Gender bills, equality, others top agenda as Nigerians mark Int’l Women’s Day

Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF), yesterday, stormed the National Assembly Complex to protest rejection of gender bills during the constitution amendment session last week.

The action came as the world marked International Women’s Day. The governors’ wives, led by their chairperson and wife of Ekiti State governor, Bisi Fayemi, joined hundreds of Nigerian women who had been converging at the complex since last week, urging lawmakers to rescind the decision.

Addressing the gathering, Fayemi said by rejecting the bills, the National Assembly has rejected the progress of Nigerian women.

She said: “This country belongs to all of us. Fifty per cent of the country’s population is women. No women, no nation. We want our leaders in this building whom we campaigned and voted for, to recognise that Nigerian women’s lives matter. Anything less than that is totally unacceptable.”
BUT the House of Representatives, yesterday, rescinded its decision on the three gender-related bills it rejected earlier.

The decision was taken following an executive session. The bills aimed to expand the scope of citizenship by registration, affirm action for women in political party administration and provide criteria to be an indigene of a state in Nigeria.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who announced the decision, said the bills would come up for voting in four week’s time. He called on the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata to move that the decision of the House be rescinded.

Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, seconded the motion.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari expressed the commitment of his administration to ensure womenfolk in the country are no longer deprived, just as he extolled Nigerian women on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The celebration, he said, is an opportunity to reflect on the vital roles women play in society, homes, governance, professions, and in all walks of life.

He observed that women are not where they should be yet in different spheres of endeavour, but noted that they can no longer be deprived for too long, as they consistently prove that they can hold their own on all fronts, and in all fields.

The President, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, rejoiced with women and mothers, around whom, he noted, the tranquility of homes and society revolves. He also prayed God to grant them peace, joy and satisfaction, as they celebrate the day and always.

On its part, ActionAid Nigeria, a human rights non-governmental organisation working to combat poverty and all forms of injustice in the country, called on the National Assembly to substantiate its commitment to gender equality by re-presenting and re-considering the five proposed gender bills it rejected.

Speaking in Abuja, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, said: “Nigeria needs to live up to her commitment to 35 per cent Affirmative Action on women inclusion across all arms of governance. Upholding this will also increase the country’s credibility in the international community.”

Oxfam International in Nigeria, a charitable organisation, said women are the most vulnerable and marginalised and experience the deepest impacts of climate change than men.

It said they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources, which climate change threatens the most.

The organisation stated this while celebrating the Day with over 500 girls of the College of Health, Ningi in Bauchi State.

Oxfam’s gender focal person, Mrs. Zulai Abdulmalik, said advancing gender equality in the context of climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.

“The issues of climate change and sustainability have long and will continue to have severe and lasting impacts on our environment, economic and social development. The year 2022 is pivotal for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change, and environmental and disaster risk reduction, which are some of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Without gender equality today, a sustainable future and an equal future remain beyond our reach,” Abdulmalik said.

World Health Organisation (WHO) called for gender responsive actions to address challenges confronting women and girls.
It also urged governments, civil society groups and other stakeholders to support country-driven and gender-sensitive approaches to mitigating the impacts of climate change, especially on vulnerable women and girls.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who made the call, yesterday, in her message to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, noted that women and girls are at higher risk of sexual violence, sexual exploitation, abuse, trafficking and intimate partner violence, along with psychological stress, anxiety and depression in response to displacements as a result of climate change events.

Federation of Muslim Women’s Organisations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Lagos State chapter, and Sisters of Jannah (SOJ) applauded women on the occasion of 2022 International Women’s Day.

In a statement, FOMWAN State Amirah, Dr. Halima Egberongbe, said this year’s theme, ‘Breaking the Bias’, is apt and timely. She said women should be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society alongside men, so that the world can be a better place.

The convener of SOJ, Hajia Ramat Aliyu, advised women to be united, saying this will go a long way to break bias and free the world from stereotypes and discriminations.

SOJ called for women participation in politics as the 2023 general elections draw near. She added that there is a need to create an enabling environment and unique opportunity for women to break bias.

