Communiqué of Plateau Roundtable Discussion Forum on the topic, The Rights of Women in a Religious Society: Focussing on Nigeria;

Communiqué
 

Communiqué of Plateau Roundtable Discussion Forum on the topic, The Rights of Women in a Religious Society: Focussing on Nigeria; which was organised by Carefronting Nigeria and supported by Freedom House on Thursday November 14, 2013 in Jos, Plateau State.
 
INTRODUCTION 

Carefronting Nigeria, a nongovernmental, non-religious organisation, convened another edition of its Plateau Roundtable Forum on the topic, The Rights of Women in a Religious Society: Focussing on Nigeria; on the 14th of November, 2013 at Nana Country Home Hotel in the Plateau State capital, Jos; with Barr. Olivia Dazyam (Hon Commissioner for Women Affairs, Plateau State), and Amina Salihu (CEO People and Passion Consult, Abuja) as  presenters of papers.

It this edition (the third in a series of roundtable discussions that Carefronting Nigeria has hosted in Jos), Amina Salihu, a vastly informed and widely travelled woman, presented her paper from the perspective of a Muslim and civil society leader, while Barrister (Mrs) Olivia Dazyam talked from the perspective of a Christian and legal practitioner. Both spoke before a huge roundtable membership comprising rights activists, government officials, security chiefs, members of civil society groups, representatives of religious groups, religious leaders and newspaper and electronic media correspondents who attended the forum.

This communiqué is a product of the issues that the resource persons raised, including their responses to questions that other members of the roundtable asked based on their papers, and the comments of other members of the roundtable in the discussion segments

 

OBSERVATIONS

The Plateau Roundtable Forum on The Rights of Women in a Religious Society: Focussing on Nigeria, made instructive observations, highlights of which include the following:

  • In a culture that places far greater value on sons than daughters, women begin to suffer disfavour right from birth
  • Though the rights of women are entrenched in both the Bible and the Qua’ran, neither Christianity nor Islam has done much to protect such rights
  • Cultural practices that weighed womanhood down seeped into Christianity and Islam, corrupting the refined principles of both faiths
  • Leaders of both faiths apply cultural beliefs about women to deny women their rights
  • Religion gives rights in equal measure to male and female.
  • Principles of Religion demand that society is just and meets the needs of all members, including women, in order to maintain peace and harmony
  • The message of Christianity and Islam is unchanging, and it is about enduring value – peace, justice and equity.
  • The worship of both man and woman is important before the eyes of the Almighty in equal measure both in Islam and Chrisianity.
  • There is a lot of religion and religiosity but very little worship and love which could protect rights of women.
  • Beyond rights, girls have the responsibility to equip themselves with knowledge to give hope to their communities; denying them education for any reason is therefore reprehensible.
  • Proper education would equip women to positively impact their children for the good of society
  • Poverty, street begging and the scourge of VVF in the north could be curbed if the girl child gets quality education that would empower her and free her from early marriage

  • The Qur’an intends that women have equal rights as men in Islam.
  • The Qur’an counsels the rich to help the poor, but predominantly Muslim North has the greatest number of beggars in Nigeria.
  • Against perceived notion that girls are to be seen but not heard, there exist documented cases of women in Islam who preached, led, and set down the rules within large households
  • Division rages among Muslims today about appropriateness of women holding high offices when many Islamic countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Gambia and Senegal have had Muslim presidents and prime ministers
  • Polygamy was allowed after the battle of Uhud when many women became widowed and God ordained that men could marry them, but the Qur’an which supports this requires men to marry only such number as they could provide adequately for.
  • Muslim women have responsibilities amidst their rights, including the responsibility to protect one’s dignity and that of her husband
  • It is a disrespect to Islam for a man to marry a nine or 13-year-old girl because such a girl could not have garnered the education and other forms of knowledge which Islam obliges everyone to get.
  • In some countries with high Muslim population and in some Islamic states, it is forbidden for certain age groups (A 13-year-old girl and 50-year-old man, for example) where there could not be the compatibility that will make such a marriage happy.
  • Child marriage advocates say Prophet Mohammed married a nine-year-old girl, but some traditions and historical narratives assert that Aisha could not have been less than 18 or 20 years at her marriage

  • When Jesus Christ came, he started to break down barriers to women’s rights, and this was one of the reasons why he was crucified
  • Any society that does not pay attention to interests of women and girls will be underdeveloped
  • When the rights of women are trampled upon, women are exposed to all forms of violence, discrimination and deprivation.
  • God who deposits potentials in women expect women to have space to utilise such potentials, so, men who would not let their wives work are doing much harm to womanhood.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To remedy observations some of the observations made, the Plateau Roundtable on The Rights of Women in a Religious Society: Focussing on Nigeria, recommend the following:

  • Parents should see it as a paramount duty to send their female children to school rather than to make them marry at tender ages.
  • Governments at all levels must consider it their responsibility for a progressive society to do all within them to make all school-age girls go to school
  • The North which is home to the least educated women should lead the way in what should be heightened effort to educate the girl-child
  • Fairness to women requires religious leaders not to horde the provisions of their holy books when it comes to how women are treated
  • Men should respect the rights of women in the interest of justice as both Islam and Christianity are about justice and fairness
  • Men who would not let their wives work owe it as a paramount duty to provide adequately for such wives and the children they bear
  • Muslim men could marry four wives if they must but they should be true to their faith by treating all the wives with equal love and material care
  • Muslims who object to the prospect of women holding high offices should learn from Muslim countries or Muslim-dominated countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Gambia and Senegal which have had Muslim presidents and prime ministers
  • No Muslim in a state which ascribes to the Child’s Rights Act should do anything that violates its provisions because Islam bids Muslims to respect constituted authorities.
  • Men in the Church who welcome the notion of wives submitting to their husbands should equally love the notion of husbands loving their wives the way Christ loves the church
  • Men who rely on certain verses of the Bible such as 1 Peter 3: 1; Eph 5:22, and Corr 11:3 which tend to place men above woman should note Gal 3: 28 which speaks of equality of man and woman
  • Jesus demonstrated love for women; Christians should seek always to answer their name and be Christ-like in the way they treat women
  • Rights come with responsibilities; women must show that they deserve their dignity and act only in such ways as do credit to womankind

Signed,

Maji Peterx                                                                                                                                                                               Convener