Changing the Narrative: Liberating Communities from Socio-Cultural Norms that Promote Gender-Based Violence.

In Ikpamodo community in Igbo Eze north, women were being flogged naked at the market square for insulting their husbands as Igwe council was aware of this practice, however, when the WVL-N project came to WEPBI through ActionAid Nigeria, this practice changed as women are now part of the Igwe cabinet in the community and are now empowered to advocate for their rights and speak up against ill practices in their community. 


These are the words of Joy Ijeoma Oguadimma, Executive Director, Women Empowerment, Education and Peace Building Initiative (WEPBI) one of ActionAid Nigeria’s partners on the Women’s Voice and Leadership Nigeria Project (WVL) funded by Global Affairs Canada. 


A new daylight

As against the traditions of the people of Enugu state, it is taboo for a woman to hold any electoral position in the Igwe cabinet council, let alone contest for any political position at state level. For many decades, men in Nri, Igogolo, and Ndeabor local government areas have been the custodian of this tradition in the communities, with no opportunity for women to make their impact. Before the implementation of the Women’s Voice and Leadership Nigeria Project in Enugu state, Women were not allowed to be a part of the council or even speak during a council meeting. But against all odds, 14 women are now seated as members of the Igwe cabinet council to date.


As part of her work to protect women and girls from violence and create opportunities for economic independence and decision-making: ActionAid Nigeria through the WVL-N project, built the capacity of the Women Empowerment, Education and Peace Building Initiative (WEPBI), a partner of the project in Enugu State who lacked expertise in different areas of implementation. 


“Before the Partnership Appraisal Monitoring Assessment (PAM), we have been working so hard in the communities and rural areas, the passion was much but, we were working without proper documentation. We have been sub-granted several times in the past, but there were no Memoranda of Understanding to prove the partnership; all we knew was to go into the field, work, and deliver without proper documentation. During the PAM exercise, we realized that NGO work is a different ball game, we could not provide most of the policies they requested from us, and at some point, I started crying and just had to admit to my inexperience in terms of systems and structures. But, after the assessment, we started working on developing the policies and bridging the gaps found. Now I am confident that we can face any donor that comes for assessment. My appreciation goes out to ActionAid and GAC for supporting our organization” … Joy speaks in gratitude.


With the use of different participatory tools and continuous training in the areas of programs, activities/event documentation, organizations policy, communications, finance, staffing, monitoring and evaluation, and organization/Board structure AAN was able to build the capacity of the organization.

“With the training from AAN, we can now develop a monthly newsletter and have created a media platform, where stories and news about women and girls in Enugu state are shared,” Joy said. 


Impact at the community level

In conjunction with constant advocacy and training carried out by WEPBI, traditional leaders and community members are now reformed and armed with the knowledge and the importance of gender equality and equity, standing up as mouthpieces to educate other communities and leaders about the need to include women in their political chambers. 


“Since I included women in my cabinet, decision making has been smooth and relevant contribution and suggestions made by these women. With them as part of my cabinet, we have grown socially and economically as activities that promote health and the environment introduced by these women” ……. Igwe Bennett Eze


Most of these women who occupy various positions at community, local and national levels have recorded tremendous successes still in power, making contributions and laws favorable to women and girls and creating awareness for more women to be empowered and given a voice. Some of the changes made are; the formation of a women’s task force at the community level, the circumcision of women abolished, the development of laws that stop the correction or subjecting of widows to torture and humiliation, and Increased women’s participation in politics amongst others.


To create opportunities for more women and girls, WEPBI started a Women Leadership Academy (WLA), where women and girls train to advocate for their rights, and their capacity built to vie for leadership positions at the local and National levels. Successes from this academy are the election of 11 women councilors in Enugu state, the advent of the first female SUG president in Enugu state, and the first female president in computer science at IMT, all members of the women Leadership Academy (WLA). These successes have broken the barriers on women and young girls and have prompted many to return to school. Through the WVL-N project, women and girls now hold political and leadership positions both at the community level and at school, their capacity built to advocate for their rights and speak up against practices and laws that do not promote women’s equality and equity. 


Through Action Aid Nigeria’s intervention, over 20 women are now members of a cooperative organized by WEPBI that serves as a loan scheme to support women’s businesses and their means of livelihood. Women who were the first to be part of this cooperative were given 10k each to start up a new business and have now returned the money as their business has grown and supported other women.


Through the Women’s Voice and Leadership Nigeria project, funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), WEPBI has grown to become a go-to organization on issues around women and girls in leadership positions, and has gained National and International recognition from donors with experience shared in training and events as well as ill/diabolic practices and laws against women changed.