By Angela Atabo
Members of the National and state houses of Assembly, Ministers, Traditional Rulers and Civil Society organisations on Tuesday in Abuja vowed to work to increase women participation in politics in Nigeria.
They made the commitment at the Nigerian Men’s Conference on Gender Sensitive Constitutional Reform, orgainised by the Ministry of Women Affairs, in partnership with National Democratic Institute (NDI) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, represented by Dr Daniel Bwala, Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters, said that the commitment became imperative because Nigeria had a long way to walk along the path of gender equality.
“I say a long way because current statistics are saying that women are accounting for 5.6 per cent of members of the House of Representatives and 6.4 per cent of members of the Senate.
“We are a long way from the benchmark of 30 per cent recommended by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
“The latest statistics of the Global Gender Gap Index (March 2021), places Nigeria at the 149th position out of 156 countries surveyed, in terms of political empowerment index.
“We should hope to get it to a 30 per cent mark on the average as proposed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), before we heave a sigh of relief and begin to build towards full gender parity, let us all join hands to make this happen,’’ he said
Omo-Agege said that the on-going constitutional amendment, of which gender issues were one of the 13-point frame of reference and the Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment when passed would give women leverage.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan represented by Senator Noro Daduut, representing Plateau South Senatorial District, commended the organisers for the initiative.
According to Lawan, “a conference on using the commitment of men in the clamor for increased attention to the place of women in our society was a great way to go.
“A men’s conference on Gender-Sensitive Constitutional Reform is a creative approach to ensuring inclusion, in the call for equal gender opportunity and representation.
“The agitation for more women in politics is a long-standing one, needing a continuous consideration for us to achieve success and reap its benefits so I congratulate the organisers,” Lawan said.
The Minister for Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, said that the objectives of conference was to broaden awareness on the gains of gender-sensitive constitution alterations demonstrating the support of male leaders for the bill to create special seats for women in parliaments.
Tallen said that the ministry remained steadfast in striving to achieve gender-sensitive reform in the ongoing constitutional reform.
According to her, one of these efforts is the Supporting Advancement of Gender Equality (SAGE) initiative which the ministry partnering with for this conference.
“The importance of increasing the participation of women in elected office in Nigeria cannot be overstated as there are currently only eight women out of the 109 legislators in the senate and only 13 women out of 360 legislatures in the House of Representatives.
“The situation is more challenging in the state Houses of Assembly where there are only 40 women among the 991 legislators elected.
“As the National Assembly resumes today, we call on our male allies to assist with building political support for all gender-sensitive constitution alterations,’’ she said.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Peter Egbodo, Director, Joint Services, said that Africa had recognised women in terms of their biological importance.
Aregbesola, however, said that the continent was yet to recognise the political role of women and their importance to reap the benefits of women participation in nation building.
He therefore called on all responsible for enacting laws to tinker with the provision of the constitute to provide greater responsibilities for women to participate in the decision making processes of the nation.
Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures, Abubakar Suleiman, said that as lawmakers, the effective way to accomplish gender equality was through the alteration of the Constitution.
Sulieman acknowledged the commitment of the national assembly for initiating a bill to create additional special seats for women in Federal and State Legislative Houses and for Related Matters.
He assured that the bill, when passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly; the group would lobby states to buy-in to pave way for more women participation.
Alhaji Chindo Yamusa III, the Emir of Keffi and Vice Chancellor, Nasarawa State University, reaffirmed his support to the realisation of having more women in politics.
Yamusa advised the male participants to see the conference as their responsibility to support the electoral or gender sensitive reform to help women grow politically and remove roadblocks and marginalisation of women in all democratic activities.
He appealed to women in parliament to make enough sacrifices by sponsoring other women to contest elections to have high participants of women in the local, State and National Assemblies.
He called on the leadership of all political parties and religious leaders to support more women in governance and urged state and federal ministries of women affairs to design programmes that would be of immense relevance to women.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was attended by international partners, Civil Society Organisations, media practitioners, and traditional rulers among others.
They all expressed their commitment to assist in supporting bills and matters that concern increased women participation in governance. (NAN)