One outstanding issue that has continued to dominate public discourse not only in Nigeria but the world over, particularly among the academia, law makers, policy formulators and implementers is gender sensitivity/equality and child development. Whereas, gender sensitivity gauges the response of stakeholders to the plight of women, gender quality advocates the need to engage more women in productive ventures to make them self-sustainable and reliant. Child development focuses on projects and programmes related to the realization of the rights of children to survival, proper development and protection as well as participation in issues concerning them. The child in this case refers to a person between ages zero to eighteen. As a young but fast growing citadel of learning, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) has in line with her vision and mission decided to play a leading role towards research and education on gender mainstreaming and child related areas through the establishment of Centre for Gender and Child Development. The need for the establishment of such Centre is reinforced by the (continuous) unabated abuse of women by the society dominated by men and prevalence of child labour as well as increasing cases of vulnerable children in Nigeria.
Secondly, typical African and Nigerian societies place much premium on the training and development of the male-child, while the girl-child is merely tolerated. This situation had placed the girl child at the receiving end of male chauvinism, thus making her feel inferior within the social milieu expressed in the victim/victimization syndrome as in:
Consequently, the view point of women and their needs are not fully taken into consideration when taking key policy decisions.
In addition, young girls are forced into early marriage; virtually by the men as house hold property leading to increasing cases of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) in Nigeria. They are pawns for masculine and gender violence, discriminatory policies and sex objects for the pleasure of the men. Hence, prostitution continues to thrive because the women have been reduced to the level of believing that her only valuable asset is her body.
Available statistics reveal that women comprise half of the world’s population and yet they are seldom consulted on issues that affect them. In many countries especially African traditional societies, women are excluded from leadership and decision-making processes which determine development activities intended to benefit all citizens. Of the world’s one billion poorest people, three-fifths are women and girls. Of about eight hundred and seventy-six million adults in the world who cannot read, two-thirds are women. Despite these negative biases against women in the society, no much effort is being made to reverse the tide. However, the negative stereotype is gradually been dismantled as more women are coming on stream especially in this administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. More so, in keeping with the 35% affirmative action of the present administration, MOUAU has decided to complement government efforts (in this regard) by the establishment of the Centre that will be charged with the responsibility of research and training on gender/child related matters.
The principle for this campaign for gender mainstreaming and empowerment is predicated on the saying that: “Train a man you train a person, but train a woman, you’ve trained a community”. Hence, the need for a concerted approach to unlock the barrier inhibiting the potentials of women in the family and society development. The Centre in achieving this desired objective will move to promote adequate systems and mechanisms to ensure equal distribution of resources so that government expenditures should benefit men, women and children (and not mostly men). This is noble, if sustainable poverty alleviation is to be achieved in Nigeria.
The vision of the Centre is to promote gender mainstreaming and child sustainable development within the University, its catchment communities and Nigeria at large and to be a vehicle for attainment of both National and United Nation Action plan for gender mainstreaming and Child development.
The mission of the Centre is to promote equal participation of women, men and youths as well as child sustainable development at all social, economic and educational levels by increasing public awareness and promoting advocacy with policy makers.
The political, economic and social strength of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike include:
3. OPPORTUNITIES (ASSETS)
The Centre for Gender and Child Development is the University’s (MOUAU)-based gender advocacy and sustainable development initiative for women Empowerment and Child Development. It is established by the University Senate under the leadership of the amiable and dynamic Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hilary OdoEdeoga. The Centre was born out of the strong desire to introduce a paradigm shift in planning and execution of programmes aimed at ensuring effective gender integration of equal women participation in decision making and to chart a new course of sustainable Child Development in Nigeria.The over-riding policy thrust of the Centre is to encourage gender mainstreaming (equal women participation) in development issues in Nigeria as well as to correct the socio-economic and cultural based structural inequality among men, women and youth.
The foundation of the new strategy would be based on participatory approach that will ensure the involvement and participation of all stakeholders in the catchment communities and beyond, with the view of proper gender mainstreaming (equal women participation) in policy formulation and implementation. This will ensure devolution and decentralization of responsibilities between the Centre and its stakeholders which in-turn will encourage sustainable development.The main objective therefore, is to create an enabling environment that will foster household economy, reduce HIV/AIDs pandemic, promote equal educational opportunities for both sex, reduce child mortality and thus, improve livelihood.
The reporting line and flow of communication will be as structurally presented above:
There should be a Board for the Centre, with the Vice-Chancellor as Chairman and the Registrar, Bursar, Director of the Centre and three other members appointed by the Vice-Chancellor under the ratification of the University Senate. The Board shall be involved in policy-making, budget preparation, staff recruitment and the general welfare of staff of the Centre.
The Chairman of the Board shall be the Vice-Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.He will guide the Board to take strategic decisions on related issues affecting the organization.
2. Registrar and Bursar:
For effective and efficient administration of the Centre, the Registrar and Bursar of the University shall be permanent members of the Board.The two statutory officers shall guide the board to ensure that all policies are in conformity with the objectives of the organization.
3. Director of the Centre:
The implementation of decisions made by the Board willbe carried out by the Director of the Centre (that is the First Lady of the University).Her responsibility shall among other things, include:Resource allocation, Project implementation, and so on and give a lay out in policy guidelines.The Director shall be responsible for effective and efficient co-ordination of projects and programmes being carried out by the Centre.She shall delegate duties to the Deputy Director.Instruction flows from the Board through the Director of the Centre, to the subordinate officers.By implication, all matters for the attention of the Board must be routed through the Director of the Centre.
4. The Deputy Director
The Deputy Director shall monitor all projects of the Centre to ensure compliance to laid down procedures and policy framework.The Deputy Director shall be directly responsible to the Director of the Centre.He/She shall in synergic manner, work with the Administrative staff and management team to achieve the set goals.
5. Administrative Staff/Management Team:
The general administration and management of the staff and material resources resides in the hands of the Administrative Staff and Management Team.They play such roles as: implementation of Centre’s programmes; staff training and development.They shall also undertake resource acquisition and allocation.Communication between the Administrative Staff and Management Team is routed through the Deputy Director to the Director of the Centre.However, the Director of the Centre can communicate directly with them.
The broad scope of operation of the Centre in the long run is the entire nation Nigeria. The Centre strives towards the eradication of gender restrictions against the Nigerian women, child abuses and hostilities. The Centre shall on the short run focus its efforts on the South-South and South-East Zones of the country. The States within this geographical consideration include: Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Edo States. These Zones which constitute the catchment area of the University are known for their high population density, massive land and economic potentials.
The Community Service Units comprise those, which render services for the welfare of the University Community.