Following the low representation of women in governance, Dukes Transnational Care Initiative (DTCI); a women/gender and youth/children focused NGO held a one-day stakeholders dialogue in Abuja. ENE OSANG writes that the meeting emphasized the need to entrench women’s role in democracy
Over the years, statistics have shown that women constitute half of the Nigerian population yet they are not involved in decision making, particularly on issues that aff ect them directly. It is argued that sustainable development must be grounded in stability and peace, and consolidated through promotion of inclusion, dialogue, and social cohesion of women in national matters as highlighted by the sustainable development goals. The relationship between women’s engagement in democracy and peace building is becoming increasingly apparent as Africa takes on the charge to tackle its various confl ict challenges necessitating the need for dialogue and inclusion.
Domesticated laws such as the Geneva conventions of 1949, the additional protocols of 1977 and the United Nations Security Council of 1888/1889 explicitly prohibits the degrading treatment, rape, forced prostitution, assault of a woman or actions prejudiced upon race, nationality, religion, beliefs, age, marital status or social condition of women. It is against this backdrop that DTCI held a stakeholders meeting recently, stressing the need for adequate engagement of women in the scheme of aff airs. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DTCI Mrs. Cecilia Idika-Kalu, maintained that women, just like the men have a primary role to play on issues that aff ect society. Idika-Kalu noted that women and children are adversely aff ected as victims of violence, abuse and suffering; adding that the peculiarities in the position of women as victims, survivors, leaders and peacemakers are sometimes undermined in most confl icts in Nigeria. According to her, Nigeria make up roughly 49 percent of the Nigerian population and roughly one out of four women from sub Saharan Africa is Nigerian, yet she has the lowest number of women representations in parliament in sub Saharan Africa.
On a daily basis laws and policies are passed which directly or indirectly aff ect the Nigerian woman with little or no inclusion of women in the decision process ‘’We barely meet the National Gender Policy 35% minimum quota for female representatives in cabinet. On a daily basis laws and policies are passed which directly or indirectly aff ect the Nigerian woman with little or no inclusion of women in the decision process,” she said. “Nigeria is indeed a key player in several peace building operations all across Africa such as the 2003 ECOWAS Mission in Liberia, 2004 AU Mission in Darfur, Sudan and a host of others. However, she has grappled with inclusive internal democratization process to aid peace building and confl ict prevention processes internally,’’ she said. Th e CEO lamented that women and children have been at the receiving end of the aftermath of confl icts and wars, but Nigeria has struggled to engage its women in dialogue and reconciliation process at achieving confl ict resolution, adding that democracy has produced limited results. ‘’The very minimal inclusion of women in these processes points to several gaps at the very essence of our foundation as a country in eff ectively implementing the national gender policy.” To this end, she called for structures to be put in place in order to remove barriers such as differential access to education and financial resources, violence associated with mobility and participation in the public sphere of the Nigerian woman which are impediments to her. ‘’Th is dialogue is a call to action for the Nigerian government , stakeholders in women development, civil societies and the Nigerian woman to assert the roles of women in peace building and democracy by consciously presenting opportunities to eff ectively participate in the collective choice that defi ne their membership and engagement in national aff airs.” She said through inter-communal dialogue and reconciliation avenues can be created to repair fractured relationships and foster mutually beneficial social
economic and political relationships within the society. In her opening speech, the Head, ECOWAS Laison offi ce at the African Union (AU) Hajiya Raheemat Momodu, noted the importance of women in nation building, saying if given adequate opportunity women can contribute positively to growth and development. Momodu however urged women leaders and gender champions to m e n t o r m o re y o u n g w o m e n on leadership and active political participation if the narrative on women must change. Speaking at the dialogue, the Director, Africa and West Africa Asia Programme International IDEA, Professor Adebayo Olukoshi, noted that about 10 to 15 countries in Africa have 40% women representation in parliament, while Nigeria and a few others are below 40%. “Others like Namibia are making efforts to increase the performance of women but globally men are dominant. When it is about leadership and politics, governance and security it is regarded as masculine business and that is why key aspects are run by men,” he said. Olukoshi urges the use of zebra policies like Namibia uses, where male and female work side by side and gender equality is adhered to, saying this will encourage better growth and development. Also, the Head of call center, FCTA Hajiya Jummai Ahmadu, regretted that until now, no woman is a governor in any state in the country. According to most political or decision making meetings are held in the night to deliberately make it diffi cult for women to attend. She however said women have the power to change the narrative if they unite more, work harder and have the mind to challenge decisions especially those that aff ect them. “We should ask questions and demand for our rights else they will take undue advantage of women and that is why young girls must participate actively in governance so that as they grow older they understand the politics better,” she said.