Spotlight On Local Woman Championing Women’s Rights In Her Community
The road to Ugbedomegwu community is long and rough. This community in Igalamela Local Government of Kogi State is a predominant rural farming area. The community has a long farming tradition; it also has unique age-long farming practices which forbade women from the use of farm tool such as a hoe. The use of hoe farming tool is a taboo for women farmers in the community.
Farming activities was tough for women. Awa Salami describes farming experience for women without gender friendly tools as a harrowing task: “we tiled and weed our farmland with our fingers” said Awa. The implication of the practice was a drawback in participation of women in farming, many women were not participating in farming; they were mostly assisting their male partners in the farm.
No one challenged the culture, not even the women who bore the brunt of the archaic practice. They lived so for long, tiling their farmland with anything but the most affordable gender friendly tool - hoe.
Awa and a group of brave women farmers in the community were invited by ActionAid Nigeria to participate in a training in Abuja. For the first time, they realised the need to challenge the culture keeping them from thriving in their Agri-business. At the end of the meeting, the women summoned the courage to challenge the culture. They approached the community leadership and requested a reversal of the age-long taboo. Shocked at their audacious request the community head succumbed to their argument; after some sort of ritual activities, he lifted the age-long ban on the use of hoe farming tool among women.
It was to Awa and her women farmer group a kind of liberation. “The training we attended gave us the courage to demand the change, we are now very vocal, our voices are no longer silenced in the community, our men respect us better than before” said Awa.
That courage to continuously advocate for their rights has earned the women farmers improved seedlings from government as well as participation in governments’ intervention programmes such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN credit facilities for smallholder women farmers. “We constantly engage the local government, we take our request to them, even if they don’t attend to it, we never give up, we keep going” she quips.