SSDO Initiative builds knowledge, empowerment capacity of rural women in South-East states

The South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) through its Sister Guardian Initiative (SGI) has built the knowledge and empowerment capacity of rural women in 19 communities within Anambra and Enugu States.

The 19 rural communities included: Omor and Igbakwu communities in Anambra State: and Adani, Awha-Imezi, Awha-Ndiagu, Eke, Ihenyi, Orokoro, Afa-Amofia, Afa-Amozalla, Ezi-Nze, Ibute-Nze, Akpakwume, Obinagu-Nike, Umuode, Onuogba-Nike, Aduachi, Amankpunato and Nkpokolo communities in Enugu State.

Mrs Blessing Uchendu, Gender and Protection Lead of SGI, disclosed to newsmen in Enugu on Friday that 3,000 rural women had benefitted from knowledge (heritance law) and empowerment (free agricultural training, farm inputs and improved seedlings) initiatives in these communities.

Uchendu that through the years, the initiative had built the capacity of law enforcement and health officials to respond to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases according to international best practices; and supported traditional leaders to institutionalize by-laws against GBV.


According to her, the Sister Guardian Initiative is playing its part in changing the narrative of disinheritance practices, economic exclusion and clear cut GBV treatment affecting rural women in South-East; even as we take it one community at a time.


She said that disinheritance of landed properties is the most prevalent forms of GBV against women, especially widows, adding that the inability of women to access these landed properties due to cultural norms led to their abuse, trauma and impoverishment.


Uchendu noted that women in rural areas in South-East, who comprise over 67 per cent of the region’s labour for subsistence and commercial agriculture, depend on indigenous lands to sustain their livelihood, despite owning only about 10 per cent of the land.


This, she said, showed a huge gender imbalance and disparity in land ownership in the South-East.


She said: “Understanding how these factors affect women in rural communities, SSDO is raising awareness about women’s rights to own landed properties and helping them seek redress on land grabbing through the Sister Guardian Initiative in communities across the South-East.


“The SGI is SSDO’s flagship on reducing violence against women at the community level. The SGI institutes community-based women groups – SGI Chapters -, to advocate against GBV and provide immediate survivor-centered support to survivors through counseling, temporary shelters and referrals”.


In a related development, Uchendu said that the SGI Chapter in Ihenyi community within Isi-Uzo LGA of Enugu State, recently helped a widow, Mrs Alice Ogbuebor, reclaim her land after much tussle with her husband’s brother.


She said that the land tussle started over 30 years ago when Alice’s husband passed on and her kids (both male and female) were still little.


“Her husband’s brother laid claim over the piece of land as the rightful owner as opposed to the norm, which was supposed to be Alice’s kids.


“This struggle continued, and the uncle resurfaced three years ago. But by this time, Alice was aware of the existence of the SGI chapter in Ihenyi community. She reported the case, and the group mediated. Only for the uncle to return this year and dispose them off the land.


“The case was reported to me (Uchendu) that Alice’s husband’s brother was back making an ownership claim of the parcel of land.


“The SGI intervened again but, this time, swiftly moved the case to the Igwe’s cabinet for further adjudication. Members of the Igwe’s cabinet then divided the land equally among both parties, but he still went back on against the cabinet’s decision and took the whole land for himself.”


Uchendu noted that after many persuasions, the case was charged to the court, adding:“On the first hearing, Alice’s husband’s brother didn’t show up, and the case was adjourned. On the second hearing, he still didn’t show up, and the court dismissed the case.”


She noted that Alice and her family had resumed farming activities in the land to guarantee their livelihood courtesy of the SGI intervention.


“Many women still suffer from discriminatory norms, ignorance of their rights, as well as from power imbalances in the community.


‘SSDO through its SGI is ever committed to reducing gender imbalances and power disparities as it concerns land tenure and ownership,” she said.

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