By Senator Iroegbu and Jessica Odewimgie
Abuja — The Ministry of Women Affairs, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and non-governmental organisations yesterday in Abuja called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Gender Equality Opportunity Bill into law in order to bring about economic growth, help protect violence against women, ensure equal opportunities and access to finance in Nigeria.
Speaking at the national tribunal on violence against women and gender and equal opportunity bill organised by the Civil Resources Development and Documentation Center (CIRDDOC) in Abuja, a director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Esther Eghobamien, said the bill if passed would enhance protection of violence against women.
According to her, “At the ministry, when the gender equality bill was thrown out in March, we were aggrieved, we have deepened our collaboration with the National Assembly by having a core team working with the Senate President to review the bill alongside the United Nations’ women.
“We have criticised the bill, analysed it and identified areas of the bill where we think they may not pay-off for women, particularly areas of education because we know that in many areas of the country, there are affirmative actions on education for women and girls; if we say we want equality in those areas, we will loose positions of affirmative actions.”
She further called on pressure groups to continuously push for women’s right to be protected by law, which according to her, is what the bill stands for.
The Executive Director of CIRDDOC, Oby Nwankwo, said that the tribunals are not legal proceedings but have effected significant changes in attitudes and policies concerning women.
“By having victims of violations speaking publicly about abuses and bring out the violations of human rights involved in the actions, they attract condemnation of the violations from well meaning people”, she said.
“The objective of this tribunal is to bring to a fore the cultural, traditional and religious beliefs and practices that inhibit women’s enjoyment of human rights and promotes violence against women.”
Also at the tribunal, the Country Director of the National Democratic Institutes (NDI), Jasper Veen, said all around the world, people are advancing and embracing gender equality and claiming their rights to participate in politics.
“We must ensure that women are politically active, without experiencing any form of harassment or assault, Sadly, Nigeria has around five-six percent of women participation in elected office,” Veen further said.
He said the NDI is supporting a number of political parties and civil organisations to see how political parties can be more inclusive and allow women to run and aspire for offices and become effective politicians for their constituencies as well as highlight women who are effective in various constituencies.
Former Executive Director, African Women Development Funds, Bisi Fayemi, said Nigeria cannot be called the giant of Africa, if they have at least 50 per cent of her population completely disenfranchised, powerless, has no access to resources, bartered, bruised and humiliated without rights.
“Nigerian women are not fighting their men, we are not going to displace a patriarchy and put a matriarchy in place, what we want is a society in which men and women can live together in peace and harmony and where we can have. A healthy relationship,” she said.
In the same vein, the veteran actor, Mr. Sydney Dialla, commended the initiative and efforts of CIRDDOC and other stakeholders.
Dialla assured that Nollywood would help to ensure that the issue of violence against women and the need for women empowerment would be well projected by the Nigerian film industry.
“We want to thank the organisers for this initiative to ensure that women are not relegated to the background. And the truth is that the background is not the place reserved for women,” she said.