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DEMOCRACY IN RETREAT: A PETITION BY EXCLUDED NIGERIAN WOMEN

Dateline: (Abuja) 9th March,2022

 

BEING A TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE DELIVERED AT THE NASS BY WOMEN GROUPS UNDER THE AGEIS OF WOMENIFESTO THE CONVENINING COALITION OF WOMEN GROUPS  FOR #WOMENOCCUPYNASS

 

#BreakThe PoliticalBias
#BreakTheConstitutionalBias
#BreakTheRepresentationImbalance
#TheConstitutionNigerianWomenWant

 

Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press,

Today, women comprised of your mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters have converged in our numbers, hurt, and indeed alarmed over the refusal of the National Assembly to vote in support of alterations to accommodate gender bills within the ongoing Constitutional amendment process.

The world stood still on 1st March 2022, when the Nigerian male-dominated National Assembly members declined their vested responsibility to recalibrate the brazen imbalance in the governance of our country. This reinforced the major barriers in the path to addressing age-long discrimination against women’s representation and participation in governance. It also affirmed the reasons for the stunted development of our country, while assenting to a continuation of the cycle of discrimination, abuse, and cultural bias against your very own, your female relatives gathered here.

Women decry this denial and consider it a grave injustice that sounds the death knell for everything female and for women’s rights in Nigeria. The woeful profile of women’s representation in leadership positions excludes and continues to deny half of Nigeria’s citizens voice, opportunity or contribute to governance and development. The denial of women’s human rights as being orchestrated by the stifles women’s voices, alienates women’s vibrant economic participation, sets back social development and integration, deepens poverty and ignorance, whilst encouraging the endemic perpetuation of Violence Against Women And Girls.

Women are appalled by the discriminatory and retrogressive tendencies of this denial; we collectively and vehemently reject it and its imminent potential to obliterate the sacrifices of heroines and heroes. We recall the African Affirmative Action, which our forbearers thrust on the world scene in 1929 when they organized the Aba Women’s Revolution. The historical relevance of their demands and results cannot be lost in the 20th Century.

History is replete with the excellent examples of women imperative as vanguards of homes, and nation building, al of which cannot be eliminated or understated. Gender inclusion has witnessed unprecedented results in international development especially in the political, economic and social spheres, with women as the drivers of innovative change, hence Nigerian women cannot continue to be left behind in the scheme of global political reawakening.

We state unequivocally that the denial of the five Gender related Bills amounts to a declaration of war on Nigerian women by the National Assembly. Women call upon the entire constituents’ members of the National and States House of Assembly, on this auspicious occasion of the 2022 International Women’s Day commemoration to as a matter of extreme and appropriate urgency, convey our unanimous demand for a reconsideration of the five rejected Gender related bills, for passage as presented.

We want to publicly respond to the issues raised about lobby:

International Donors including the UN Women in collaboration with the office of the Minister of Women Affairs have over the past 3 years engaged with Women groups through Dialogues & other interventions on issues around gender in Nigeria including the Gender Bills.

They further organised a retreat for all Political Party Chairmen to make a case for gender parity within the political party system.

It is important to also note that Nigerian Women Groups have lobbied for over 3 years on the Gender Bill through direct engagements with key stakeholders, media appearances as well as collaborated on partnerships.

 

Some of these engagements are summarized below.

 

  1. For 18 months Prof Ayodele Atsenuwa and Prof Joy Ezeilo worked as consultants and gender experts to the National Assembly (NASS) with the support of UN Women

 

  1. Policy & Legal Advocacy Center (PLAC) supported several discussions on the 111 seats and other gender bills.

 

  1. National Democratic Institute (NDI) organized a conversation for male and female parliamentarians who were looking at the gender bills .

 

  1. Women Rights Advancement & Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and Women Advocates Research Documentation Center (WARDC) had a meeting with all Speakers of the State Assemblies across Nigeria

 

  1. The UN Women and the Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs organized several engagements including visits to the Senate President and the Senate leadership and the Speaker of the House of Representative and the Governors Forum to advocate for the Gender Bills and the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill.

 

  1. The Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen and the First Lady H.E. Aisha Buhari met with the House of Representatives and Senate in early February before their deliberations.

 

  1. The wife of the Nigerian Vice President wife H.E. Mrs. Dolapo Osibanjo, Minister of Women Affairs and other female Ministers in the Nigerian cabinet met with the NASS on the day the issues were voted down.

 

  1. Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) presented the constitution women want to the Deputy senate president too

 

  1. The 100 Women Lobby Group engaged Rt. Honourable Speaker. Joined the Ministry of Women Affairs to Lobby the Deputy Senate President three times in 2021. They held several meetings with relevant House Committees on gender focused issues leading to the passage of gender bills.

 

  1. The Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANBWN) Women National Business Agenda (WNBA) Policy Dialogue and Advocacy on the gender bills since March 2021. ANWBN also presented 5 priority issues to stakeholders.

 

  1. Women in Management, Business & Public Service (WIMBIZ) participated in

Dialogues with Key political stakeholders and organized an Advocacy Visit with the Speaker of the House of Representatives with key female legislators present.

 

  1. CSOs/NGOs were also at the gate creating awareness on the gender bills on the same day.

 

  1. Women groups attended all the public hearings with a common position, organisations like the Gender & Constituion Network (GECORN), Womanifesto and others made presentations at the meeting on gender related areas in the constitution.

 

Lastly for the five bills to even survive the review by the Joint NASS Constitution Review Committee, it required rigorous lobbying. The demands of women groups were as a right and not as a favour

 

We recognize the passage of the following bills by the House of Representatives

  1. Bill to expand the scope of citizenship by registration
  2. Bill to provide affirmative action for women in political party administration
  3. Bill to provide criteria for qualification to become an indigen of a State in Nigeria

 

Our Demands are

  1. Urgent re-convening, reconsideration, and immediate passage of the all women/gender-related bills: Bills number 35 and 68 concorently by Senate and House of Representatives
  2. The passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEOB) Bill, currently before the Senate.
  3. Resuscitation and passage of the Bill on “Support for Women Participation in Elective and Appointive
  4. Immediate Domestication of the African Charters Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which Nigeria ratified in 2004.
  5. Immediate domestication of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Nigeria since 1985.
  6. As our representatives, we demand to know your voting pattern on sensitive matters of citizen rights.
  7. All the bills be passed by March 31st 2022

 

Nigerian Women urge the National Assembly and State Assemblies, to take heed, respond with courage and stand with women, uphold truth, justice, equity and democracy. As a mark of transparency, we call to question the voting pattern of the National Assembly members on this important matter for accountability. It is our right to hold our representatives accountable.

No Women! No Nation!

 

Signed by

 

 

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi                Saudatu Mahdi MFR                          Ebere Ifedu
Co-Convener, Womanifesto               WRAPA Secretary General                Chairperson Women in Politics

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