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10 Ways To Make Your Community Healthier

The environment in your neighborhood and surrounding community has a huge impact on your health and lifespan. Where you live determines how safe your drinking water is, whether you have access to healthy food, how often you get outdoors to exercise and whether you breathe clean air.

In fact, an health statistics show that social factors, like your physical environment and quality of support services, account for over 50 percent of total deaths a year in Nigeria. That is, people living in dilapidated neighborhoods with fewer public services, safe spaces and supportive social networks are more likely to suffer poor health and premature death.

With poor health policies and corrupt public health officials perverting the course of quality living, there are plenty of smaller things you and your neighbors can start doing right now to help make your neighborhood healthier. Here are 10 ideas to help you and everyone around you live better and longer.

1. Grow healthy food

Photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash

Garden-fresh fruits and vegetables grown naturally in your backyard with homemade compost and without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are more nutritious than refrigerated produce shipped from long distances. Less reliance on transportation also means lower fossil-fuel use and fewer carbon emissions that cause health-harming climate change. Organize a healthy produce swap with neighbors who also have gardens or start a community garden. You can even use an empty lot.

If gardening isn’t popular or doable in your neighborhood, start a centrally located farmer’s market or buy a bulk membership in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) to get farm-fresh seasonal produce for you and your neighbors. Also ask local grocery stores, restaurants and schools to offer more healthy food and drink options.

2. Make your community more walkable and bikeable.

Each hour you spend in a car per day corresponds with a 6 percent increase in your odds of becoming obese. Obesity is linked to many chronic and deadly diseases. Too many vehicles on the road also leads to stressful traffic congestion, unhealthy greenhouse-gas emissions and accidents that injure and kill people and animals.

To make your community healthier and safer, advocate to make it more walkable and bikeable. Work with local officials to create pedestrian and bike zones. Ask for bike racks around town. Set up a “walking bus” where parents take turns escorting kids to and from school. Lobby for speed bumps, elevated crosswalks, lower speed limits and other traffic-calming designs to slow down drivers. Even small decreases save lives, as evidenced by a 2011 study from AAA which found you’re nearly 70 percent more likely to be killed if you’re struck by a car going 30 mph than by one going 25 mph. If you can’t walk or bike, consider carpooling.

3. Shop local

Photo by Jordan Christian on Unsplash

Buying from businesses in your community doesn’t just help them thrive, it also helps you and your neighbors in a number of health-promoting ways. For one thing, if stores are nearby you can walk or bike there, improving your physical fitness and reducing car use (see the previous tip). When shops are close and goods aren’t shipped from far away you minimize traffic jams, energy consumption, carbon emissions and habitat loss from sprawl. In addition, supporting community merchants strengthens the local economy, which in turn improves the health of your neighborhood and saves lives. Lower income and economic insecurity is widely linked to poorer health and lower mental well-being.

4. Reduce neighborhood waste

Litter isn’t just unsightly, it’s also dangerous for kids, wildlife and everybody else in your neighborhood. Improperly discarded cigarette butts, old tires, junk food wrappers, plastic soda rings, beer cans, chemicals and other trash can hurt or kill animals, start fires, promote harmful bacteria and clog stormwater drains (which causes flooding and contaminates groundwater).

Pick up trash when you see it or organize regular neighborhood cleanups. Start a compost pile in your yard instead of dumping food scraps and yard waste in the garbage, or set up a community compost center. Composting not only transforms waste into healthy nutrient-rich soil for your yard and garden, but it also cuts greenhouse gas emissions from the breakdown of organic matter in landfills and from fuel used to transport waste.

5. Plant trees

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Besides absorbing air pollutants and carbon dioxide, protecting against climate change and providing oxygen, trees add to the health of humans, wildlife and neighborhoods in many additional ways. Plant trees in your yard (preferably native varieties adapted to soil and climate conditions) and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Consider organizing a community tree-planting project. Many cities and tree organizations like National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Life program give away free seedlings to groups.

6. Encourage development of parks and outdoor spaces

Nature, trees and undeveloped fields and forests are good for your body and mind, according to several studies. It’s not just that they encourage you to get outside and move. Being in nature also cuts blood pressure, lowers the body-damaging impact of stress and promotes psychological well-being. Hospital patients who have a view of trees even tolerate pain better and go home faster.

Team up with community leaders to preserve green spaces, create parks, develop biking and walking paths, and establish more outdoor recreational areas. If you live in an urban neighborhood without many green spots encourage nearby schools, churches and community centers to open their playgrounds and other recreational spaces to local residents when not in use. Ask about indoor gyms, play areas, pools and even hallways for community use in bad weather.

