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Making Digital Skills Meaningful to Girls and Women: A Journey to a Difficult Handshake and Conversation



Malam YZ Yau


By Y. Z. Ya’u, CITAD

While discussing with participants of the Digital Livelihood for rural women and girls conducted by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) and supported by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in Itas, Itas-Gadau Local Government of Bauchi State. I was taken aback by the repeated celebration of digital systems as capable of providing jobs at home for women.

The aspect was that the potential for women to work from home is culturally non-disruptive and should be welcome. Most of the girls were happy with this. The training of film and video editing as well as digital photography in particular seemed to excite the girls more than anything. Some of them opined that with the cultural practice of having men celebrating weddings for example outside the house and women inside the country, women or girls who are skilled on film and video editing as well as photography could find ready-made market,
I can understand this as the girls live in the context in which the horizon of most girls is clouded by the ABU syndrome and all that all aspire to quickly get married and raise children. Independent means of livelihood comes a distant priority. The first time I came across the ABU was angry, why should all the girls want to go to ABU and not Bayero University, Kano. the university I was lecturing. My ignorance was revealed when one of them explained that ABU did not stand for Ahmadu Bello University but Aure Bautar Ubangiji (Hausa, loosely meaning “Marriage is a Worship of Allah”). For many of these girls, the first instinctive gut was that digital skills will enhance their marriage. Which is good in itself.

However, as the training continued to unfold, they began to imagine a different way of using their skills. Some see it as a means to improve their education, update and move to higher institution of learning. Some saw a window of venturing out into professions that they ordinarily consider outside their reach. For example, 22-year old Bilkisu Gambo Idris of Itas Local Government Area of Bauchi State explained that having learn a number different aspects of digital skills including website design, Coreldraw and Online Marketing, plans starts that her dream is to start an online business but due to the lack of capital is yet to start but the training encouraged and inspired her to further her education to the advanced level.

Hauwa Baffa Sulaiman of Itas community, aged 20 years described the training as an eye opener and the essence of her life because now she has started advertising her make-up business on the Internet especially Facebook and Instagram pages. Fauziyya Yakubu age 23, from Jamaare is now using social media platforms to advertise her digital skills to train other women at home. She has found an add up way of addressing the gender digital divide by driving digital skill lessons into the homes that were initially a block against further learning.
In the end, they came to accept digital skills not just as something that will make them better wives but also make them better human beings and living a meaningful and productive life. However, it will seem that in this logic, the emancipatory aspect of digital skill is undermined and subverted and re-directed by a patriarchal conditioning, making the question pertinent: is digital skills enough to address the economic and political marginality of women?

Clearly, women are politically excluded in the country. But more than even patriarchal control, the main factor for this is the economic marginalization of the women.

Women are relatively poorer than men and constitute the largest number of those living under the poverty line. It is for this reason that some researchers have referred to poverty as having a feminine face in Nigeria.

If the economic status of women can be improved, they will be able to engage as equal actors in the political realm and thus be in a position to address some of policies and practices that continue to hold them down. The poor economic condition of women has meant that they have a low affordability index for digital access.

Addressing the economic marginality is important to addressing the gender digital divide in the country. However, while it is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one.

The digital divide is not just about access and empowering women economically while important will not in itself solve the digital marginalization of women. And while skill is an important enabler, it too is not enough.

To deal with the gender digital divide in a subversive manner, we need to deconstruct cultural norms that inhibit the effective use of the digital technology by women. Surprisingly, the experience from the digital livelihood program shows a less controversial path in which two things worked out well.

First, men did not feel threatened by their daughters and spouses learning digital skills that will make them better partners to their husbands. In other words, seeing the seeming digital skills compatibility with cultural norms of the society makes it easy to break resistance and barriers to learning.

Second, once the learners get emersed, they get their horizon broadened. In this sense, there seem to be a double subversive appropriation of digital technology: first, patriarchy subverted the libertarian impulse of technology to drive it to domesticity.

Having accepted this, the girls then re-subverted this to go beyond domesticity and begin to make effective use of digital technology in ways that go to seed and enhance personal livelihoods for them, thus opening the way for independent means of livelihood and being active economic agents of their own.

Drawing from the above is the inescapable conclusion that bridging the gender digital divide is beyond addressing the four conventional pillars of awareness, availability, accessibility, and affordability. No doubt, we all need to be aware about what digital technology can do in transforming our lives and society before we can make the efforts to embrace it. Embracing it of course requires its availability, which is beyond individual choices or effort we make.

Government in particular has greater role in making digital technology available to the citizens, and particularly, to girls and women. What policies and programmes a government deploys to address availability will invariably play role in addressing affordability, though affordability is also beyond just technology policies because it is signposted by the economic status of the people. Finally, accessibility would include making digital education not just in the privilege colonial language of higher education but also in local languages that citizens speak and engage with so that they can see technology not as something external but as part of daily lived social being and a necessity. That means teaching digital skill in our first languages.

