Senate President Godswill Akpabio and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass, have assured Nigerian women that the gender equality bill, which suffered rejections in the past, will be revisited and supported by the 10th National Assembly.
The presiding officers of the federal parliament made the pledge on Wednesday at the International Conference On Women In Governance organised by the National Institute For Legislative And Democratic Studies in Abuja.
Akpabio urged the women, who are currently holding various positions in the President Bola Tinubu’s government, to get involved in the lobby towards the actualisation of the bill.
He asked the women to support the aspirations of any woman standing for elections since they have the population.
He also urged them to lobby for more appointments in government pending the outcome of a legislation that would grant them legal powers to occupy some political offices by right.
He expressed commitment to the issues relating to improving the conditions of women in Nigeria, including in political representation, the economy and governance.
He said: “Those familiar with my antecedents will undoubtedly attest to my passion for promoting gender equality in all aspects of life, especially in the public sector.
“As a governor, I implemented a policy that deliberately favoured the appointment of women into key positions in my government.
“This was in recognition of the immense contribution that women make towards the political, social and economic development of any state.
“I have consistently argued that for Nigeria to become truly great, it must as a matter or urgency invest in women empowerment.”
The Senate President said the approach to the challenge of women’s under-representation in governance must go beyond mere tokenism of positions to genuine representation in which women’s voices are genuinely heard, valued and integrated into government policies and laws.
He said the authentic inclusion of women in political leadership will change the course of Nigeria towards meaningful transformation and sustained growth.
According to him, “Women’s empowerment is critical, given the general contribution of women to the Nigerian economy.
“In recognition of this strategic importance of women, the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’ of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, provides women empowerment.
“The policy document recognises that if Nigeria is to reach its fullest potential, every segment of the population must be given a fair chance to make their best contribution to the well-being and advancement of the country.
“The agenda highlights the specific need for social inclusion and political empowerment.
“In this regard, it states that the president will work with the National Assembly to pass a law that promotes greater employment for women in all government offices, ministries and agencies to increase women’s participation in government to at least 35 per cent.
“The legislation, when prepared, will also mandate the federal executive to reserve a minimum number of senior positions for women and the private sector shall also be strongly encouraged to do likewise.
“It is gratifying to note that the president has already achieved some milestones, with women constituting about 20% of the newly inaugurated cabinet.
“Although this falls short of the 35 per cent affirmative action, it is a significant improvement from the previous cabinet, which had 15 per cent women representation.
“In the coming months and years, the National Assembly will work closely with Mr. President to achieve the lofty goals outlined in his Agenda.”
He re-emphasised the commitment of the National Assembly to the welfare and well-being of all Nigerians.
He said: “I am aware of the difficult economic challenges and hardships occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy.
“Members of the National Assembly, perhaps more than anyone else, know the extent of the suffering of most Nigerians. This is by virtue of our role as the people’s representatives. In fact, we ourselves are not immune from the fallouts of these policies.
“I wish to restate the commitment of this government to speedily implement measures that will lessen the pain, improve income and grow the economy. These short-term sacrifices are sometimes necessary before we can enjoy the fruits.”
He appealed to Nigerians to be more patient with the government and support the difficult but necessary reforms.
“There has been widespread misrepresentation and sometimes deliberate twisting of our words and utterances to portray us as insensitive and self-serving.
“Nothing can be further from the truth as we are deeply aware of the hardships experienced by Nigerians, including high inflation rates and elevated transportation costs.
“We do not make light of this situation because we hold the mandate of the people that elected us.
“I can assure all Nigerians that we will work relentlessly with the president to implement enduring solutions to some of the challenges that have impeded the growth of our country,” he said.
In his speech, the House of Representatives Speaker lamented that the outcome of the 2023 general election was a major setback for the efforts being made to ensure more women in government.
Abass therefore pledged that the National Assembly would work with critical stakeholders including the leadership of political parties to create easy access for women’s active participation in governance.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Bisi Fayemi, lamented that the patriarchal ideology was a major setback for the advancement of women in the society.
She said: “Patriarchal ideology enables and legitimizes the structuring of every aspect of our lives by establishing the framework within which society defines and views men and women and constructs male supremacy.
“These factors provide a context for discriminatory beliefs and attitudes and the use of culture, religion and tradition to exclude women from leadership or make it very hard for them to make progress in life.
“When women are denied opportunities and access to education, employment, land, training, livelihoods and other such resources, they will inevitably end up poor and dependent.
“Harmful traditional practices, male child preference, inheritance customs, gender-based violence to name a few are examples of how women and girls experience patriarchal power and oppression.”
The Director General of NILDS Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said the outcomes of the 2023 general election reignited the discussion on women’s political participation and governance in Nigeria.
He said the conference aimed to critically and honestly find out why women’s political representation continued to decline despite all the measures outlined in policy frameworks and advocacy by domestic and international actors and civil society.
He said the conference would also establish why attempts at constitutionalizing affirmative action and quota systems for women failed consistently since 1999, among other issues.
Credit: Sunday Aborisade