7. Green the tiny spaces too

We all know those spots that could become real community assets with a little TLC. Maybe there’s an eyesore vacant lot that might be transformed into a public meditation garden or sitting park. Or how about that little strip of land between the sidewalk and curb that you and your neighbors could convert into a rain garden to absorb storm-water runoff and filter out chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants? Create a bigger rain garden in your yard to soak up rainwater from your downspouts, and urge your neighbors to follow suit.

8. Volunteer in your community

Join a group that’s working to make your community healthier — whether that’s providing nutritious meals to older neighbors, fighting poverty or improving the environment in your area. Other ways to get involved include attending municipal meetings, writing letters to community leaders, getting appointed or elected to a town board such as the planning commission, and even running for city council or other local office. Not only will you be directly involved in decision-making about your community’s growth, open spaces, parks and other services that affect health, but studies show that volunteering also boosts your own physical and mental health. All the more reason to encourage your neighbors to get involved too.

9. Clean up your energy use

Installing solar panels on your home allows you to generate electricity without producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Too expensive? Do a bulk purchase with your neighbors and receive a discount. Solar co-ops like DC Sun allow communities to collectively green their energy use. If wind energy is more appealing, consider installing a small wind turbine on your property. Even better, organize your neighbors to create a community-owned wind farm.

10. Be neighborly

Research shows that connecting with people around you makes you healthier and boosts your lifespan. Specifically, studies show that having a strong social network helps cut stress levels that can harm your immune system, coronary arteries and gut function, plus it elevates stress-busting hormones.

Introduce yourself to neighbors and stay in regular touch. Create a welcoming front porch and reach out to passersby. Or put an outdoor lounging space in your front yard instead of the back yard to improve your approachability. Organize a neighborhood party. Keep your community even healthier by creating a neighborhood “care watch” committee that provides local residents in need with home-delivered meals, rides to the doctor and help with everyday tasks.

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SDG 5: Gender Equality In Nigeria – A Critical Political Analysis

Gender equality refers to a situation where women and men have equal conditions for realising their full human rights and potentials; are able to contribute equally to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and benefit equally from the results. Furthermore, it entails that the underlying causes of discrimination are systematically identified and removed in order to give men and women equal opportunities. Equality is therefore understood to include both formal equality and substantive equality, and not merely simple equality to men.

According to the UN, “gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will nurture sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. A record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions as of 2014. However, another 52 had not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven into the fabric of legal systems and social norms. Even though SDG5 is a stand-alone goal, other SDGs can only be achieved if the needs of women receive the same attention as the needs of men. Issues unique to women and girls include traditional practices against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, such as female genital mutilation.

According to the United Nations Development Programme statistics

  • Globally, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn doing the same work.
  • 35% of women in the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women.
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
  • Two thirds of countries in the developing world have achieved gender parity in primary education.
  • Only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, up from 11.3 percent in 1995.

Nigeria like other countries in the world is responding to the clarion calls made variously by the United Nations to rid societies of all forms of discriminations especially gender based discriminations.

In fact in the year 2000, Nigeria took a bold step adopting and passing into law the National Policy on women guided by the Global Instrument on the Convention of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The country indeed has tried to respond to this development from the international arena by articulating policies and programmes that seeks to reduce gender inequalities in socio economic and political spheres, however, the success of bridging the gap between men and women is far fetched. All efforts made to attain gender equality in Nigeria seems like a charade.

Politically, Nigerian women are negligible and undermined force, with little political involvement. Economically, they constitute the majority of the peasant labour force in the agricultural sector, while most of the others occupy bottom of occupational ladder and continue to be channelled into service and domestic occupations. The consequence of the unequal status between men and women is high level of economics and political powerlessness among women, powerlessness in turn retard development of any level, politically, economically and socially.

A critical analysis of the political system of Nigeria casts a huge doubt on the achievement of the sustainable development goal 5: gender equality.

 

Political Issues

In Nigeria, there are prevailing concerns such as religious and cultural bias against women participation in politics; low membership in political parties and party structure. Even the hostile political environment does not stimulate the right response in women, nor does it pique their interest; and creates imbalance in the political sphere.

Women who constitute about half of the population have been continuously sidelined in public life to the extent that they never held more than 15% of elective offices (see table for statistics of elective positions) compared to what obtained in other nations of the world, particularly in developed nations.

Prof. Olayiwola Olurode noted that Nigeria lags far behind in women political participation index on the African countries saying, “Nigerian women have about the worst representation of 5.9% in the national legislature when compared to most other African countries example Uganda (34.6%), South Africa (43.2%), Ethiopia (27.7%), Cameroon (20%), Niger (12.3%) and DR Congo (8.0%)”.

