As the Nigerian Legislature resumes from recess, Nigeria’s Women Affairs Minister, Mrs. Pauline Tallen has called upon them to support the bill to create additional special seats for Women in the Federal and States legislatures.
She also asked them to build political support to all gender-sensitive constitution alteration bills in their legislative process.
The minister made the call at the Nigerian Men’s Conference on Gender Sensitive Constitutional Reform held in Abuja, organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs, in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Tallen said that the objectives of the conference was to broaden awareness on the gains of gender-sensitive constitution alterations demonstrating the support of male leaders for the bill to create special seats for women in parliaments.
“As the National Assembly resumes today, we call on our male allies to assist with building political support for all gender-sensitive constitution alterations,’’ she said.
Highlighting the objectives of the conference, the Minister said, it is to broaden awareness on the gains of gender-sensitive alteration bill towards securing new commitments from high-level influencers for its passage.
“The situation is more challenging in the state Houses of Assembly where there are only 40 women among the 991 legislators elected.
According to Mrs. Tallen, “the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs has remained steadfast in coordinating the efforts of Nigerian Women, civil society organizations and eminent national and international leaders aimed at achieving gender-sensitive reform in the ongoing constitutional alteration process. One of these efforts is Supporting Advancement of Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative which the Ministry is partnering with for this conference.”
Against this plea, members of the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, Ministers, Traditional Rulers and Civil Society organisations have all vowed to work to increase women participation in politics in Nigeria.
In a message at the event, Nigeria’s Senate President Dr. Ahmad Lawan represented by Senator Ladi Daduut, said, “the agitation for more women in politics is a long-standing one, needing a continuous consideration for us to achieve success and reap its benefits.”
According to Lawan, “a conference on using the commitment of men in the clamor for increased attention to the place of women in our society was a great way to go.
“A men’s conference on Gender-Sensitive Constitutional Reform is a creative approach to ensuring inclusion, in the call for equal gender opportunity and representation.
“The agitation for more women in politics is a long-standing one, needing a continuous consideration for us to achieve success and reap its benefits so I congratulate the organisers,” Lawan said.
Also Speaking, the Speaker House of Representatives Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila represented by Deputy Chief Wip Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha expressed confidence in the passage of the bill to create additional seats for Women at both the federal and state legislature for more inclusive representation.
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, represented by Dr Daniel Bwala, Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters, said that the commitment became imperative because Nigeria had a long way to walk along the path of gender equality.
“I say a long way because current statistics are saying that women are accounting for 5.6 per cent of members of the House of Representatives and 6.4 per cent of members of the Senate.
“We are a long way from the benchmark of 30 per cent recommended by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
“The latest statistics of the Global Gender Gap Index (March 2021), places Nigeria at the 149th position out of 156 countries surveyed, in terms of political empowerment index.
“We should hope to get it to a 30 per cent mark on the average as proposed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), before we heave a sigh of relief and begin to build towards full gender parity, let us all join hands to make this happen,’’ he said
Omo-Agege said that the on-going constitutional amendment, of which gender issues were one of the 13-point frame of reference and the Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment when passed would give women leverage.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State legislature of Nigeria, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman gave the assurance that “if the Bill is passed by the National Assembly and its resolution transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly, the Conference of Speakers shall sensitize our colleagues at the state level on the importance of this Bill.”
He said he is “confident that we shall record more than the required two-thirds ratification in favour of the proposed amendment. This is because of our believe in the fact that paving the way for more women participation not only in politics but in other arena like business etc, is an investment worth venturing.”
Prof.Jibrin Ibrahim delivered a paper on “Gender-Sensitive Constitutional Reforms – Panacea for improving Women’s Representation in Political Office”, as partners from USAID, UKAID, National Democratic Institute NDI among others made commitments at the event.
“We should hope to get it to a 30 per cent mark on the average as proposed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), before we heave a sigh of relief and begin to build towards full gender parity, let us all join hands to make this happen,’’
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Peter Egbodo, Director, Joint Services, said that Africa had recognised women in terms of their biological importance.
Aregbesola, however, said that the continent was yet to recognise the political role of women and their importance to reap the benefits of women participation in nation building.
He therefore called on all responsible for enacting laws to tinker with the provision of the constitute to provide greater responsibilities for women to participate in the decision making processes of the nation.
Also, Alhaji Chindo Yamusa III, the Emir of Keffi and Vice Chancellor, Nasarawa State University, reaffirmed his support to the realisation of having more women in politics.
Yamusa advised the male participants to see the conference as their responsibility to support the electoral or gender sensitive reform to help women grow politically and remove roadblocks and marginalisation of women in all democratic activities.
He appealed to women in parliament to make enough sacrifices by sponsoring other women to contest elections to have high participants of women in the local, State and National Assemblies.
He called on the leadership of all political parties and religious leaders to support more women in governance and urged state and federal ministries of women affairs to design programmes that would be of immense relevance to women.