The clamour by Nigerian women for political inclusion formed the core of discussions at a meeting of women champions in Abuja recently. Stressing the importance of involving women in decision making levels, Nigerian Women has maintained that the way forward for women is a call for national consensus on the need for a raise in the status of women.
The Chairperson advisory board of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) and former Ekiti state First Lady Erelu Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, made the call in Abuja while giving a key note address at round table of women champions/press conference organized in commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD). Fayemi lamented the plight of women in the country, stressing that they deserve a life of dignity and respect.
‘’Women in Nigeria deserve more than we are getting presently, we deserve a life of dignity and respect and this means an end to poverty for all women, end to maternal mortality, end to the pandemic level of violence against women and an end to the exclusion of women from decision making positions, ‘’ she stressed. Fayemi called for a level playing field for both men and women in politics, saying until this issue is addressed women will continue to struggle without results. ‘’The way things are now is like asking two people to start a race with one person in the front already, and expecting both to end at same point.’’
She however harped the importance of bringing on board; competent women who are committed to taking the country to the next level by ensuring that policies and laws in existence are implemented to the benefit of all especially to women. She to this end appealed to the National Assembly to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill (GEO-bill), while also charging both the Federal and state governments to implement existing laws and policies that are meant to raise the status of women.
‘’In theory we have the national gender policy for 2005 which was modified in 2010 and supposed to be domesticated at state levels for the empowerment of women but to the best of my knowledge it is only Ekiti state that has implemented the laws,’’ she regretted.
The Former Ekiti state First Lady also appealed to political parties to review their policies to enable women have better chances of contesting elections, even as she charged women political champions to ensure they always project women issues.
Recounting her ordeal Senator Binta Masari said though discrimination against women is a global issue, women must be united to fight a common battle to win.
She expressed disappointment that most female politicians are assumed to be wayward, and urged them to be persistent and persevere instill the get to the top.
On the GEO bill she said some clauses in it are a challenge to its passage, adding that power game is played in the National Assembly, including being able to get 24 speakers to support the women issue.
Senator Nkoyor Toyo on her part emphasised that violence against women is now an epidemic, saying women must continue to speak against it.She emphasized the need for thorough work at the grassroots concerning campaigns and winning elections, saying this is where most women are yet to explore adequately. Member of parliament at the Benue state House of Assembly Right Honourable Susan Adingi, urged all women to fund lobbyist to enable them engage authorities on women issues.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NWTF Olufunke Baruwa had earlier stressed the need for issues of women to move from Rhetoric to action, as she called on women champions to speak for women for action. Baruwa regretted that since the fund was established to bridge gender gap in politics and other decision making positions, nothing much has been achieved.
‘’We don’t have any female governors, there is also only a few women representatives at the National Assembly and we have less than 18months before the general elections.
‘’We need to go beyond talk, it is time for action and if efforts are not stepped up women will remain on the same position. Women are not happy with the indices recorded on women participation in politics and this must be addressed, ‘’ she stressed.
This article was written by Ene Osang and first published in Blueprint Newspapers.