 

1999 2003 2007 2011 2015
Office Seat Available Women Seat Available Women Seat Available Women Seat Available Women Seat Available Women
President 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
Vice President 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
Senate 109 3(2.8) 109 4(3.7) 109 8(7.3) 109 7(6.4) 109 8(6.4)
House of Reps 360 12(3.3) 360 21(5.8) 360 23(6.4) 360 26(7.2) 109 19(5.3)
Governor 36 0 36 0 36 0 36 0 36 0
Deputy Governor 36 1(2.8) 36 2(5.5) 36 6(16.7) 36 3(8.3) 36 4
State House of Assembly 990 12(1.2) 990 38(3.8) 990 52(5.3) 990 62(6.3)
SHA Committees Chairpersons 829 18(2.2) 881 32(3.6) 887 52(5.9) 887
L.G.A. Chairpersons 710 9(1.2) 774 15(1.9) 740 27(3.6) 740
Councilors 8,810 143(0.02) 6368 267(42) 6368 235(3.7) 6368

 

The issue being that women in Nigeria face a lot of odds when they contest against men. For instance

i. The issue of the chauvinistic traditional system

The following are notorious facts in Nigeria

  1. It is an abomination for women to claim equality with men especially in decision making programme such as politics or wanting to head a man under any circumstance, it’s a taboo.
  2. A woman does not take a separate decision apart from her spouse.
  3. The idea of women in politics is a rude agenda in Nigeria and an abomination to most men. Naturally, there is stiff opposition from even educated men politicians to women.

ii. Women conception of politics

In Nigeria, there is a belief that Nigerian politics is based on high political virility, those who have all it takes to compete in the turbulent environment, and those who can match violence. It is assumed that men possess superiority, strength, competitiveness and self reliant and are preferred to tussle in political endeavour, whereas, women are considered too passive to engage in politics and governance. This consensus is also constructed by societal norms and values which through socialization has defined different gender roles according to biological differences. Their perception of politics as a dirty game and continued fright at the thought of violence has alienated them from mainstreaming politics.

iii. Funding and high cost of election

Although equality affects men but the rate at which it affects women is more pronounced in Nigeria. The cost of financing political parties and campaigns is a big obstacle to women. The minimum cost of gubernatorial election could go as high as 200 million naira and how many men can mobilize such huge amount of money for women? Which political party would nominate a woman for that post considering her very small contribution to party finance and formation?

Women are said to be amongst the poorest people in the world and a poor person can not play significant role in politics. Over 90% of women live below the poverty line in Nigeria. Those that are educated are not rich and the rich ones are uneducated or are not politically inclined. Therefore this disadvantage position cannot allow women to match naira for naira in Nigeria monetised politics. This partly explain why they are reluctant about active participation in politics.

iv. The place of the women participating in politics

Although women actively participate in the membership of political parties, the only serve as supporters for male to acquire political positions. Politics is said to be game of members yet women’s numerical strength has not impacted positively on the political life and decision making structure of the nation. Men constitute a large percentage of the party membership and this tends to affect women when it comes to selecting or electing candidates for elections. Men tend to dominate the party hierarchy and are therefore at advantage in influencing the party’s internal politics. Women usually constitute a smaller percentage of political party membership because of the social, cultural, religious attitude of different Nigerian societies.

v. The general perception of politics in Nigeria

It is generally believed that politics is a dirty vocation; one that is reserved for unrefined people who have little scruples with bending the rules and subverting due process. Female politicians are therefore seen as accomplices of vile male politicians who are bent on manipulating the popular will of the people. They are treated as deviant male politicians. Politics is time consuming and it demands great attention. Juggling their traditional ascribed roles with an interest in politics without a supportive spouse could result in needless conflict.

Female politicians are often perceived to be divorcees and marital failures. Also, violence and threats, the do-or-die nature of politics in Nigeria has had its own fair share of women who have to pay the ultimate price for venturing into politics. Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Suliat Adedeji and many others are easily recalled as helpless victims of the sanguinary predilection of Nigeria’s politics. These issues highlighted have gone along way to affect women’s participation in politics and has therefore lead to a very low level of political interest.

 

CONCLUSION

In order to have women, gender equality initiatives, the government needs to work towards changing the structures which produces gender inequalities in our society.

Building on the premise of the existence of a clear inexorable interconnection between women’s deprivation and some socio-economic and political factors, it therefore follow that, to address women gender equality on any front, effort must be made to address the aforementioned gender issues.

Nigeria cannot afford to continue to treat half of its population and a significant part of the productive force as inferior being. We need to give our womenfolk the full chance to participate in all sectors of society. The roles of women as house makers cannot be downplayed. Women touch anywhere, cannot be matched. To ensure and achieve gender equality in Nigeria, economic and political powerlessness of women must be addressed. But that does not seem likely, does it?