Career as a Humanitarian: Conversation with Victory S. Daniel
1. Tell us about your work as a humanitarian. How did you get to the humanitarian field?
Being a humanitarian worker was never my dream, even though I had an idea about the humanitarian field while growing up because my father was the country representative for one of the faith-based international medical non-governmental organizations in Northeast Nigeria. I followed him occasionally to the field because there was no conflict at the time and security risks were minimal. I felt this joy and sense of purpose anytime I was in the field with my father. I never knew I would one day be a humanitarian worker.
When the conflict began in Northeast Nigeria and the need for humanitarian support was enormous, I offered myself to volunteer with the government help later, I volunteered with a national non-governmental organization, then I joined the international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and here I am today as a sector manager. I have experience working in the deep field face to face with near-death situations and amazing moments working with our beneficiaries. I love being a humanitarian worker. It comes with a sense of fulfilment knowing someone out there will smile or receive support because of what I do. When I wake up every day and remember my contribution makes the world a better place, it keeps me going.
2. Tell us why you choose to identify as a feminist and GBV activist
I grew up in a patriarchal society that empowers the males but denies the females the same privilege on the bases of gender. Structural inequalities and discrimination have confined the females within this region and limited their access to opportunities and contributions to society. I grew up seeing GBV perceived as normal and accepted as part of life. This has been passed down from generation to generation.
My mindset began to change when I witnessed situations where my female classmates in high school were denied the opportunity to further their education, my coursemate in the university dropped out of school because she was raped, and colleagues with great visions and dreams were denied opportunities because of gender norms. I kept asking why and what could be done to change the narrative.
As I kept asking questions and seeking answers, I read books on marginalization and gender inequality. I met certain individuals and organizations that helped me gain understanding, and the answers to my questions began to unfold. Today, I boldly say I am a feminist. I fight inequality and GBV with every fibre in me and advocate for equity and Justice. We are not there yet, but I will keep doing what I can do in my own little way until we have an equal and equitable world.
3. What are the challenges of being a feminist and GBV activist?
As a feminist and GBV activist, you face many challenges everywhere, and sometimes you ask yourself, is it worth it? (Oh yes, it is worth it). One of the major challenges is the lack of understanding of feminism in Nigeria. Most people think feminism is hatred for men and fighting over dominance, but no, we are just asking for equal rights and opportunities. The males should not be prioritized over the females. All should be given equal chances and fully supported. Feminists are openly criticized and attacked because of the misunderstanding of feminism. Hence, most feminists do not declare or support feminism publicly. Another challenge is the rigid and defensive mindset because of the conflicting cultural and religious beliefs. Nigeria is deeply rooted in cultural norms which shape the mindset of the people; hence very difficult to change the mindset of patriarchy.
4. What is the current humanitarian situation in Nigeria?
The humanitarian situation in Nigeria is a state of protection crisis with protracted displacement. Millions of people are displaced due to prolonged armed conflict within Northeast Nigeria. The 2022 humanitarian response plan report confirms that as of January 2022, 8.5 million people need humanitarian aid in Northeast Nigeria. Also, there is an influx of Cameroonian refugees into Nigeria because of the displacement caused by the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions. UNHCR confirms 72,838 registered Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria. The humanitarian situation in Nigeria is becoming complex with the recent increase in displacement because of banditry and inter-ethnic conflict within the Northwest and North central region of Nigeria.
5. What role does the mainstream media play in covering the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria? And how do you think this is impacting the NGOs community?
I strongly believe the media plays a key role in raising awareness and drawing the attention of relevant stakeholders (such as donors) and the world to the humanitarian crises to secure the support required. Quality news coverage can shape crises’ responses, most commonly by stimulating further research and/or advocacy and informing organizational or operational priorities. Currently, the media simply lacks an in-depth analysis of the reality of the current crisis in Nigeria.
Impact on NGO Community
The NGO community has been negatively affected by the poor performance of mainstream media.
- The NGO community has experienced a decrease in donor interest and funding pool because the crisis in Nigeria seems to be a ‘’forgotten crisis”. The media is not providing information that would gain the attention of the donors and see the need to mobilize resources for response.
- The negative media report in the country towards the NGOs is also projecting a significant mistrust and reducing the level of acceptance of humanitarian actors/activities in the eyes of the state authorities and beneficiaries.
There is a need for the media outlets to understand the processes of humanitarian intervention and its implications when reporting negative news on humanitarian actors/activities.
6. What are your thoughts on funding protection programs in Nigeria? How does it impact the humanitarian intervention?
While Nigeria’s crisis is described as a protection crisis, protection programs are underfunded and the least prioritized. Resources are least allocated to address protection risks.
The impact is glaring on the humanitarian intervention because the threats of harm are increasing and the established systems in place to protect the population are broken and unfunctional. Despite all efforts by the humanitarians, the population keeps facing increased protection risks and psychosocial distress because the right protection mechanism is not in place. Protection programs are as important as health and food interventions. Until the capacity of the population and communities are strengthened to establish protection mechanisms and adequately respond to protection risks, the humanitarian intervention will not be as much effective as it should.
I will encourage donors to prioritize protection programs and adequately provide funding alongside other programs using an integrated approach.
7. What are the main challenges facing women and girls in northeast Nigeria? How do you think NGOs can support the woman and girls there?
Women and girls in Nigeria face many challenges exacerbated by the crisis and COVID 19 pandemic. Most of the challenges are related to social norms. Some of these challenges include:
- Women and girls are disfavored when it comes to access to resources, inheritance and opportunities within the family and community
- Women and girls are disfavored regarding access to education and livelihood opportunities. The males are given priority.
- Women and girls are more vulnerable to GBV, sexual exploitation and abuse, and sex for survival.
- Women and girls are affected more by reproductive health issues and lack of body autonomy. Their spouse or male significant other decides on the female’s reproductive health and body.
- Women and girls are not supported to take up leadership roles in society, even in schools.
- Women and girls have limited knowledge on how to claim their rights and her encouraged by society to be submissive and claim no rights.
NGOs can support women and girls through:
- Women empowerment interventions
- Gender transformative programs
- Girl child education interventions
- Gender mainstreaming in all interventions
- Increased gender equality campaigns
- High-level advocacy and policy change strategy
8. How should the protection sector be integrated with Nigeria’s development approach and durable solutions?
It is critical that the protection sector is integrated into the Development and durable solutions approach to ensure that elements of protection are central in the approach. This would ensure that durable solutions do not cause any harm and that everyone in the population benefits while being protected. Integration could be done through:
- Providing technical support to the state and all stakeholders involved in using the protection lens while developing strategies and planning durable solutions.
- Coordinates and ensures protection mainstreaming in all binding national and state policies that will guide the approach to achieving durable solutions.
- A monitoring system is in place to ensure protection minimum standards are followed in addressing the needs of the affected population.
9. Who is your role model in the humanitarian field?
In my perspective, a role model is someone who has attained excellence in a certain aspect of their life and is looked to by others as an example to be imitated. In the humanitarian field, currently, five people I consider my role models have attained excellence in their uniqueness and are worthy of emulation. They have carved a path worthy of following. I study them carefully and learn and imitate them. They are: Ali Al Mokdad, Eric Okoth, Rasmus Nielsen, Adonis SamFana and Sophia Karimi
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. Helen Keller
“Together for Just World”.