Nigeria: BAOBAB communiqué of the National Discussion on Women’s Human Rights and Religion

BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights
This event was organized to commemorate the 10th anniversary of BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights with the theme ‘The Challenges of Religious Fundamentalisms and Globalisation to Women’s Human Rights.’ It was held from 24-25 November 2006 in Lagos.
Participants were drawn from the media, human rights NGOs, funding organizations, embassies and government among many others across the country.
It had as its specific objectives;
  • The examination of the intersection of global phenomena and the implications for women at different;
  • Analysis of emerging trends of religious fundamentalism;
  • Provision of space for discussing women’s agency in relation to addressing power structures that limit their development; and
  • Widening the debate on women’s rights and religion by bringing in perspectives that reflects the situation of women under the major religions in Nigeria.
The forum witnessed an initial interactive process, where participants raised what they considered as pertinent expectations from the discussion.

The forum thereafter witnessed three thematic presentations by erudite scholars and seasoned participants in human rights and gender issues.

Resource persons shared their perspectives and made presentations that revolve around the aforementioned objectives.

Discussions (plenary and thematic) were held extensively in an elaborate, informed and convivial environment.


Participants made the following observations:
  • That religious fundamentalism is a description of those who return to what they believe to be fundamental truths and practices of a religion, irrespective of changes in the society.
  • That religious fundamentalism and globalization constrain women’s rights and women’s learning.
  • Fundamentalism and fundamentalist-induced violence against women are trigger events for resistance as well as for women’s emancipatory learning;
  • That religious identities rate next only to gender and character, in the reckoning of women in formal and informal economies, as means of defining themselves.
  • That there is apparent renewal of interest in searching for spiritual guidance and growth.
  • That fundamentalism is a reaction to the failed promises of modernity and that those who practice it show ambivalence towards modernity. Such noted inconsistencies ought to be exposed.
  • That fundamentalists step up violence when they are challenged.
  • That the most fundamental institution used to crush and dominate women under religion, as being currently practiced, is the family institution.
  • That across ages what becomes the norm, is the knowledge constructed and privileged by the powerful.
  • That much as it has suffered obvious distortions and misinterpretations, Islamic family law is replete with provisions that enhance, rather than disempower women in the pursuit of rights.
  • That there is a wide range of difference between what the law stipulates or requires, what the operators of the law are saying, what the learned are interpreting and what the followers practice.
  • That Christian texts are interpreted by the dominant groups and interests, which women are still not part of.
  • That our various public and private institutions are guilty of all the abuses that women are exposed to across the globe.
  • That challenging/confronting abuses elicits violent responses from those who practice the challenged abuses.

Flowing from the above observations, the following recommendations were made:
  • We must push for the adoption and domestication of all international instruments, like CEDAW, the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women and all other statutes and protocols on women and children rights and to insist on the actualization of their provisions.
  • We are to aspire for change, embrace change ourselves and have identified permanent interests upon which change could be canvassed.
  • We should adopt in our interventions, spiritually grounded emancipatory pedagogies.
  • We are enjoined to be proactive, seek knowledge and know what the religious books are NOT saying.
  • Build alliances with religious bodies and other groups around identified goals.
  • Have political goals and ambition.
  • Design only intervention mechanisms to combat violations that factor in the spiritual dimension of the women so as not to address the problems only in part.
  • We should explore the option of acceptable central themes of religion and agitate that religious leaders privilege the transformative aspects of their religions. Relate with training institutions of religious groups to affect training resources that marginalize women.
  • We must help women to work at the habits of questioning and reflecting critically on their experiences and those of others.
  • We must create institutions and structures that will accommodate the interests of those who challenge the status quo and fundamentalisms.
  • We must prepare those who challenge the status quo and are scorched in the process, by building structures, institutions and shelters for sustenance.
Signed By Eni Akinsola

Abiola Adeyinka

Monica Ighorodje

Funmi Adekola