In march 2016, the Centre for 21st century issues on behalf of Educational Coperative society facilitated a two day workshop for the development of a 5 year Gender and social development Action plan for Itamapako Community in Ogun state of Nigeria. It was a participatory strategic planning event aimed at engaging community women to lead in planning and addressing community basic needs that are not yet attended to. The specific objective of the workshop is to promote communal processes, which can help expand the active presence of women in concerted processes of development in Itamapako area of Ogun State.
It was a highly interactive workshop that saw the women take ownership of the process. About 36 women drawn from the 6 Communities that make up Itamapako participated in the workshop. The women were passionate and eager to work in solidarity to move their community forward
The 5 important things to know in the process of developing a Local Gender and Social Development Action Plan were brought to the fore during the workshop and they are;
- Engaging women as a groups on their own terms to identify community needs helps to bring out the real issues that requires urgent intervention in the community-The women showed in-depth knowledge of their community, they profiled their community by giving detailed information of water sources, festivals , state of basic amenities, major economic activities, religion and other information. They identified their needs and ranked them in order of importance. Some of the key issues identified for urgent action are, revitalization of their abandoned market, access to portable water provision of public toilets in the community, provision of clean cook stoves and women’s human rights training for political empowerment.
- Women have informed opinion about community needs– The women gave articulate justification for all the issues identified. On the market issue they gave vivid account of how miscreants used to scare them away from the market by placing fetish sacrifices at the centre of the market. They know it was the handy work of herbalist in the community supporting some groups who wants the market taken away from their community to another place.
- Women have the capacity to self organize and negotiate for changes -It was interesting to see the Itamapako women provided practical solutions to all the challenges identified in the community. One of innovative strategy they came up with was to form a negotiating team made of women leaders to meet with the traditional rulers of the communities. They sighted instances of occasions where women leaders had taken up the challenge to meet with traditional rulers to speak with herbalist in the communities to stop preparing sacrifices that are placed at the market square. They were able to organize themselves to access seedlings to introduce plantain cultivation in the community.
- Women are ready to contribute to the development of their community-Each woman participating in the workshop made at least one commitment to towards the successful implementation of the action plan developed. Some women volunteered to identify areas where public toilet can be situate, some volunteered to raise awareness about availability of adult literacy classes, some decided to team up with the community Development forum to monitor the repairs going on in the community primary school, others joined the team that will clean up the market.
- Women are interested in learning more about women’s right and gender mainstreaming for political empowerment– In as much as the women expressed fears about the perception and resistance from men about their political aspiration they still voiced the need for a systemic women’s right training that will galvanize them to take appropriate step to attain political decision making positions in the community. According to them knowledge is power . They are of the opinion that their inadequate knowledge about women’s rights issues is a stumbling block to articulating practical strategies to participate meaningfully in the political space.
A key lesson learnt in the process is that its is of crucial importance to provide the space for women to be able to voice their needs and be drivers of change that will transform their community.