Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Visits Nigeria to strengthen partnerships with UN Women’s key partners in Nigeria
Date: Monday, October 21, 2019
UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér began her first official mission to Nigeria on 21 October. The Deputy Executive Director held discussions with Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs) on the roadmap to achieving gender inclusion & the importance of embedding gender perspectives into all aspects of implementation of the SDGs.
"Everything that happens in Nigeria to move the #2030Agenda on #SDGs & the Gender Equality Agenda forward is so important because as the largest country in Africa, the world looks to #Nigeria for hope and inspiration"
The Deputy Executive Director, UN Women Nigeria Country Rep Comfort Lamptey accompanied by UN Women Regional Director for West & Central Africa, Oulimata Sarr met with Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Amb. Zubairu Dada, to commend Nigeria’s leadership on the international stage and stress the need for the country to honor its global commitments to advance gender equality and women’s rights agenda, especially with the upcoming 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Nigeria. The DED also addressed the alarmingly low representation of women in decision making and the realization of legislative and constitutional reforms through partnerships with government.
"The upcoming 25th anniversary of the #BPfA next year provides a very important platform to showcase Nigeria's commitment to advancing gender equality"
The DED also had a meeting with United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon to discuss the overall political and development context in Nigeria and the UN System efforts to support the Government of Nigeria in realizing the SDGs and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Government of Nigeria; and implementation of the UN Reform.
Later that day, the DED met with the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to discuss girls’ education, the importance of legal reform, and the upcoming commemoration of the Beijing+25 agenda . UN Women's DED Åsa Regnér called for more support from the Nigerian Government in terms of investing more in girls' education and protecting young women from sexual violence in institutions of learning.
In the evening, the DED joined other women from the African Women Leader’s Network (AWLN) Nigerian Chapter, Beijing +25 Intergenerational Dialogue and female ambassadors representing the diplomatic community, including the Polish Ambassador to Nigeria H.E Joanna Tarnawska and British Deputy High Commissioner in Abuja, Gill Atkinson at a dinner hosted by UN Women Nigeria. The event was insightful and interactive, as women across generations shared lessons learned on women’s contributions to a more resilient and equal Nigerian society. Speaking to the women, the DED debunked the myth that women cannot work together and stressed the importance of women networks and women mentors.
“I think that most women would say that those who helped them were women“
Day two of the UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér’s mission to Nigeria started with an interactive meeting on gender-based violence in Nigeria with the Spotlight Initiative partners and European Union delegation. The Deputy Executive Director (DED), accompanied by UN Women Nigeria Country Representative Comfort Lamptey and UN Women Regional Director for West & Central Africa, Oulimata Sarr, joined the Head of Development Cooperation at the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Kurt Cornelis and Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Honorable Pauline K. Tallen to discuss existing opportunities to work together with UN Women in addressing gender-based violence, harmful and discriminatory cultural practices.
"The Spotlight Initiative is about building on existing structures and supporting activists and service providers working on the frontlines to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls"
The UN Women delegation led by the DED, Åsa Regnér, held a meeting with a cross-section of Women in Politics (WIP) to discuss the low participation and representation of women in politics, the outcome of last election held in in 2019 and the current situation and challenges faced by women, as well as the way forward in terms of more commitment from different stakeholders.
Later in the day, the DED and her delegation, met with young female entrepreneurs in the private sector to hear their success stories and address the challenges that women in the private sector face ranging from access to finance/access to market, access to actionable investment/funding information, lack of collateral, discriminatory regulations and gender bias. The delegation siezed the opportunity to reiterate UN Women’s work on supporting women-owned businesses and gender-responsive procurement; and to urge private sector partners to sign on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).
The DED also had a chance to interact with other young women in the technology industry who are changing the game and redefining how women envision a future career in the industry. Although the number of women represented in the technology sector in Nigeria is gradually rising, there is still work to do to close the gender gap. UN Women Nigeria Country Representative Comfort Lamptey and UN Women Regional Director for West & Central Africa, Oulimata Sarr emphasized the need to get more women in the industry and UN Women’s role in facilitating the process.
On Day 3 of her visit to Nigeria, the UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér and delegation joined UN Heads of Agency (HOAs) for a United Nations Country Team (UNCT) meeting. Discussions centered on the UN’s gender architecture in the context of roll-out of the UN Reform Agenda. The review of progress and opportunities for supporting the Government of Nigeria to meet its gender and development priorities was also part of the discussion.
The DED encouraged the UNCT to support and strengthen the inter-agency coordination mechanisms (Gender Theme Group-GTG) established to promote gender-equality in the work of the United Nations.
With the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ECOWAS Commission and UN Women, the UN Women delegation led by Åsa Regnér paid a courtesy visit to the ECOWAS Commission, where they were hosted by the Vice-President, Madam Finda Koroma and the Commissioner for Gender, Madam Siga Fatima Jagne. , The two parties discussed opportunities for operationalizing the MOU, drawing on regional gender priorities and their comparative strengths and advantages.
