Friday, January 22, 2010

Dialogue on African Women in Politics Takes Place in Abuja

‘Gender equality is crucial to progress’

Written by Misbahu Bashir
Nigerian Daily Trust
Thursday, 21 January 2010 23:55

Society cannot progress unless unless men and women, young and old, have equal chances to achieve their potential, the Chairman of Media Trust Limited, Malam Kabiru A. Yusuf has said.

Yusuf made the remark at the 7th Annual Trust Dialogue with the theme ‘The African Woman and Politics’ in Abuja yesterday. “It is accepted by even the most obdurate male chauvinist, that women are the natural partners of men in the home. But when it comes to their role in wider society, in the economy, politics, art and culture, many men are unwilling to concede them their due. But society cannot progress unless all of us, men and women, young and old, have equal chance to achieve our potential,” he said.

He commended ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo who was the chairman of the occasion, for appointing more women into his cabinet and other arms of government, than any other previous administration, during his tenure as civilian president from 1999 to 2007.

He said the Obasanjo government was the first in Nigeria, to give women high profile positions such as Minister for Finance, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Defence, Minister for Education, A justice of the Supreme Court and Nigeria’s representative at the United Nations.

Guest speakers at the occasion included Winnie Madhikizela Mandela, Senator Bucknor-Akerele, Samia Iyaba Christina Nkrumah and Hajia Naja’atu Mohammed.

How we’re building on Nkrumah’s legacies –Samia

Written by Abbas Jimoh
Nigerian Daily Trust
Thursday, 21 January 2010 23:57

African women have a crucial role to play in Africa’s renaissance envisioned by the late Ghanaian leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

This was the submission of Nkrumah’s daughter, Ms Samia Nkrumah, a member of the Ghanaian parliament, while speaking yesterday in Abuja at the 7th Annual Trust Dialogue with the theme, “The African Woman and Politics”.

“The African woman will spearhead the march towards the New African that Osagyefo (Nkrumah) had evoked on the eve of our political independence in 1957, the ‘New African’ who is conscious of the African personality. This concept is not associated with a particular state, language, religion, political system, or colour of skin. It takes account of our diversity, the influence of Christianity, Islam and our African Traditions in our societies today.

“This revival entails revisiting and re-engineering that vision and adapting it to changing circumstances in the present time, and in the process underscoring the urgency of our concern. The call for economic self-reliance, social justice, national cohesion, and greater continental integration acquire special relevance today because sustainable economic development that impact on us all but with special economic development, is still out of reach. This re-awakening, therefore, cannot happen without the active participation of African women in policy decisions,” Samia said.

Samia who called for urgent need to invest in new abilities to increase and improve the quality of production and women empowerment, said, “In order to improve access to credit, we have adopted in my constituency in Ghana, a private company to run a micro-credit scheme to give cheap credit to women to begin small-scale businesses. In my district in the furthest south west of Ghana, we have embarked on a scholarship scheme aimed at awarding scholarship to brilliant but needy students to pursue tertiary education with emphasis wherever possible on female students. We have also initiated an ICT resource centre project to provide basic computer training to all schools in the vicinity.”

She said it was the women that helped shaped and nurtured the vision at inception, stating that women traders and small business holders were the key supporters of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), founded by late Nkrumah to usher Ghana to independence.

She added that the CPP has passed a law allowing for the nomination of 10 women to the National Assembly, which has radically legitimized women’s role in nation building as it gave them opportunity and political space to contribute to national developmental agenda.

She said, “Despite the fact that women make up 51 percent of Ghana’s population, this figure is not reflected at the decision making level. The cold fact however is that we have fallen short of the 30 percent representation stipulated by the United Nations that would make decision-making truly meaningful in any society.

This evidently implies that women in Africa still have a tall order, but this is not insurmountable. People like Yaa Asantewa of Ghana, Queen Amina of Zaria here in Nigeria and recent icons like Winnie Mandela, Wangari Mathai and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who have collectively made a statement with a very loud voice: It is possible for us to make a difference in our people’s lives.”

