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Q+A with Dr Chris Ugwu, Co-Ordinator of MenEngage Nigeria

Nigeria is the latest and newest country to start a MenEngage network in Africa. Established by the Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP Nigeria), the network joined the Alliance in July 2018. In our effort to introduce the network to our partners and friends, we asked Dr Chris Ugwu, Executive Director of SIRP Nigeria and Co-Ordinator of MenEngage Nigeria five questions about the network. We hope the answers will provide you some insight into the newest member of our family.

How did the Society for the Improvement of Rural People learn about MenEngage Africa Alliance and what was your motivation to be a member of the Alliance?

We found out about the MenEngage Africa Alliance through surfing the web, and because Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP) is working with men and boys to advocate on issues of gender equality, ending the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage as well as reproductive health rights, etc, these agree with the Alliance’s objectives. Because of this we thought that being a member of Men Engage Africa, along with other like minded organisations in Nigeria, would be the best thing to do, hence we sought to establish Men Engage Nigeria. Besides, being a member of a regional Alliance like Men Engage Africa would give us a national and regional visibility and a platform to advocate for the end of all forms of harmful traditional practices against women and the girl child, like FGM and child marriage.

What is the background of your organisation?

SIRP was formed in1988, but was officially registered as an NGO in 1999. Our programmes and activities are all geared towards working with local communities to enhance their ability to make demands for rights and services that affects people’s sustainable development, especially those under SDG 3 (which focuses on good health and well-being); SDG 4 (which focuses on quality education); and SDG 5 (which focuses on gender equality).

What challenges have you encountered since joining MenEngage Africa Alliance and how are you handling them?

Nigeria, just like other countries of Africa, is essentially a patriarchal society in that men and boys are valued and preferred over females. In other words, patriarchy is one issue that poses serious challenges to our advocacy programmes to end such practices as FGM and child marriage. However, we are making good in-roads in the communities where we are making interventions, which include Awgu, Akwuke, Mpu, and Nenwe, which are all based in Enugu State and highly value tradition and religion – factors that we constantly have to challenge to change perceptions. Another significant development in our efforts to end harmful traditional practices against the girl child is the involvement of men and boys in a terrain that has been exclusive to women and women’s rights organisations. There is a growing realisation that they alone cannot end gender equality challenges, hence, the need for organisations such as ours to partner with women’s organisations, under the Men Engage Nigeria umbrella, to introduce transformative norms and practices as a veritable antidote measure to practices and inequalities that harm girls and women in the country.

What have been your network’s highlights, so far?

Our highlights include, but are not limited to the following:

  • We have carried out seven Community Outreach programmes since our admission into Men Engage Africa Alliance last October 2018, targeting young girls who have dropped out of school because of lack of sanitary pads for use during their monthly menstrual periods.
  • We’ve not only provided 160 young girls with sanitary pads, but we have also taught them how to prepare the pads. Meanwhile, 20 drop-outs have resumed their schooling.
  • We have been on drive to increase our membership to ensure a good mix of men and women-led organisations. By November 2019, we had nine member organisations. Now we have grown to 14.
  • Our National Co-Ordinator, Dr Chris Ugwu, attended the Annual General Meeting of Men Engage Africa Alliance, which was held from 11-14 February 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. He took part in the election of the new Steering Committee members of MEA Alliance.
  • MenEngage Nigeria now have a Twitter handle for ease of communication. Our twitter handle is @MenNigeria. Please follow and engage us on the platform.

What are your plans for this year, 2019?

We are planning to have the formal inauguration of MenEngage Nigeria, which we hope will take place in May. We also hope that by June we will have developed our National Strategic Plan for the next four years, 2019-2023. We also plan to conduct key advocacy visits to government functionaries (Ministers of Gender Affairs, Health, Justice and Education) and international NGOs that work in Nigeria with a view to forming new and strengthening existing relations and partnership with them to intensify the work that we do.

Chris Ugwu

25 March 2019
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