Professional Women in Nigeria (PROWIN) is greatly saddened by the Nigerian National Assembly’s rejection of six key bills directed at ameliorating biases against women at the ongoing constitution amendment process.
It is disheartening that on the first day of International Women’s Month, March 1, 2022, Nigeria’s 9th National Assembly comprising of 94.6% men voted against constitutional amendments that would have greatly impacted Nigerian women. This is a huge blow that has painfully set Nigeria several steps backward.
By declining their assent to-
1. Citizenship to the foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman while a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife gets automatic citizenship
2. Women’s ability to take indigeneship of their husband
3. 35% appointed positions for women.
5. 35% affirmative action in party administration and leadership.
6. Specific seats for women in the National Assembly; the National Assembly has in clear terms told Nigerian women that they are irrelevant.
The calibre of legislators at the national assembly is apparent and this will only heighten the struggle for actual inclusion of women in a society that has proved to be unrelentingly patriarchal. The theme of this year’s international women’s day celebration is apt and timely for women, especially in Nigeria.
This is a wake-up call for women to take the bull by the horns as we all know that power will not be given to us on a platter of gold. Women must not relent but remain poised to ensure that the female gender is recognised and treated with as much dignity as the opposite gender.
Section 17(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that: “The State social order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality, and Justice. Subsection (2) states: “In furtherance of the social order- (a) every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law…”
Again, the Fundamental Human Rights of 1948 made it clear that everyone is equal and the UNSCR 1325 states that women should be included in governance and decision-making processes in all member countries.
That is why there are 5 pillars which is Participation, Protection, Promotion, and Prosecution. All these point to the fact that No One should be left behind in the governance across all levels, and facets of life in line with the Sustainable Development Goals slogan.
It is disheartening for instance that a federal legislator sees women’s rights to vote as an achievement while advising women to patiently build on the supposed gain. This disposition is rather unfortunate in the 21st century where nations are accelerating and consolidating on the gains of democracy in terms of inclusivity, sustainable growth, and development.
The Republic of Namibia for instance has adopted a 50 percent gender quota which shall apply to all elective and appointive offices. The ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) has a 50% one woman, one man (or “zebra”) quota. Today 46 of 104 (44%) seats in their National Assembly are held by women. Rwanda on its part has 65% of Women in leadership and Nigeria with top-notch female professionals is endorsing 20%? This is unacceptable.
Why should Nigerian women be considered relevant only when it is time to sing and dance at campaigns or cast votes during elections? This however is a wake-up call for Nigerian women to strategize and take maximum advantage of their population and change the narrative.
While women’s representation in political decision-making is increasing globally, Nigeria the giant of Africa has been rated low by Inter-Parliamentary Union in terms of women’s representation in parliament.
We maintain that equal participation of women and their rights to access in positions of political leadership and decision-making at all levels are fundamental for achieving much-needed economic growth and a well-functioning democracy.
Nigerian women should be able to freely exercise their right to participate politically as voters, political party members, candidates, elected representatives and appointed officials. For these reasons, we call on the National Assembly to take measures to remedy the current situation.
To the Nigerian women-
- We must use what we have to get what we want as the 2023 General Elections draws closer.
- We have our PVCs in our hands that can do the magic for us, since women are always more in number during campaigns and voting time.
- We must restrategise to sponsor women, who are willing, well able to go into politics to go and pick up forms to contest for positions of their choice.
- We must also stand by them from the beginning to the end giving them the prominence they deserved until the battle is won.
- Our children too will support us when we Re-strategise to support more women to be in position of power.
Finally, we join voices with other women’s groups in endorsing the historic 1 MILLION WOMEN MARCH! across the country!
- Dr. Linda Kwon-Ndung, Associate Professor, Federal University, Lafiya
- Dr Rakiya U. Shonekan Executive Director, Women and Youth Awareness Empowerment Network (WOYAEN)
- Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Chairperson Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Rivers State Chapter.
- Angela Olofu-Adeoye, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Conflict management and peace Studies, University of Jos.
- Lillian Okenwa, Lawyer, Publisher of Law & Society Magazine
- Dr Njideka Kanu, Secretary, Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) FCT
- Rafiu, Mistura Adenike, Chemical Engineer
- Judea Justina Adams, Amazon Ambassador
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