Samia also sympathised with Nigerians on the Jos crisis and what she called constitutional challenge on the absence of President Umaru Yar’adua,.

‘Nothing about us without us’

Written by Austine Odo
Friday, 22 January 2010 00:01

The legendary Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela speaking at the 7th Trust Annual Dialogue in Abuja yesterday.
Women should rise up to the challenge of their marginalisation in male-dominated society by declaring that “Nothing about us without us” and proceed to swell the ranks of all social and political structures where the future of Mankind is discussed, legendary anti-apartheid fighter Mrs. Winnie Madikizela Mandela said in Abuja yesterday.

Delivering her speech at the 7th Trust Annual Dialogue, she said in ensuring that women claim their rightful place in political life, their engagement should not be limited to “the business of politics”, but should extend to discussion about “the politics of business”.

“As multi-cultural societies representing different regions, we have pivotal roles to play in shaping our regional and continental agenda. Women should be the backbone of our economies. As we address our economic agenda we must also address women’s issues and their daily struggles to build a better life for all.

Above all, as we seek to articulate a women’s agenda we should commit ourselves to development goals, to address issues related to the elimination of all kinds of racial discrimination and to promote gender equality and mainstreaming a gender perspective in public policies”, she said.

In doing so, she said, a new internationalism, which has been key to women’s movements for emancipation in previous decades, is being formed.

Mrs Mandela said Africa is seized with laying the foundations for sustainable social and economic development and that the task was difficult since only enduring ideas and reinforced foundations could withstand the ravages of time. She also noted that armed with the experience of struggle, women’s efforts must be geared towards building a new and different reality which she acknowledged, would be their unique contribution to the world.

But she recognized unity among women as a principle upon which this struggle must radiate, citing the success of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) in the liberation struggle.

“We cannot achieve this by mere proclamation. We need to be organized and build and strengthen our organizations. We will need to deepen and entrench democracy in our ranks to enable us robustly debate and interrogate the best way forward to realize our full potential. We can only build an unstoppable wave of collective energies if we are able to reach out to one another”, she said.

Noting that the principle of unity holds true for women in politics, Winnie Mandela said women are their own liberators, and unity must find expression in the way in which they approach their social, political, cultural and economic development. This struggle, she added, must like all struggles, have its own detractors, and women would need to respond to the detractors with words that have also inspired their struggle for liberation, that is, a people united shall never be defeated.

“Yes, we need to believe in our capacity to overcome our painful history of marginalization when we can be seen and not heard. This path will not be easy, we will stumble and falter, but we will need to focus ourselves on our prize- the emancipation of women, and that of humanity itself. For as long as women are not free, then the freedom that we speak about is incomplete. As we stumble and struggle in this quest, we should regard failures, when they occur, not as finite moments, but as occasions for a new beginning”, she said.

She noted that as women seek to articulate their agenda, they should submit to development goals, to address issues related to the elimination of all kinds of racial discrimination and promote gender equality and mainstreaming a gender perspective in public policies.

“It is very important that we too assert ourselves as women of a new generation addressing the demands of new times and eager to fulfil our mission”, she added.

Akerele: Why women are harmstrung in politics

Written by Misbahu Bashir
Nigerian Daily Trust
Thursday, 21 January 2010 23:58

The former Deputy Governor of Lagos State Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele has said the reason why women in Africa do not get equal chance as men in politics is that political parties are dominated by men.

Akerele made the remarks yesterday at the 7th Annual Trust Dialogue tagged ‘The African woman and politics’. She said women have in the last 50 years failed to achieve equality with men because the African society still believes that a woman still lacks the financial capability to run political campaign and political parties are dominated by men. She said men are reluctant to back women for elective positions and that women have been brainwashed into supporting men rather than their own gender. According to her, the African society still believes that women are better at domestic aspects and not good in governance. Women are also discouraged from politics by violence and thuggery.

