Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dialogue Pushes For More Women Participation In Policy and Politics In Nigeria

Dialogue Pushes For More Women Participation In Policy/Politics .

Sunday, 27 May 2012 00:00
By Bisi Alabi Williams
Nigerian Guardian

THE 2012 Intergenerational Dialogue on Women/Gender matters in Nigeria, which took place last week in Lagos, provided another opportunity for stakeholders to critically assess the participation of women in politics and policy administration. This year’s dialogue, which is fourth in the series, x-rayed various attempts at women’s empowerment and gender equality, as well as the various challenges militating against that goal.

Interestingly, the dialogue, which is the first of the after the 2011 elections drew participants to represent generations from the 50 years above bracket, a second generation of those between 30 and 49 years and the third generation of those below 30 years, and were selected from Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Akwa Ibom states and the FCT. The dialogue, according to organisers was designed to promote women’s participation in politics, provide a national network of women advocates from the three generations the opportunity to critically assess current strategies for domesticating affirmative action, and develop new strategies and work plan for action.

Those who attended were women who have distinguished themselves in the political system, politicians, party leaders and women activists.

The Executive Director of the Centre for Human Development (CHD), Prof. Simi Afonja, said the contribution of women to national development is central. Hence, there is need to critically, assess, evaluate and encourage more women as a way of providing more impetus, verve and encouragement. This he noted was necessary to re-invigorate their sense of creativity, enterprise and commitment to nation building.

Afonja told The Guardian that having had highly successful Dialogues in 2009 and 2010 and based on the recommendations arising from the previous dialogues, CHD is posed to continue to engender consensus on problematic national issues from a gender perspective, in order to strengthen the movement and address issues that are germane to women.

Ngozi Nwosu-Juba of BAOBAB said women have always agitated for affirmative action in Nigeria even though they may not have called it that name. Women, according to her have made changes and challenged stereotypes; and even veered into male dominated areas.

She explained that women in Nigeria have never shied from pushing for gender and affirmative action, having in mind roles played by. Frontline activists such as, the Bene Madunagu’s, Ayesha Imam’s, Mairo Bello’s, Sindi Medar Gould’s, Simi Afonja’s, Keziah Awosika’s, Bolanle Awe’s and Omolara Ogundipe’s.

On what has worked, she said democracy has ensured that people could convene meetings, while more women have established NGO’s and not just relying on mainstream organisations. She commended the free flow of information in the country and women in the academics, who have showed more interest in NGO work. All that, she said have brought about research, which strengthens the various arguments, leading to more education and political opportunities.

Iheoma Obibi, of Alliances for Africa (Nigeria) said there are lessons to learn from other countries when it comes to Gender Affirmative (AA). In her view, government is obligated under various international instruments to actualize the MDG’s, especially issues on gender equality and women empowerment.

On what could been learnt, she explained that under the constitution of Rwanda, one-third of the country’s MP’s must be women; India is also considering the “women’s reservation bill,” as a first step towards amending India‘s constitution to reserve 1/3 of the parliamentary seats for women.

“Our next door neighbours, Ghana are also considering in parliament an Affirmative Action law, although I am not sure how far they have gone in this crusade. Sierra Leone on the other hand is debating whether legislative quotas are what they need, following the failure of the voluntary quota system to get more women into the decision making process. I wonder where this leaves Nigeria.”

Keziah Awosika, Executive Director, Women Law And Development Center Nigeria (WLDCN) defined Affirmative Action (AA) as an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women; or a similar effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons.

According to her, the underlying motive for affirmative action is the principle of equal opportunity, which holds that all persons have the right to equal access to self-development.

She commended the current collaborative efforts at different levels for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill at the national and state legislatures. Despite the challenges, she pointed out that the passage of the Affirmative Action Bills would transform development of the country.

Comfort Ogunye, Executive Director, Female Leadership Forum (FLF), spoke on the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), which sets out a clear framework for the Region’s objectives, priorities and major policy thrusts. The document, she said also provides a Roadmap upon which governments, development partners, the private sector and civil society can ride on to drive a development agenda for the Region.

She pointed out that DAWN indicates where the Yoruba development agenda should focus on, and what the Yorubas need to do to achieve this agenda. While agenda is commendable, she said it has serious implication for women. “For instance, we also need to know how many women are integrated in this whole process before it becomes the basis for redefining a new Southwest nation, where women will remain at the fringes of economic and political empowerment. We must find out how many women make up the 21 member technical committee and the dedicated ministries and special offices for development.”

As a strategy for entrenching affirmative action, she stressed that it is important in this emerging regional agenda for women to buy into the agenda, by demanding outright inclusion.

She queried that if this is not done, then the agenda will not be in Women’s interest.

On the current crisis across the country, (insecurity, unemployment, corruption, high cost of governance, poor state of infrastructure, election rigging etc), Ogunye said that it is mandatory that the peoples of Nigeria must sit down and restore the very foundation of the country.

This, she said would re-establish the constitutional architecture of Nigeria, and allow every group sufficient space for group and self-actualisation.

Other issues that came up for mention were the proposed constitutional amendments and what women can do to participate effectively.

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