The Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund, Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN and Jokodolu Foundation Nigeria co-organized a side event themed ‘African Female Parliamentarians in A Changing World of Work: The Case of SDG 5’ on March 20, 2017 at the Conference Room II of the United Nations Headquarters, New York.
Participants drawn from the parliament, governments, development partners and civil society proffered strategies andcase studies on women in parliament from their respective countries. They expressed the need to document experiences; raise resources todocument such experiences and highlighted the importance of networking of female parliamentariansacross the continent.
Nicole Ameline, a French Parliamentarian, stressed that women play key roles in the social development and security of their nations. She also called for sanctions on political parties who bring forward a list without consideration for parity.
Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, Nigerian Parliamentarian and first female House Leaderenumerated some of the challenges she faced while in office noting a number of workable strategies for women to attain parliamentary positions viz: join political party and participate actively, constituency engagement, women for women strategies amongst others. Hon. Akande firmly believes that women need to expand the spaces for other women to participate.
H.E. Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Chair, Advisory Board, Nigerian Women Trust Fund and co-host gave a personal account of her experience in office. A poignant story included how she helped securefour (4) seats for women in Ekiti State parliament. She further explained how the Women Fund, on which she sits on the Board, mobilizes technical and financial resources from ordinary citizens for women running for political office as a solution to the resource gap women face in the democratic space. She stressed that solidarity is important but that supporting women’s interests should transcend political party affiliation—a practice that she lives out.
Hon. Akande’s case study was explored in greater detail by Wumi Asubiaro-Dada and Stella Odiase in her recent book titled, ‘A Woman In Parliament.’ They explained that the real issue is not the quantity of women but the role of women in Parliament. The excerpts of her book noted that women who run for political office must be ready to face scrutiny, criticism and competition. Furthermore, elected women are saddled with the responsibility to serve as the voice of other women. Finally, Asubiaro-Dada and Odiase stressed that women need to engage godmothers as men do with godfathers.
The side event was a critical dialogue between Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, France, Ethiopia, etc which focused on changingand replacing negative perceptions and narrativesaround women’s leadership with positive facts about women’s proven leadership record.
Participants agreed that the time had come to stop the unfair practice that subjects female politicians to irrelevant credentials that are hardly required for their male counterparts and begin to reap inspiration and resources from those who have come before them.