Participants from different parts of Nigeria, present both physically in Abuja and on the virtual space, at a conference organized by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) with funding support from Ford Foundation, arrived at a communique aimed at accelerating commitments around the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, (BPFA). The two-day conference featured panel discussions, practical sessions, and sharing of experiences by veterans from the academia, civil society organisations, gender activists, (some of whom participated in the Beijing Conference in 1995), Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, female politicians, and the media. The following critical areas of the BPFA were thoroughly examined; Violence against Women and girls, Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women, Women in Power and Decision Making, and Human Rights of Women.
The keynote address was given by the Honourable Minister for Women Affairs, Her Excellency Dame Paullen Tallen. Goodwill messages were given by the Ford Foundation Programme Officer on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice, Olufunke Baruwa while the UN Women Country Representative for Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey set the agenda for the event. The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund gave the welcome remarks.
The Conference took place against the background of Twenty-Five years since the United Nations Fourth World conference in Beijing, China, took place and the progress made so far; the impact of the world public health emergency around COVID – 19, the challenges and the need to accelerate commitments towards realizing the twelve critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action as Nigeria clocks Sixty years of Independence. Furthermore, the COVID-19 Pandemic which coincided with the twenty five years since Beijing, exacerbated the issue of violence against women and girls, the non-inclusion of women in the management and recovery process and the need to protect the human rights of women and girls.
Distinguished participants at the conference observed as follows:
- That progress on the implementation of the BPFA is not strong and consistent enough, twenty-five years after.
- That the x-ray of accomplishments based on women in power and decision making, women’s human rights, institutional mechanism, and violence against women and girls reveal a need to escalate action on women’s rights, inclusion in leadership and decision-making positions.
- That although the BPFA did not demonstrate the inclusion of persons with disabilities especially women and girls with disabilities, the involvement of persons with disabilities is critical and requires deliberate action.
- That at sixty years of independence, Nigeria is yet to be a protective space for women and girls because of the extreme rise in violence against women during the lockdown resulting from the public health emergency of the COVID – 19 Pandemic.
- That the non- implementation of quotas to ensure minimum of 35 percent inclusion of women is a disadvantage for women as Nigeria still falls short of the minimal percentage on the inclusion of women.
- That the national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions which is far below the global average of 22.5 percent, Africa regional average of 23.4 percent and West African sub-regional average of 15 percent.
- That the media support for women’s advancement has improved but still very unfriendly with women especially women in leadership and decision-making positions
- That corruption and lack of accountability is a bane in the achievement of all the critical areas of the BPFA especially in political financing.
- That the BPFA is not a stand-alone from the SDGs and Agenda 2030
- That coordination amongst women’s groups, gender champions and women advocates need to be strengthened.
To accelerate Nigeria’s commitment in the realisation of the BPFA, the conference participants therefore resolved and adopted the following recommendations:
- There should be synergy, collaboration, and partnership between private and public sectors to fastrack the realization of the twelve critical areas of the BPFA.
- Non-governmental organisations must ensure continuous enlightenment of the populace especially women, on all laws affecting their human rights and step up advocacy to review retrogressive and discriminatory practices with the government demonstrating its political will to end all gender based discrimination.
- i.) Additional critical area of “women and girls with disabilities” should be included. A day should be set aside for women and girls with disabilities.
ii.) Advocate for the implementation of the provisions of the Nigeria Disability Act
iii.) There should be a social reconstruction on the word disability so that this community of women would be effectively involved in the women demographic advantage.
- The government should Invest in protection services and support programmes that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and heal.
- i.) There is an urgent need for the adoption of constitutional and legal framework for political rights of women particularly affirmative action backed by a legally binding legislation.
- i.) To strategically engage the government, political parties and private sectors to increase women inclusion both in appointive and elective positions at all levels.
ii.) All stakeholders to engage political parties to adopt twinning system.
iii.) All stakeholders to engage relevant bodies (INEC, National assembly, political parties, and state assemblies) to ensure that by 2023, twinning is adopted in different positions.
- i.) All stakeholders to work on strengthening existing policies and legislations by recognising institutions that promote, protect and project the rights of women.
- All political parties in their manifesto should bear the burden of affirmative action. Female politicians should shun political parties that are not practicing affirmative action.
- i.) The media should educate the citizens on the dangers of a single story as well as ensure that images that debase women are not carried by the media
ii.) The media should tell the stories of women as well as create programmes specifically targeted to tell the stories of women in leadership both in the private and public sectors.
iii) That women should partner with the media for increased outcomes both on profit and non-profit making basis to advance women’s leadership.
iv) The media should give visibility to inclusion of gender in citizenship education in order to achieve cultural transformation for an inclusive and protective society.
- i.) All the extant laws in respect to corruption and campaign finance should be implemented.
ii.) Violence against Persons Prohibitions, (VAPP) Act and the Child Rights Act should be adopted by all State Houses of Assemblies that are yet to adopt it. The GEO bill needs to be passed as well.
iii.) There is need for greater judicial activism in interpreting the laws
- The BPFA should continually be advocated for alongside other SDGs and Agenda 2030.
- There is need for the different women groups to synergise and strategize for increased inclusion in both appointive and elective positions and a halt to gender based violence and discrimination.
Signed by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund
On behalf of all participants at the National Conference on ‘25 Years Since Beijing: Accelerating Commitments in Nigeria’