“We urge UN Women to support women’s political participation and women’s access to resources in the region, this is much needed"
Åsa Regnér, spoke on UN Women’s mandate and priorities, including the programmatic interventions across peace, security and humanitarian response. Women and girls are highly affected by conflict. They tend to play fewer active roles in formal conflict resolution and seldom directly participate in peacebuilding processes, even though their involvement is critical to solving some of Nigeria’s most controversial and complex conflicts.
In response, The ECOWAS Vice-President, Madam Finda K. stated that “We [the Commission] want to focus on women in mediation because prevention is less costly. We welcome UN Women’s support and engagement on WPS”
The DED and delegation, held interactive discussions with interactive discussions with the bright, young girls of Sexual Offences Awareness & Victims Rehabilitation (SOAR) Initiative, a safe space dedicated to providing prevention and survivor support solutions to the menace of child sexual abuse at Apo resettlement, in Federal Capital Territory Abuja. The center is The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women grant recipient, supported by UN Women.
“It is the grown-up world which teaches boys and girls negative attitudes that promotes gender-based violence. UN Women is strongly committed to supporting initiatives that promote safe spaces for our girls. You have thought us a lot with your stories, I feel honored to be here”, Åsa Regnér stated.
Oulimata Sarr, UN Women’s Regional Director for West & Central Africa, also stated that “We [UN Women] need to make sure you are empowered, because the future belongs to you”.
Later during the day, the DED and delegation paid a courtesy vist to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan to address the issue of low participation and representation of women, particularly the number of women elected to National and State Assemblies in Nigeria. In recent times, the country has seen a continued downward trend, as characterized by the results of the last two election cycles. Consequently, only 4% of women were elected into the federal parliament in 2019, compared to 5.6% in 2015 while only 3.8% of women were elected into the State Houses of Assembly in 2019, compared to 5.8% in 2015. The percentage of women in ministerial positions under the present government is 16.2%. “Legislative reforms is critical for more inclusive governance and decision-making”, stated UN Women Nigeria Country Representative, Comfort Lamptey.
“How can UN Women’s support the process of quotas for women’s political participation in Nigeria?”, asked UN Women DED.
In response, Dr. Ahmed Lawan expressed that “The Senate is prepared to support with anything that would widen the space for women’s participation in Nigeria. To perform optimally, we need representation of men and women”
The delegation wrapped up the day with an insightful discussion with with civil society partners on areas of partnerships to advance gender equality and women’s rights in Nigeria. The DED commended the efforts of the CSOs and the CSAG and expressed UN Women’s appreciation of the progress being made in promoting women’s political participation and protection of women from SGBV. More work needs to be done in integrating young women, and male champions in the efforts to advocate for women’s rights, especially with next year’s commemoration of Beijing+25.
The UN Women Deputy Executive Director’s Åsa Regnér joined in the celebrations to mark UN Day (24 October), the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter which ratifies the founding document by majority of its signatories. The UN system in Nigeria marked the day with two key activities – the UN Day celebration and Official Re-opening of UN House in Abuja, now fully rehabilitated and refurbished following the bomb attack in 2011. During her remarks, the DED reiterated the UN Women’s commitment to work with partners to leave no one behind.
The DED and delegation paid a courtesy visit to Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, to discuss development and humanitarian context in the North East and partnership in facilitating protection through the empowerment of women & girls in Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs).
“Empowerment is key. It is only when women are empowered that they can make informed decisions. We will work closely with UN Women so that we can support Nigerian women”
On the final day of her visit to Nigeria, Åsa Regnér, UN Women Deputy Executive Director and delegation travelled to Maiduguri, Borno State, where she paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Governor of Borno State, Hon. Usman Khadafu and met with women and girls affected by the insurgency, as well as other key stakeholders. The main aim of the meeting was to discuss partnership and plans to empower women & girls affected by the insurgency in the state.
"Women need to be empowered to rebuild their communities. We are ready to partner with UN Women”
"It is very important for me to understand the reality on the ground and to show that we are here to support you in empowering women and girls"
The DED and delegation conducted a field visit to the IDP community to seefirst- hand the initiatives supported by UN Women and partners to empower and build resilience of women in the North East. The DED met with female beneficiaries of the 'Protection, Empowerment and Resilience Building of Women in North East Nigeria' (PERD) project, an initiative launched by UN Women with support from The Federal Government of Nigeria and with funding support from the Government of Japan to facilitate protection through empowerment of women and girls in Borno and Yobe States who have been affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
"I feel very honoured to meet you and thank you for courageously sharing your stories with me"
In collaboration with Borno State Government, the UN Women delegation led by the DED, Åsa Regnér, commissioned a rice milling machine in Jere Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State for women and girls affected by the insurgency who had been trained on improved parboiling technology (IPT).
“Thank you for having confidence in UN Women and the United Nations”