Also, Valentine Ozigbo, the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the November 2021 Anambra governorship election, described woman as “the strongest creation of the Almighty”.

In a statement from his campaign office in Awka, Anambra State, he said: “I believe that the Nigerian woman is the pride of our country. She deserves our support, respect, and encouragement. The time of lighting our brightest lamps and hiding them under a bushel is long gone. Women are the greatest gift to our nation, and they deserve better.

“I, therefore, call for a review of the recent vote by the House of Representatives. Our women need to be given the same rights as men in citizenship, transfer of citizenship to their spouses, and equal representation in public life.”

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (UK) has launched a new £20 million business partnership as the government continues to lead global efforts to improve girls’ access to education in developing countries. Nigeria and Bangladesh have been chosen as the first countries to benefit from the partnership. This was announced yesterday.

UK noted that even before the COVID pandemic, millions of children did not have any access to school and girls from disadvantaged families are particularly vulnerable to missing out on education, whether through poverty or prejudice. It added that the pandemic has created even more barriers to education, with a peak of 1.6 billion children around the world having faced school closures.

As such, UK said in its first education partnership, it will be joining forces with the private sector to boost girls’ access to education in developing countries by partnering with firms including Accenture, BP, Cognizant, Coursera, Microsoft, Pearson, PwC, Standard Chartered, Unilever, United Bank for Africa and Vodafone.

The UK Government will be working in partnership with UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited (GenU) to help deliver the programme, with key partners funding GenU being Accenture, Microsoft, Standard Chartered, Unilever, and United Bank of Africa.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “The United Kingdom has long been a proud and mighty champion of this fundamental cause and today we take one leap further through our first Global Partnership of its kind – opening the opportunity for one million girls across the developing world to have access to high quality skills training.

“Ensuring every girl and young woman across the globe receives 12 years of quality education is the greatest tool in our armoury to end the world’s great injustices.

“Delivering on this mission will be one of the best defences against ignorance, ensure the greatest protection from prejudice and put a rocket booster behind our hopes and dreams for global development in the years to come.”

UK said businesses, charities, schools and colleges will shortly be able to bid for funds from the programme. The partnership wants to support projects that will improve access to education for girls, with a focus on providing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills needed to find work in key sectors such as technology and manufacturing. This could include funding new skills training programmes, improving teaching or redesigning training to make it more relevant to business needs. Initially bids will be encouraged for projects in Nigeria and Bangladesh, two countries where significant barriers to girls’ education remain.

Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, said: “Supporting women and girls is at the heart of UK foreign policy. We want women to have agency over their own lives and to be free to succeed.

“Investing in girls’ education is vital for a more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous future. That’s why we are partnering with the private sector to help girls in developing countries access education and job opportunities.”

According to Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Helen Grant, every girl everywhere deserves to have an education.

From school right the way through to the workplace, our partnership will help give women and girls the skills they need to reach their full potential.”

Also, in Lagos, yesterday, at the DigiGirls Cohort 1 graduation, organised by Cybersafe Foundation in collaboration with the UK government, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said young girls must be encouraged to have interest in STEM, and other strategic areas of life.

Laing said women in Nigeria and globally still face huge challenges and denied their rightful place in politics, governance, business, arts and others.

“The problem number one is women not having enough role models in senior positions, particularly in politics, Sadly, we saw in the constitution amendment, some very good proposals to include women in some strategic positions in politics being rejected by men. Until we break this barrier and enable women to take leadership positions in politics, there won’t be enough role models for girls to aspire and see that they too can break barriers.

“UK government is supporting women in politics, which is one strand of our work and the DigiGirls we are doing today (yesterday) is another form of support. It is UK Aid backed and the Prime Minister today, launched International Women’s Day programme for Africa and other developing countries. It is a £20 million investment to partner with business to give young girls the skills they need so that they can take up leadership role in business, politics, climate change and the rest,” Laing stated.(The Guardian)

*PHOTO: Lagos State First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu addressing women during a rally against rejection of gender bills by the National Assembly