10 minutes with Mimidoo Achakpa
Mimidoo Achakpa has been a women’s rights activist for decades. Most recently, she has led the establishment of the Women in Humanitarian Response in Nigeria Initiative Network – a collective that launched last week in Abuja.
The Women in Humanitarian in Nigeria joined the Feminist Humanitarian Network to broadcast their messages globally and to bring global messages to the national and local level in Nigeria. We spoke with Mimidoo about her feminist journey, about the establishment of the network she leads in Nigeria, and about what her vision is for the future.
Tell us about you and your background working in women’s rights.
Well, in 1997 I decided to delve into the development sectors and started with the observation of elections. I was trained on election observation and other electoral issues. As part of this work, in 2001 I went to South Africa for a conference on education. One of the key issues that was discussed was the girl child’s education and that was where I first became interested in working in this area.
When I got back to Nigeria, I founded the women’s rights to education program with two other women. Since then I’ve been involved in advocating for women’s rights – not only in education, but in disarmament, extractives, governance, and humanitarian action.
Women’s rights is still an issue in Nigeria - mostly because of the dominant nature of our men here. The political scene is seen to be a men’s space – and women’s space in politics isn’t recognised, particularly when it comes to being elected. And the situation is getting worse - in 2019, the percentage of women in elected position has decreased from 15.35% to 5%.
Tell us about the Women in Humanitarian Response in Nigeria Initiative Network – why did you establish it?
In April of this year there was a visit by the Grand Bargain localisation work stream mission. I was the Chair of Accelerating Localization Through Partnership (ALTP) so was contacted to mobilise civil society to work with them during their visit.
We had a series of meetings and one of the key meetings requested was a meeting with women-led organisations. I mobilised the women-led organisations within the Abuja location. At that meeting, issues of women with the humanitarian architecture was the main point of discussion.
Women who lead humanitarian response are not given adequate recognition. We agreed that if women-led organisations are not supported to lead localisation processes, there is a significant risk that the needs of women will not be met. Their exclusion will reinforce structural inequalities.
It was against this background that the network was formed by us women to operationalise our agenda and work together to ensure our organisations were recognised. The women agreed that since I was the convenor of the meeting, I should take the lead in formalising the network. In July this year, the Women in Humanitarian in Nigeria Network was officially registered with the Government of Nigeria.
One of our key objectives is to serve as a platform for women-led organisations in humanitarian action. It is also to lead humanitarian action. It is also to build and enhance capacity of women led/headed civil society organisations for effective and efficient response to humanitarian emergencies.
The Network launched last week – how was it? What were the highlights?
It was a huge success. We had many more people attend than we were expecting – over 200 people came, and we’d expected around 100. Lots of women came and men as well – we call them the “he for she”.
We had the global CEO of Christian Aid at the launch, we had the Nigeria INGO Forum at the launch, we had the Swiss Embassy representative, the Belgian embassy representative, the Government of Nigeria – the Minister responsible for all women’s issues. We also had the gender focal person for National Emergency Management Agency.
By and large we had a wide spectrum of participants from in and outside of Abuja. We had women-led organisations from each of the regions in Nigeria represented. It was an exciting moment for everybody because this was the first time women have come together with this kind of initiative to carry out interventions in humanitarian response in Nigeria.
Why did you join the Feminist Humanitarian Network?
Well – we heard about it and we felt that we had areas of complementarity – we are working towards the same cause and if we put our energies together we will be able to achieve much more. We will learn from other leaders in the Feminist Humanitarian Network and also support in any way we can so that the Network can learn from what we can achieve. By and large, we will be sharing our capacity.
What do you think that the Women in Humanitarian Network in Nigeria and the Feminist Humanitarian Network can achieve together?
Together, we can be a very strong advocacy group. We also really want to work together in terms of research – generating statistics, for example. Without statistics, carrying out interventions won’t be possible.
Together, if we pool our resources – technical, capacity – we will go a long way. The Feminist Humanitarian Network is a global network. Through the Feminist Humanitarian Network, the world will get to know that the Nigeria network exists and will come to know the work that we do. At the same time, we will promote the work of the Feminist Humanitarian Network in Nigeria.
What is your vision for the future?
Our vision is to see that the impact that emergencies have on women is reduced drastically. We see that in times of crisis, women-led organisations bring skills and expertise in humanitarian response, and this is not recognised. We want it to be recognised.