She said party positions are dominated by men and women are marginalized in decision making process in most of African countries. In few countries including South Africa some political parties have reserved some position to the women. “The African National Congress of (ANC) of South Africa must be commended for acceptance of 50% of positions for women in the party. Many other political parties in Africa only reserve few positions for women in their parties,” she said. Women marginalization in politics is obvious in Nigeria where parties have little or positions reserved for women. “An example is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which in the National Executives comprising of 50 positions, apart from the National Women Leader and 2 Deputiess, only 2 ex-officio positions from the six geographical zones are reserved for women,” she said.

She said in order to allow for more participation of African women in politics, countries must entrench in their constitutions some limitations to women representation. She said countries that have adopted quota system or affirmative actions have fared better than those that have not. “The first country to include a 20% quota representation in its constitution, Tanzania, has now upgraded that to 30% in its constitution. Burundi followed with 30% and then Rwanda,” she said.

“Ruwanda has 56.3% female representation in parliaments while South Africa has 44.3%. Angola has 37.3%, Uganda 31.8% and Nigeria 7%. By contrast Nigeria with 7% female representation in parliament does not subscribe to the affirmative action,” she said.

She most countries in Africa have adopted universal adult suffrage and political systems of their former colonial masters which instead of uplifting the standard of women, marginalized women. “Many women who had taken part in struggle for independence found that they were marginalized when it came to being fielded for parliamentary seats or political appointments,” she said.

Commenting about the problems in Africa, she said ignorance, disease, lack of infrastructure and corruptions have led to the failure of economic growth and development.

She said people have lost faith in the political system where few men use their ill gotten wealth in most cases to corrupt and criminalize the democratic process. “Unfortunately this corruption of the democratic process has led to a feeling of helplessness with the populace. What we need to do is to rebrand the people especially the men who are now in control of our affairs,” she said.

Women don’t support women politicians – Naja’atu

Written by Suleiman M. Bisalla
Nigerian Daily Trust
Thursday, 21 January 2010 23:26

In spite of their numerical strength, Nigerian women have failed to be supportive of women candidates during elections in order to achieve their desire for adequate representation in government, politician and woman activist Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed has said.

Speaking at the Annual Trust Dialogue in Abuja yesterday, Hajiya Naja’atu said this problem amongst the women folk has aggravated the existing political plight already imposed by their male counterparts in the political space who prefer to see them only “as sex objects and instruments of pleasure”.

She recalled that when she came out to contest for the leadership of Students Union at the Ahmadu Bello University years back, she earned names from some female students rather than solidarity.

She also identified other impediments of women in Nigerian politics to include financial constraints, harassment and intimidation by men politicians.

Naja’atu who was at the forefront of the Buhari presidential campaign in 2003, said with what she has seen in Nigerian politics so far, no Nigerian women should expect to get power on a platter of gold because their male counterparts will be most unwilling to soften the ground.

“Let no woman be under any illusion that she will get power on the platter of gold,” she said stressing that if men can go to war for the control of resources, they will certainly not allow breathing space for women in politics.

She also recalled that after leading the Buhari Campaign to all nooks and cranny of Nigeria, some male politicians began to ask why Buhari should be so close to a woman. That, she said, came towards the end to the campaign when victory seemed close.

She said in her political career, she has received many death threats, but each time, she emerged more determined to pursue her political goals.

The woman activist said many male politicians go into politics for personal aggrandisement unlike women who have passion for development and wellbeing of the people.

She also advised women to remain focused on their mission and vision. “Women have a choice when they assume leadership position to go the way of men or be themselves; the liberators that they are supposed to be. If you decide to go the way of men, you will end up using what you have to get what you want, like they say, and when you do that you are nothing but ‘suya’,” she said.

“But if you have a mission and you have an objective and you want to make a difference, then you must also be prepared to take the consequences. You must be prepared to be assassinated,” she said.

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