The clamour by Nigerian women for the passage of the 35% affirmative bill formed the core of discussion at a public interest dialogue organized by the Change Managers International Network (CMIN); an NGO which focuses on enhancing gender equity, equality and development. ENE OSANG writes
Nigerian women are intensifying advocacy towards ensuring that the National Assembly pass into law the 35% Affirmative Action Bill which has suffered backlash at the floor of the house.
It would be recalled that on the 26th July 2017, the Nigerian Senate rejected the proposal of the inclusion of the 35% Affirmative Action for women in both federal and state cabinets from their legislative counterparts the House of Representatives based on the limited number of votes it got which was less than the required 2/3rd majority for the passage of a bill.
Reports have shown that since the inception of democracy in 1999, the legislative body of Nigeria has only implemented 5% of the affirmative action for women which they lament, is significantly low.
In Africa, Rwanda and Kenya have been described as gender responsive countries for having 48% of women participation in their legislative bodies, just like global partners like Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom amongst others with women actively involved in politics.
Current statistics reveals that out of 109 Senators in Nigeria, only 7 are women, similarly, in the House of Representatives, only 27 out of 360 members are women.
According to the CMIN, ‘’these results depict that women are marginalized in both democratization and decision making process, and also reveal a male dominated legislature which is detrimental to the women population in Nigeria and the country as a whole.’’
Delivering a welcome address at the public interest dialogue, the CMIN Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mrs. Felicia Onibon, regretted the lack of adequate implementation of the 35% affirmative action, saying the status of women in leadership and governance would have risen higher than what it is today, and the country more developed and better for all.
She maintained that women also share the blame for their slow progress, saying women focused organizations and movements which should champion the course of women have rather been turned into propaganda tools by politicians.
“Women movements has been inflicted with corruption and nepotism and organizations which were strongly championing women have been politicized and made quasi government agencies,’’ she lamented.
“All women platforms must begin to engage with the Deputy Minority Whip at the House, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi who presented the bill at the floor of the house. We should seek more information on the bill and put heads together to ensure its passage,’’ she stressed.
“This is why the public dialogue is organized to enable us look into issues around the bill, lend our voices and ensure that women are part of the process,’’ she added.
Reacting to the key issues facing the passage of the 35% affirmative action bill, the President, African Women Empowerment Guild (AWEG) Nosa Aladeselu, noted that women have always made their voices heard.
Aladeselu however lamented that nothing much has been achieved towards ensuring the rightful place for women.
Pointing out that the past administrations particularly the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan encouraged a lot of women by involving them in leadership and governance; she however expressed disappointment over the increasing retrogression of women representatives today.
She expressed worry over the monetization of politics, adding that Nigeria as a traditional country with a high level of patriarchy in display makes the growth of women difficult.
“Beginning from community levels, patriarchy is a major problem because Nigeria is a very strong traditional country where if we take for instance the elders council; no matter how old a woman is, she cannot be part of the elders council.
“Again politics is so lucrative that Nigerian Diaspora return home to contest for councillorship election. The contest is getting stronger for even the men and this make it difficult for women including other factors that impede the progress of women,’’ she noted.
Also speaking, a Consultant on Gender, Social and Industrial Matters at the University of Abuja, Professor Restituta Igube, emphasized the roles of women in nation building, adding that an inclusive government is not only beneficial to women but the country at large.
Prof. Igube expressed worry that the 35% affirmative action for women is yet to be met in Nigeria, noting that other African countries like Rwanda, Kenya have more percentages of women than men in their parliament.
She encouraged women to focus more on getting more legislators understand the value the affirmative action will add to the country so as to get more of them support its passage.
The dialogue pointed out key issues inhibiting the bill from being passed such as religious and social-cultural factors, insufficient financial resources, unhealthy political environments, false perception of women in politics, underrepresentation of women in politics, amongst other factors.
It emphasized that increased women participation will not only be beneficial to women in Nigeria but the country as a whole.
“’Nigerians will benefit immensely from increased women’s political participation in decision making process based on evidences showing that women are major stakeholders in critical sectors of the economy such as health and education. It will also facilitate a collaborative legislative body of both genders rather than the norm of male-dominated laws which have always been passed.
“The passage of the bill will increase representation of women, passage of laws directly affecting the women population such as girl-child education, health issues, and child marriages,’’ it maintained.
•••Demand peace, freedom of expression
Similarly, a coalition of women under the auspices of ‘Alliance for Africa’ has challenged themselves to building the Nigeria desired by everyone, without sacrificing the lives of anyone.
This was contained in a statement signed by the alliance and made available in Abuja under the hastag “NGWomen4Peace”.
The statement condemned the incessant hate speech from different quarters, and called for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression in the country.
The statement also emphasized the need to engage women in governance processes in the public and private sector, as well as peace building and conflict resolution platforms.
According to the statement, ethnic, religious and political groups must refrain from making blanket statements purporting to represent women without due consultation with them.
“We have observed the increased wave of hate speech, numerous inciting statements, increased spate of violent conflicts around the country,” it said.
The statement noted further that women bear the brunt of violent conflicts, yet are generally not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.
“We want all Nigerians to know that when these provocative statements are being made these groups are not speaking for Nigerian women. We must all work together for a better future for our country by promoting the ideal that we are our brothers and sisters keeper,” it said.
“We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities.
“Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.
We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem,” it added.
It is worthy to note that the #NGWomen4Peace is a coalition of women representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.