Ministry of Health should work with state governments, local governments and ward councils to facilitate this community MPDSR process.
Another of concern is the health worker shortage in which it is being suggested that training of community health workers to provide basic maternity care will be an appropriate response.
According to Nigeria Health Watch, staff in the health sector are under considerable pressure and that the situation is affecting service quality.
The group believes that government needs to ensure adequate staff in community who are remunerated and to elevate the role of midwives as they support the continuum of care of pregnant women. The move will encourage midwives to serve in hard-to-reach areas through incentives, free housing.
Another way of improving the situation is to engage the help of traditional birth attendants (TBAs). According to Nigeria Health Watch, many women in Nigeria turn to TBAs, traditional healers, herbalists and “massagers” for support and services during pregnancy and childbirth due to several reasons. Therefore, they advocated that government should train these TBAs to recognise danger signs of maternal complications – refer women to health facilities.
Quote
Women participation is crucial to economic recovery because women constitute half of the country’s population. Facilitating and promoting women participation is needed in core areas. If we are committed to empowering women, it had to be a strategic decision, with full participation of the private sector

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