Celebrating Womanhood: A #GivingBirthInNigeria Storytelling Event

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Ibukun Oguntola & Thelma Chioma Abeku (Lead Writers)

On a relaxing Friday evening at the beautiful Thought Pyramid Art Gallery in Abuja, the Celebrating Womanhood Art Gala brought together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to expand knowledge and action about key gender and maternal health issues. This multidisciplinary group of people positioned uniquely within and outside the health space engaged in constructive discussion with the aim of disseminating messages about the different roles that women play in society as caregivers, mothers, professionals, businesswomen, sisters, and wives. In addition, the event was aimed at highlighting the urgent need for Nigeria to address the high incidence of maternal mortality.

Art can communicate ideas, share experiences and thoughts, and stretch the imaginations without relying on words. So, juxtaposing art and medicine was the basis on which this storytelling event was organised. Women are absent in leadership positions in key sectors especially the public sector in Nigeria. This absence affects how issues that affect women like maternal mortality, are being prioritised. This gala was organised to raise awareness on maternal health issues, and contribute towards ensuring safer pregnancy and childbirth for all women.

We commemorated International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 which was aimed at highlighting the challenges and obstacles that girls face world wide. The gala sought to elevate these issues, bridge the gap in the representation of women in all sectors, as well as to celebrate their unique perspectives from a position of strength.

This painting by Emmanuel Nufi Yusuf called ‘Aspiration’ highlighted the inequity that girls face accessing education.

The art gala was a hybrid event featuring in-person attendance of key stakeholders as well as a virtual attendance open to the public.

Creative art was used to communicate the triumphs and challenges of women, through the vivid paintings of their everyday lives.

Seeing womanhood and giving birth through the lens of Art

Attendees included stakeholders from sectors outside the public health circle, especially the diplomatic community and the creative arts sector.

Art can be a powerful and effective tool to highlight social issues. Some of the paintings called attention to some of the challenges women face when giving birth. Nigeria accounts for 23% of maternal mortality globally and as a nation, there needs to be a heightened sense of urgency that so many women die giving life.

Expressions of Art for Maternal Health

An orchestra serenaded the invited guests as they observed and interacted with the art pieces on display.

Invited guests were able to speak with some of the visual artists in attendance as they further discussed the inspiration behind their art pieces.

We must celebrate the achievements of women whilst inspiring confidence in their successes and accomplishments, empowering them to break the glass ceilings that seek to restrict them. Women’s participation is crucial to Nigeria’s economic recovery as women make up half of the population in Nigeria. The Celebrating Womanhood gala was used as a platform to highlight the important need to accelerate progress towards gender equality in Nigeria.

Celebrating Womanhood - Inspiration from the beauty of nature in storytelling - Dr Zainab Bagudu

Pariolodo and Brenda, artists from the Abuja Literary Society in their performance ‘Journey to Self’, used spoken words to take the invited guest through a literary journey that drew attention to the perseverance and resilience of the Nigerian woman despite the many challenges she faces.

Iyadunni Olubode, Nigeria Country Director, MSD for Mothers in her presentation said “Women are speaking all the time, but we are not listening to them. They are the experts; if we don’t listen to them, the solutions that we proffer may not impact them.”

Her Excellency, Dr Zainab Bagudu, First Lady Kebbi State commended the initiative. “This event is particularly unique because it has tried to use creative art to communicate the many challenges our women face, especially maternal health.

The Centre Piece unveiled

The centre piece was unveiled at the end of the evening. It’s titled ‘Moment of Victory’. For the artist Emmanuel Nufi Yusuf, the inspiration behind this painting was celebrating womanhood. 

“From the debris they rise. The enormous color of success, of victory well deserved after the hard struggles of women, overcoming trials and self doubts”.

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