In March 2017, men, women and member nations all over the world will converge once again for the 61st Session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women to commit to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges and set concrete standards for promoting gender equality and the advancement of women all over the world. The 2016 priority theme for CSW61 is “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” with the campaign theme #BeBoldForChange

Nigeria’s 8th Parliament has only a handful of women in both Houses with a recent record low of less than 6% female representation. The case is no different at the state level. In appointive positions, women also account for only 16.7% of ministerial appointments.

The annual International Women’s Day is an opportunity to call our political class to account and ask that they do more for women – create an enabling environment for women to participate in decision making and commit to conscious efforts towards inclusion of women in governance.

The Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund has been at the forefront of advocacy for women’s inclusion and participation in democracy, leadership and governance processes. The Fund in collaboration with the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) and with support from DFID’s Voices for Change (V4C) project and the International Republican Institute (IRI), held a series of events to mark the International Women’s Day were held.

Committing gender champions, politicians, civil society and development partners to actionable strategies for women’s political participation was the focus of the two-day event held for female legislators and politicians across the states. It   featured a caucus building and constituency engagement session for female politicians and parliamentarians; a press conference and an advocacy visit to the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) to present the women’s charter of demand for political inclusion. The discussions prompted strategies and concrete steps to enable women attain positions of leadership within political parties, to be more strategic and effective within those roles, and to raise the profile of Nigerian women as an important bloc in the political process.

The conference featured H.E. Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Chair of the Advisory Board, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund who noted that women’s political leadership and governance is critical to societal and human development and that the systemic entrenchment of practices aimed at the continued marginalization of women in the political process are negating hurdles to the nation’s wholistic development. She urged everyone present to build a network of men and women committed to breaking down all forms of gender barriers especially in politics.

Good will messages and key commitments came in from H.E. Mrs Toyin Saraki, Iyom Josephine Anenih, Sen. Binta Masi-Garba, Hon. Mulikat Akande, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Ative and Chief Sam Eke, Secretary General of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) representing the Chairman Alh. Mohammed Lawal Nalado; International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), UNWomen, VoicesForChange; SheImpact Ambassadors; Civil Society Organisations; and members of the press.