But more than anything, addressing gender digital divide will require an honest handshake across genders. This is because gender digital divide is part of the wider gender development divide and cannot be addressed in isolation of this wider issue. The exclusion of women in the policy spaces and other digital space spaces is not accidental. It is the construction and imagining of these spaces as masculine by patriarchy.

Addressing these requires understanding masculine fear of the internet.

Masculine fear about the internet is rooted in the reaction of men about the communication space that digital systems, particularly the internet have given to women. But it also seen in the fact while men think the internet will expose women to bad influence, they do not think that they too could be exposed to the same bad influence. Within the realms of power discourse, women who engage with the internet are demonized as wayward, of easy virtue and generally as “prostitute”, etc.
The handshake has to bring both men and women into a mutual dialogue on technology. Men and women should work to deconstruct the myths around the internet. Men and women should work together to discuss how the internet is a tool that can help rather than subvert family structures. Ultimately, men and women have to work together to overcome the constraints that patriarchy has placed before women in the use of technology. The handshake is not an easy conversation.

On the part of males, it signals acceptance to give up on some privileges while for women, it requires rethinking of normalized ideas.

The digital livelihood is one example of a handshake, a conversation involving parents, spouses, daughters, and other community gatekeepers. It allowed the fears to be on the table and in an open conversation, not on combating any social norm but on opening spaces for learning for girls to seek self-actualization. We need more of these conversations and handshaking to make substantive progress in closing the gender digital divide and ending gender digital marginalization in the country.


Dr. Idris Abdulaziz Dutsen Tanshi: A Case Consuming Ego Interferring With Reason



Idris Abdul'aziz Dutsen Tanshi

Na’Allah Muhammad Zagga

“Knowledge can be dangerous. Smart people can do monumentally stupid things. Intelligence can be put to a bad use. But this doesn’t mean that knowledge and intelligence are to be avoided. It means only that they need the proper accompaniment–wisdom.”
~Tom Morris.

Even Tanshi’s worst enemy cannot dispute the fact that he is colossally learned. So, why he is so isolated by other scholars, including his own fellow Izala brothers? Sheikh Idris Abdulaziz Tanshi achieved distinctions in all his scholarly studies in prestigious universities in Saudi Arabia.

Why should such a great scholar become such a controversial figure? To say he is learned is an understatement. His is a case of virtue spoilt by style. I have not come across a preacher with penchant for insulting other scholars as Dr. Idris. He hardly acknowledges the knowledge of other scholars. He uses his platform to engage in name calling. He spares no one.

No how do you attract people to Islam by using your knowledge to scare rather than inspiring others? Over 90 percent of his preaching is dominated by name calling. He publicly calls Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi and Prof. Pantami nasty names. His latest altercation is with his own Izala brothers. He openly insults Sheikhs Bala Lau and kabiru Gombe.

If we go by Islamic history, the Prophet Mohammad had used wisdom and personal examples to inspire and attract people to Islam. He demonstrated incredible refinement in his attitude towards others. He had never used foul language to address even his own enemies, those who disagreed with him or those that mocked him. He demonstrated patience and emotional intelligence in his interactions with others.

Incivility was not in the character of Muhammad. How can you openly call other people’s faith into question day after day without making needless enemies? He unapologetically calls Dariqa members kafirai. Dr. Idris Abdulaziz Tanshi talks as if your salvation depends on his approval; he behaves as if he controls the keys to heave or paradise!

It’s high time Dr. Idris Abdulaziz humbled himself and do a soul-searching on his own way of doing things. Leadership requires composure, patience, calmness and remarkable comportment. Don’t inspire your followers with uncultured behaviour or encourage them to insult others. Respect is the foundation of relationship at any level. You can’t belittle, vilify and insult other scholars without creating needless enemies.

Vanity can destroy even great people. Vanity is like Vodka. It intoxicates and intoxication impairs our reasoning ability. No man is an Island. The most dangerous delusion is the spirit of self-righteousness. A self-righteous person is like a patient who believes he is in perfect health, despite all the dangerous signs of his condition. He argues even with his own doctor, despite the fatal consequences of his own obduracy.

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Climate Change’s Stealthy Impact on Health-Faith John



Faith John


Maiduguri, the heart of Nigeria’s Borno State, is silently grappling with an adversary that’s affecting more than just the environment – climate change. The rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns might not scream catastrophe, but their toll on public health is undeniable.

The increasingly hot days are more than just discomfort. They bring a surge in heat-related illnesses, from heat exhaustion to heatstroke. Vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly, bear the brunt of these health risks.

Changing climate patterns influence the spread of diseases. The city has seen an uptick in diseases like malaria and dengue, as rising temperatures create favorable conditions for disease-carrying vectors.
Water scarcity resulting from droughts and shifting rainfall patterns leads to unhygienic water sources and a higher risk of waterborne diseases, jeopardizing public health.

Another risk faced is air pollution from extended droughts which leads to respiratory issues, affecting both children and adults. Dust and air quality pose a growing threat.

For the past few weeks, Maiduguri have experienced haze weather known as harmattan haze during the season typically between November and February. Harmattan haze is caused by the movement of dry, dusty air from the Sahara Desert. This haze can have several effects on health.
Respiratory Issues: The fine dust particles in the haze can irritate the respiratory system, leading to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and worsening of preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis.
The haze can reduce visibility, making travel and outdoor activities more challenging and potentially increasing the risk of accidents.

