NAWOJ: Celebrating, Protecting Women …Against Environmental Pollution

National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), in Rivers State were in their elements as they took special stage, combining sensitization on oil pollution in the Niger Delta with relaxation and thanksgiving in the 2019 edition of their annual NAWOJ week

The environmental pollution inherent in the Niger Delta region has remained a cause for concern among stakeholders in the region, and indeed in the entire country. Since the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1957 and subsequently in the entire Niger Delta, the level of environmental degradation in the region due to the activities of oil multinationals has inflicted severe damage and disruptions in the lives of the people of the region.

Human and aquatic lives have been affected, leading to untold hardship and hazards in the health and safety of the communities.  

Fallout of the activities of oil drilling, exploration and refining in the region, indicate that women and children suffer more from the pollution in the Niger Delta.

It is on this note that one would appreciate the effort of the Nigerian Women of Journalist (NAWOJ), Rivers Branch which used its 2019 NAWOJ Week to highlight the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta and its impact particularly on women and children.

Chairman of Rivers State branch of NAWOJ, Lilian Okonkwo in her opening remarks at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre said the organization is the female arm of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) established to encourage and build the capacity of women in the journalism profession.

She explained that the 2019 NAWOJ Week titled: Clean the Niger Delta, save our women bordering on the environmental cleanup of the Niger Delta particularly, the ongoing clean up in Ogoni land in a bid to understand the measures initiated to mitigate the impact of the pollution on the women and the children in these areas.

Explaining that women farm and fish more in the devastated and polluted land and water, the chairman sued for concerted efforts towards for the thorough cleanup of the Ogoni areas. She stressed that so much has been said about the project but that not much has been achieved in the implementation process.

Okonkwo called on the Hydrocarbon Protection and Remediation Project (HYPREP) to ensure that it adheres to the project specifications in accordance with the United Nations Environmental Programme report (UNEP) on the cleanup.

Former Commissioner for Environment in the State, Professor Roseline Konya, who delivered the key note lecture at the NAWOJ week was more frontal in observing that the environmental degradation of the region has inflicted on the people both psychological and individual health challenges emphasizing that over the years, oil multinationals had paid little or no considerable attention to mitigating the socio-economic impacts of its activities on the people who own the resources.

The former Commissioner who was represented at the event by Dr. Steve Yenewa described the cleanup programme in Ogoni land as a probable political gimmick, stating that in the last six years of its implementation not much has been achieved.

Prof. Konya while calling for review of legal frameworks for the operation in the oil industry regretted that compensations for polluted environments for host communities have remained insignificant. She also lamented the neglect of women in the scheme of things, as according to her, most communities in the region lack the basic necessities of living including health and drinkable water.

The event also featured the presentation of awards to some organizations that have impacted on the development of women and provided service for public good.

The pet project of Her Excellency, Justice Suzzette Nyesom Wike, the Rivethics, FIDA, CISLAC, and Medical Women Association of Nigeria received recognition for their laudable support of women initiatives.

The success of the NAWOJ Week could be seen in the array of guests and members of the body at the event. One of the important guests in this year’s event was the wife of the Governor of the State, Justice Suzzette Wike who was represented at the event by Mrs Adata Kio-Briggs.

The Governor’s wife described NAWOJ as a shining example of vibrant women professionals who have used their positions to champion the course of the plights of women in the society.

She added that the consequences of the polluted environments in the Niger Delta region have been the various health challenges that have been the lot of the people of the region. 

Justice Wike commended the organization for its interest in the cleanup of the Niger Delta and advocated for concerted efforts towards enhancing the welfare of the women and youths in polluted communities.

In line with the theme of the week, which is to promote the health and wellbeing of the womenfolk, members of NAWOJ devoted the third day of the event for  physical body fitness exercises held at the State NUJ Press Centre and also undertook a visit to the Lavinder Eye Specialist Hospital and Laser Centre along Odili road, in Port Harcourt where Dr Alexzander Pepple and his team conducted eye checks on members of the organization.

Speaking at the aerobics session, the General Manager of Rivers State Television, Pastor Dafini Gogo-Abbey stated the importance of exercise in the healthy living, noting that regular exercise was an antidote to many diseases.

The week ended with a thanksgiving service held at the Gateway International Church in Port Harcourt.

The General Overseer of the church, Rev George Izunwa in his sermon charged NAWOJ to remain undaunted in its efforts of encouraging and promoting the capacity of the women in the Journalism profession.

This year’s NAWOJ Week will remain highly rewarding especially as the event was used to confer awards to deserving individuals and groups. It is also epochal as the forum provided opportunities for the women in the pen profession to interact and jointly voice out their convictions against issues of environmental degradation and the plights of the womenfolk in the Niger Delta.

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