REPORT ON THE WEB CONFERENCE ON “FAMILIES IN DEVELOPMENT: BEIJING +25 AND THE COVID-19” IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 2020 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILIES ORGANISED BY ZION CARE LIFE AND FAMILY IMPACT FOUNDATION (ZIONCLIFF) AND WOMEN RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION CENTRE (WORDOC), UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN, NIGERIA.
The COVID-19 era has created several topics of discussions in different areas of life, an important aspect of which is the family. Before this period, there were different issues revolving around families, and the COVID-19, and all its effects, is an addition to the number of issues that families have been going through. The sudden lockdown imposed by different governments have created a number of problems in different families around the world. Some of these problems are similar, while the others vary from family to family. What could be assumed to be the major positive effect of the lockdown on families is that it has created an atmosphere for family bonding, as the parents and children are all made to ‘stay at home’ and relate with each other. However, the negative sides of the lockdown have overshadowed the positive side, and this has been a major problem. This era has also seen lots of individuals, organisations and NGOs donate palliatives to support families and all those struggling during the pandemic.
Speaking at the web conference which held on 15th May, 2020, were Dr. Sharon Omotoso, the Coordinator, Women’s Research and Documentation Centre, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, and Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje, the CEO/National Coordinator, Afrihealth Optonet Association. The speakers made particular reference to social policies in Nigeria and how its weaknesses and inadequacies have been brought to fore by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on the issues that affects families in COVID-19 era, Dr. Sharon Omotoso made the following points:
The following questions opened her presentation:
The notion of parenting continues to change in the light of emerging concepts and issues.
-Are orphanages the same as motherless babies’ homes?
-Are single parents’ homes broken homes?
-Can women be called bread winners or bread winning is gender/role specific?
-What about children bread winners?
-Is it only those whose fathers have died that are fatherless? What about those abandoned by their fathers
-what about orphans with living parents, Baby Mamas, father figures e.t.c.
She proceeded to discuss how COVID 19 has affected us within the assessment of the 12 key issues in the Beijing Conference: Women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision-making, institutional mechanism for the advancement of women, Human rights of women, women and the media women and the environment and the girl child.
Dr. Sharon noted that
- Families are strained because of the pandemic and lockdown. For families where the children and parents are stuck at home, the current situation warrants that the parents, especially mothers, need to take care of the children’s physical, psychological and academic needs, and as such, they need to act as the class teacher, cook, home keeper, lesson teacher and pastor or imam. This means that alot of pressure is placed on the woman. Also, the fathers are under intense pressure to provide more than enough for the family.
- With an absence of social security, there cannot be social policies. There are no adequate demographics that give adequate data on the country, as regards the exact number of the poor, the displaced and the most vulnerable people, and there is no monitoring framework for migration, and inter-state movement. She also added that an absence of framework for policies means that the social policies cannot work. Therefore, families and individuals that are most in need of help cannot be identified.
- Refugees and internally displaced people: This period also brings to fore some of the issues that has since been in existence for the IDPs, such as Abuse, lack of social amenities, lack of health care, amongst others.
- Gender based violence: Reports of cases on gender based violence has been on the increase since the beginning of the lockdown caused by COVID-19.
Other issues highlighted, with no particular reference to the family were:
- Denial of the reality of the pandemic by ignorant masses.
- Poor communication between the government and the people.
- Crisis between health workers and the government on issues such as inadequate provision of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), inadequate funding, etc., which has affected health services.
- Lack of empathy for the masses from the part of the policy makers.
- Politicization of the pandemic to attract foreign benefactors.
Dr. Uzodinma, speaking on this same issue, also made the following points:
- Economic wellbeing: Because the country has not provided for equal empowerment between men and women, and because of the pandemic, they both have been made to sit at home, and as a result, the ability to provide for the family’s basic needs has reduced, and even been worsened. The woman, who in many cases is not empowered, has little or nothing she can bring to the table.
- Education: There have been a long halt in the education sector as students were no longer able to access academic institutions. Even though there have been lessons and classes carried out over the media, its effects have been very minimal and as such, cannot in any way be compared to the direct face-to-face teaching method. Affordability of technological gadgets, power supply and other factors have also limited the effectiveness of e-learning.
- Child protection: Children have been exposed to a higher level of abuse, both by people from within and outside. This may result to child labour, and because of the lockdown, most of these cases cannot be reported.
- HEALTH Services: Many hospitals no longer offer the health services they used to offer before the lockdown began. In fact, some of them do not attend to patients with as a little as a fever, cough, or cold, because of the fear of COVID-19.
- Community Engagement: Inter or intra communal movement has been limited as people are restricted from moving outside their homes or street because of the lockdown.
- Suggesting the way forward, Dr. Sharon stated that:
- Policy makers should make the right decision with empathy and utmost consideration of the masses.
- Redefinition of family values; changing the old fashioned ones and introduction of the new ones, without deviating from the standards and morals of the society.
Dr. Uzodinma also added that a policy statement doesn’t become a social policy until it is in practice, and is accessible to everyone that needs it. Therefore, social policies should be designed in ways that the can be accessed easily by those who need them. Also, Social services and government parastatals like the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Water Corporation, amongst others, should be made to work adequately. He added that the Federal Government of Nigeria should ensure that allocations and revenues of local governments are transferred to local government accounts, individually, and not federal or state accounts as it is at the moment. He also stated that the government should be concurrent with the international standards set for nations as regards social policies, which he stated to be:
- SDG 4 – ensuring equitable and inclusive quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for everybody.
- SDG 5 – achieving gender equality.
- SDG 9 – Building resilient infrastructure, and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.
- SDG 16 – promoting peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
For further reading and enquiries, please contact:
The Convener/Moderator: Mrs. Alaba Ehindero
Executive Director, Zion Care Life and Family Impact Foundation
Plot 4 Block 16, Federal Housing Estate Apapa Moniya, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Dated: 15 May, 2020