Dust particles in the air can cause skin dryness and irritation. Additionally, they may lead to eye irritation, including redness and discomfort.

Increased Vulnerability to Infections: Prolonged exposure to haze can weaken the body’s natural defense mechanisms, potentially increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections.

To mitigate the health effects of Maiduguri’s harmattan haze, individuals can take precautions such as staying indoors during peak haze hours, using air purifiers, wearing masks, and staying hydrated to help soothe irritated respiratory passages. It’s important for local authorities to issue health advisories and take measures to reduce the impact of haze on the population.

The health implications of climate change in Maiduguri are crystal clear. Urgent measures are required to protect the health of the city’s residents. We urge the government to invest in healthcare infrastructure, public awareness campaigns, and sustainable practices to mitigate climate change’s impact on health.

Maiduguri’s fight against climate change is more than an environmental struggle; it’s a battle for the health and well-being of its people.

Faith John
University of Maiduguri

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Low Birth Weight” Impact on Newborns




Faith John

The significance weight of a newborn carries more than mere numbers on a scale. Low birth weight, a silent but profound challenge, casts a shadow over the promising dawn of infancy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sees low weight as weight at birth less than 2500 g (5.5 lb). Low birth weight continues to be a significant public health problem globally and is associated with a range of both short- and long term consequences. Overall, it is estimated that 15% to 20% of all births worldwide are low birth weight, representing more than 20 million births a year.

At the forefront of concerns is the vulnerability of these infants to a myriad of health complications. From respiratory distress syndrome to developmental delays, low birth weight amplifies the risk of a spectrum of issues that can cast a long shadow into childhood and beyond. The fragility of underweight newborns demands vigilant medical care and heightened attention to safeguard their well-being.

Cognitive development, a cornerstone of a child’s future, stands at the crossroads when low birth weight enters the narrative. Research suggests that these infants may face a higher likelihood of cognitive impairments, affecting their learning abilities and academic achievements.

Low birth weight babies are more likely to have health problems later in their lives. These issues may be related to also being born prematurely, or to failing to get the nutrition they needed at critical times during their gestation. Early intervention and treatment are critical to helping growing kids develop normally.
The goal of the World Health Organisation is to achieve a 30% reduction in the number of infants born with a weight lower than 2500 g by the year 2025. This would translate into a 3% relative reduction per year between 2012 and 2025 and a reduction from approximately 20 million to about 14 million infants with low weight at birth.
WHO’s Member States have endorsed global targets for improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition and are committed to monitoring progress. The targets are vital for identifying priority areas for action and catalysing global change.
As medicine allows smaller and more prematurely born infants to survive, we see these children developing a range of health outcomes. Some have no illnesses or negative outcomes at all, while others continue to have slower growth, more illnesses, and other problems throughout their lives. Babies with low birth weight born into situations where they are at risk socially or economically are more at risk for health problems

About 80 percent of low birth weight infants suffer some long-term side effects, from impaired immune systems or lung problems to learning disabilities, behavior problems or even cerebral palsy. About 20 percent of premature and low birth weight babies go on to have no health problems at all. However, parents of all low birth weight infants must provide good nutrition and health care throughout childhood to ensure the best outcomes for these children.
Advances in medical science, coupled with proactive healthcare measures, offer a beacon for positive change. From innovative interventions during pregnancy to specialized neonatal care, the healthcare landscape is evolving to provide tailored solutions for newborns on the lower end of the weight spectrum.
The societal response to low birth weight must transcend the confines of the clinic and extend into communities, fostering a culture of awareness and support. Education on prenatal health, access to nutritional resources, and destigmatization of preconceived notions surrounding low birth weight are vital steps toward a more equitable start for every child.
Governments and health practitioners can play pivotal roles in addressing and reducing low birth weight by Investing in accessible and affordable prenatal care services, ensuring that all pregnant individuals have timely and comprehensive healthcare throughout their pregnancies.
Health practitioners should emphasize the importance of early and regular prenatal visits, monitoring the health of both the mother and the developing fetus. Implement programs that focus on improving overall maternal health, including nutrition, mental health support, and lifestyle guidance. Educate women on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy, addressing factors such as proper nutrition, regular exercise, and avoiding harmful substances.
Governments should work towards reducing socioeconomic inequalities that contribute to disparities in birth weight. This involves initiatives that improve access to education, employment opportunities, and social services. Ensure that healthcare facilities are adequately equipped to provide specialized care for low birth weight infants, including neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and trained healthcare professionals. Health practitioners should receive ongoing training to stay updated on the latest advancements in neonatal care.
By adopting a comprehensive and collaborative approach, governments and health practitioners can significantly contribute to the reduction of low birth weight, fostering healthier beginnings for the next generation. Thanks to the WHO Global nutrition target which is aimed at reducing low birth weight.

Faith John Gwom
Department of Mass Communication
University of Maiduguri

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