By Oluwatope Lawanson
Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), a non-profit civil rights organisation, has urged the National Assembly to consider passing the five gender bills into law as part of the ongoing constitution amendment.
WARDC, in collaboration with USAID and SCALE/PALLADIUM, made the call at a knowledge-building roundtable for media professionals in Lagos State.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bills are aimed at greater constitutional inclusion of gender/women’s rights.
The bills are seeking, among other things, affirmative actions in political party administration and ministerial and commissionership appointments.
They also seek expansion of the scope of citizenship by registration.
Recall that WARDC and some other women groups and private individuals had stormed the National Assembly in March 2022, demanding the passage of the gender bills.
The Executive Director of WARDC, Dr Abiola Akioyode-Afolabi, said that one of the bills sought reservation of 111 seats to women in the National Assembly to address the low representation of women.
“The National Assembly should ensure affirmative action for women in political party administration to enable more women participation and voice,’’ she said.
She noted that one of the bills sought granting of citizenship to foreign husbands of Nigerian women, adding that one of the bills sought allocation of at least 10 per cent of ministerial positions to women.
“The fifth bill sought to ensure indigeneship rights to women to avoid the discrimination and violence women suffer in a bid to participate effectively in society.
Akioyode-Afolabi spoke on ‘Beyond the Five Gender Bills – The Unfinished Gender Business of the Buhari Administration’’.
She called on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the National Gender Policy to show his administration’s approval of 35 per cent affirmative action.
She said that some African countries had mandated reservation of seats for female federal lawmakers.
According to her, South Africa reserved 46 per cent of such seats for women.
“Ethiopia has 38 per cent for women, Senegal has 41 per cent.’’
The executive director also called on Buhari to sign the sexual harassment bill into law before the expiration of his administration.
She urged women to continue to raise their voices.
“There is no retreat, no surrender,” Akioyode-Afolabi said.
In her keynote address, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, Dean Emeritus from the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said that there was nothing strange about the five gender bills.
She spoke on ‘Building Knowledge around the Five Gender Bills and the 1999 Constitution’’.
“It is essential to include women in the constitution of any country; this is founded on international law and the rights of women to participate in the government of their nation.
“It is important to have more women in politics.
“However, the constitution of Nigeria has excluded female legitimacy.
“This is inequality, injustice and exclusion of women to participate in decision-making process.
“Fortunately, most women cannot hold themselves bound,” Ezeilo said.
The Executive Director of the International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade, called on the media to correct the anomalies surrounding women’s rights.
Arogundade said that signing the sexual harassment bill into law and passage of the five gender bills in the ongoing constitutional amendment process would foster unity and development of the country.
He expressed optimism that the media would make a difference by setting agenda.
He said: “Gender equality will make half of the world’s population active players in economic and political development process.”
NAN reports that five hashtags were composed at the event to further create public awareness on the bills.
They include #buharisignSHbillnow #sexualharassmentbill, #consider5genderbills, #affirmativeaction and #equalcitizenship. NAN