Raising Her Voice

Empowering women to engage effectively in governance

All work... and only a little chance to play with John

During his recent working visit to Nigeria, from December 07, to 12, 2009, John Cropper, the slow talking, easy going and very likeable Global Manager of the Raising Her Voice (RHV) project, was a hit for all those he came across. Starting from yours truly, my wife and children, to colleagues at Oxfam GB in Nigeria, partners and right holders that we interacted, one common and dominant view by all was; what a likeable man this is.

While in Nigeria, John participated in a number of activities undertaken as part of the of the 16-days of activism in collaboration between WRAPA (the Nigerian partner organization implementing the RHV project), RHV, Ministry for Women Affairs, UNICEF, as well provided support to me and the team of RHV staff at WRAPA.

Precisely, John participated in the following activities:

· Meeting with Oxfam GB Country Director and myself who manages the RHV project,
· Meeting with WRAPA team and briefing on RHV in Nigeria which included progress and challenges;
· Public Hearing on Violence Against Women,
· Meeting with CIDA and UNIFEM officials in Nigeria to introduce the RHV project and discuss possible support
· Live television programme on significance of international human rights day.

Others included:
· Media briefing on RHV project in the last two years,
· Mock tribunal on violence against women
· Meeting with some members of the coalition of organisations supporting the implementation of RHV in Nigeria.

In the area of capacity building, John made out time to support the Nigerian team, comprising the WRAPA RHV team and myself, with capacity update on approaches to narrative and financial reporting to feed into the global report:

The visit also provided an opportunity for the RHV project Global manager and Nigerian team to agree on necessary changes to help better deliver on the project objectives in the years ahead.

On the flip side, all efforts to meet with DfID officials in Nigeria were fruitless.

As yours truly is also lead on Humanitarian in Nigeria, I dragged John to an annual reflection meeting of stakeholders on emergency response and disaster risk reduction which held at the same time during his visit.

Indeed, for John, it was all work, work and work. With very little time to play.

And talking about play, John and I chanced on a very bright cultural display by contingents of youths participating in the final of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) cultural festival at the Eagle Square, central Abuja (see pictures in the photos section). We were on our way to the Nigerian parliament for the public hearing on violence against women which was organised by the Joint Committees on Human Rights, Women Affairs, Women in Parliament of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, on the gruesome murder of Miss Esther Ushe in the northern city of Maiduguri while incidentally on national service.

John and I also took time out to see things for ourselves at the famous Mogadishu fish market, and Blake, one of the most entertaining joints in Abuja.

All through his stay, John’s most famous quote was; ‘the only stupid question is the one not asked’. So John, I hope it is alright if I ask; ‘did you leave with a better understanding and good impression of how the RHV project is being implemented in Nigeria or did we come short of expectations?’

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Comment by johncropper on January 12, 2010 at 9:12
Hi Osaro - it's great that we can have this exchange in public. I think this is a good model for sharing ideas and learning. It would be great to see what the different media outlets could do. I think the challenge would be to make it seem authentic and not a massaged media product. Replicating the tribunal could be one way. Another could be to collect stories from around the country and make a documentary. It might be worth remembering/collating the questions that the judges asked. If the stories can cover these issues, then that will stop the same questions being asked again and again. As an example, in the case of rape victims, they all asked if the person had been to a hospital to get a medical report.... so this should be covered in the story.

What do you think?

Best wishes

Comment by Osaro Odemwingie on January 11, 2010 at 12:16
I quite agree that the role of the police in all the cases both at the Mock tribunal and the public hearing was at best obstructive rather than constructive. It is a national challenge for us in Nigeria; how to reform the police.

While we put on our thinkin caps and ponder how how to go about that, I am really intrigued by your earlier suggestion regarding a television programme around the raising her vioce issues. Such a programme would serve both the purpose to get women talk about the impunity of right buses that they suffer as well highlight the contributions women are making in various pheres of life.

I will discuss this with some electronic media outlets here and see what is possible.

Cheers pal.
Comment by johncropper on January 11, 2010 at 11:22
Another reflection from the tribunal is about the role of the police. In every case, the role of the police was negative - ranging from incompetent to corrupt and obstructive. What do we do about this? Police in so many countries are appalling and very badly paid. If they don't make enough money to live on, they will take it....
Comment by johncropper on January 11, 2010 at 9:55
Thanks, Osaro - for posting this and indeed for organising a really enjoyable and interesting programme. On reflection, for me, the most important external learning was not any one event or activity. They were all good. Rather it was the confirmation that giving women their voice works. It was the mobilisation of women's voices by WRAPA that forced the public hearing on violence against women which was organised by the Joint Committees on Human Rights, Women Affairs, Women in Parliament of the House of Representatives of Nigeria.

At the mock trial, which you mention, the power of direct testimony - of allowing poor women to say what had happened to them - could be very clearly seen. In short, a number of women presented their stories to a tribunal of 4 senior judges. The tribunal and the audience was deeply moved by what happened - with no intervention by "experts". It was a very powerful moment and I think the challenge is how to replicate this kind of event around the country. Could you run a tv show about this?

Raising Her Voice is about exactly this - getting poor women to have their say - not speaking on behalf of other people.

It was very dissapointing that we could not see DFID despite trying very hard to arrange an appointment. Please do make sure that DFID in each country knows what you are doing.

Some reflection on internal process. WRAPA asked about how much freedom they had to make changes to the budget and activities and it was great a) that they had the confidence to ask and b) that we worked it through.

It has prompted me to think that it was worth clarifying that Oxfam staff and especially partners can make changes. The things we cannot change are the overall budget, the end date and the "philosophy" of the project - i.e. that this is about women's voices. Other than this, you (Oxfam staff and partners) need to look at your projects, your logframes and if you feel you need to make changes in order to meet the objectives, discuss it togther, agree it and then off we go.

A plan is your best guess at a moment in time. Things happen. Things change. So if you need to make changes, you can. There is no point sticking at something that you don't think is going to work, just because a plan says so. You can make changes - big and small - if they are big changes, please let me know - that is helpful as I might need to let DFID know.

A different sort of reflection is that of the role of coalitions. WRAPA have developed a very broad coalition that now covers the whole country. There is almost certainly a lot of learning to be shared on this as many other countries have been building coalitions.

Many thanks Osaro for arranging the trip. Many thanks also to WRAPA for their incredibly hard work. It was a pleasure to meet Oxfam and WRAPA colleagues and I was very impressed by you all.

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