By way of this preliminary statement, we the undersigned women rights, gender equality, civil society and other concerned organisations express our profound disappointment that the National Assembly has undermined the country’s national gender policy of 35% affirmative action by its rejection of the bill seeking to bring the 1999 constitution into line with the governments own gender policy.
Our disappointment is underlined by the fact that the gender 35% affirmative action in the national policy is 15% short of actual 50-50 gender equality.We note that the Bill was passed by the House of Representative but was rejected by the Senate, and call on the National Assembly to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Senate does not violate the constitutional rights of Nigerian women not to be discriminated against on the grounds of gender/sex.
Significantly, the national gender policy was introduced in 2006 to ensure that the Nigerian government implements its obligations under both national and global development commitments to ensure gender equality in governance and public life. These commitments are crucial not just because Nigeria is well behind on gender equality and women’s rights, but also because gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to economic and sustainable development. It is universally acknowledged that no country has been able to fulfill its full potential while denying same to women that make up half of its population.
The national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained at roughly 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions, which is far below the global Average.Of the 36 confirmed ministerial appointments by the administration now in power, only six, with lower numbers in most of the state executive councils.Since the return of democracy in 1999, the National Assembly has been unfairly dominated by men. In the National Assembly, women constitute 5.6 percent of members of the House of Representatives and 6.5 percent of the Senators.Consequently, Nigeria now occupies the shameful position of having the lowest representation of women in parliament in Africa, and 6th lowest in the world.
In Rwanda’s lower house, 51 out of 80 seats are occupied by women which represents 63.8 percent while the upper house has 10 seats for women out of 26 or 38.5 percent. In Senegal, 64 women make up 42.7 percent of the total 150 seats in the lower house; and in South Africa’ s lower house women hold 166 out of 396 seats 41.9. Namibia has 43 women in its lower house of 104 seats while 6 of the 26 seats in the upper house are occupied by them; this represents 41.3 and 23.1 percents respectively. In Ethiopia, 212 women seat in the lower house out of the total 546 seats.
Women’s under representation in public life in Nigeria has serious negative consequences for lives of millions of women ranging from poor health care, to poor working conditions and human rights violations.