By NBF News
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Two things contributed to the decision of the Chief Executive of Civil Resources Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Mrs Oby Nwankwo, to form a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO). One was her experience when she was Chief Magistrate in Anambra State where she had watched vulnerable women come to court without necessary legal help.

Secondly, she had watched her sister die in the hands of a brutal husband in the United States, which climaxed her resolve to help women who are less privileged . Fourteen years after, she told Daily Sun that she is satisfied with her achievements so far. Excerpts:

Impact of CIRDDOC
CIRDDOC was established in 1996 and since then it has been working in certain specific areas. Our mainstay is work on women's rights. Women's rights include the reproductive rights of women and the political rights of women. We have been involved in empowering women, to be able to come out and contest for political positions. In the 2007 elections, we supported 10 women in each of the states for positions such as councilors and local government chairpersons.

In Enugu and Ebonyi states that is where the elections were already held and in Anambra we are yet to hold local government elections, but in Ebonyi State, for example, we had three women who won elections, one won as local government chairperson and two won as councillors and this is because of how we started with them. We held big workshops, meetings and this workshop was to groom them, build their capacity in esteem and confidence; prepare them for public speaking.

The other area we have worked is the area of budget monitoring. We have different components in this area, one of them is the gender budgeting component where we are looking at the budget process starting from the local government level, how do we begin to make the local government budget, the state government budget gender sensitive, how do we help? We have held several training programmes for officials of government who are responsible for writing the budget, who are responsible for implementing the budget, budget officers from Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Planning; we have held several meetings and you cannot quantify the impacts these have made. But a lot of feedback we got is that they didn't know that this was how it should have been done. At the grassroots level, of course, you know we have 15 community information centres because as we are empowering people we are putting the structures in place for them to sustain these powers that they are getting and to use these structures to achieve more, to go beyond what CIRDDOC can give to them.

So, in these community information centres we have trained development information officers who are working there, we have trained para-legal who are working there, we have trained civil educators; so the communities have access to these centres and will be able to access information, something that has never happened before. In remote communities in Ebonyi State we have centres where we have put generating sets; people have power there and can watch television and listen to the news and know what is happening in their state capital, these are happening in 15 communities in these three states. So, there is a lot happening, but most of them are in terms of empowering people by showing them the way because somebody has to fish and the person will take it from there rather than giving the person fish every day.

Satisfaction on our efforts
I am really satisfied. I didn't want to talk about our para-legal scheme. Our para-legal project where we have free legal project, we provide free legal services to women, particularly widows whose rights have been violated, I am very, very happy with what is going on in that department. I am very, very happy when a widow sees me somewhere and I didn't recognize her, she comes up to say, aunty you don't know me, I am so, so and so; you helped me to recover property my husband's people seized from me, you don't know me when I was having problems with my husband, when I was sued for divorce you helped me with a lawyer. But what is important is the kind of joy that you have given to people, the kind of succour that we were able to give people who ordinarily would not have been able to come out from where they are.

So I am very, very satisfied with what we have done so far, I know that we could have done more, I know that we can still do more, but you know funding is a constraint. We have done great work with women who are living positively with HIV/AIDS. We have worked to set up anti-violence against women committees in the communities in Cross River State and in Ebonyi State, we have anti-violence against women committees, these are people from the communities themselves who have taken the power to be able to ask questions, to demand for their right because their capacities have been built, because they have learnt that I have a right to this, therefore, I must ask for it. So these people in the communities are there checking violence against women and the feedback we get is that violence is now forbidden in these communities. We have traditional rulers who have been empowered and they have taken over and have made bye-laws.