“PRESS FOR PROGRESS ON THE RIGHTS AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN” BEING A PAPER PRESENTED BY D. TOLA WINJOBI (PHD) PRINCIPAL COORDINATOR, CAFSO-WRAG FOR DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL COORDINATOR CIVIL SOCIETY COALITION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY (IWD) ORGANIZED BY THE CENTRE FOR LEADERSHIP AND GOOD GOVERNANCE INTERNATIONAL IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE NGM GROUP ON THURSDAY MARCH 8 2018 AT NUJ MILLENNIUM HALL, IYAGANKU, IBADAN, OYO STATE, NIGERIA
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO IWD
The earliest Women’s Day observance, called “National Woman’s Day,”  was held on February 28, 1909 in New York, and was organized by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel. Though there have been claims that the day was commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, researchers have described this as a myth.
In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark.Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, supported by Käte Duncker, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune.Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. The Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
In 1913 Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Saturday in February (by the Julian calendar then used in Russia).
Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8. In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.
In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
On March 8, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, women textile workers began a demonstration, covering the whole city. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism. Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.” Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, but it was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”
From its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917, the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off. Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri led a women’s march in Madrid in 1936 on the eve of the Spanish Civil War.
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
INTRODUCTION: PLIGHT AND DISCRIMINATIONS
“Press for progress” is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. Can it be said that there is progress when it comes to issues affecting women in our world? There are a lot of indicators that could answer this question. Over the years, it seems all efforts geared at raising the status of women to press for their progress are in futility. Progress is linked to development. To press for progress will be a mirage if we can’t first press for the rights of women. We can’t press for the rights of women if we can’t understand the plight of women. And the plight of women (and girls by extension) manifests in socio-economic and environmental facets of life which incidentally are the three domains of development. These three domains of development encapsulate educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment of women. In essence, we need to bring into the right perspective the plight of women before talking about their rights, progress and development.
The Plight of Women:
And what is this plight? The health status of many women is poor. Girls often get less education than boys. Some, get less food, less health care; some cannot get health care, even in an emergency without a man’s consent. Some girls are married young and begin bearing children too soon while they are called teenage mothers. Some girls are circumcised in childhood thus violating their rights to health. Women’s health involves their emotional, social and physical well-being. Equal relationships between men and women in matters of sexual relations and reproduction require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility. But the irony is that many women do not have the rights to the number and spacing of their children including the family planning options of their choice. Man, according to some cultural norms, may marry as many wives as desired, and probably keep extra-marital affairs with impunity. Many men have contracted STIs an HIV from free women outside only to come and infect their innocent wives at home – the woman dares not talk. In the past decade, the number of women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to the number of men, and the risk for falling into poverty is higher for women than for men. Girls in many countries still face discrimination due to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, lack of accessible schools, and inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials. Women in some cultures still face degrading treatment in the hands of in-laws who shave the poor widows’ hair and made to sit on bare floor for days in order to prove that the widows are innocent of the demise of their husbands.
In decision-making, some women are traditionally prevented from taking crucial decisions affecting them on their own. What is the situation concerning bail bond now that women cannot sign? What is the situation now concerning the consent of a husband for a woman to secure an international passport? In some cultures in Nigeria, land rights, unlimited to men, are limited to many women as women need to seek the consent of their husbands to be granted permission to the use of a farming land. Worse is the case when girls cannot inherit their father’s property as they are considered part of the very property to be inherited. Even the rights of girls/women to inherit property are recognized and upheld in the Holy Writ as the landed property (inheritance) of the daughters of Zelophehad was secured for them (see Numbers Chapter 36: vs 6,7, and 12). In order to respect the right of girls (Zelophehad’s girls) to marry Moses the Oracle of Yahweh explicitly stated, “Let them marry to whom they think best….” (verse 6b).
Women remain largely under-represented at most levels of government, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies or in reaching the target of having 30 percent of decision-making positions held by women by 1995, as endorsed by UN ECOSOC. This under representation in decision-making positions in the arts, culture, sports, the media, education, religion and law has prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions and policies. So, what progress are we to press for?
Violence against women:
There are different forms of violence against women. Sexual slavery, female genital mutilation (FGM) or circumcision, forced pregnancy, sterilization and forced abortion, prenatal sex selection and female infanticide are acts of violence against women. Others are wife beating, inhuman widowhood rites, lack of maintenance, lack of property right, denial of freedom of religion and child custody. Women often face rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace and particularly vulnerable to systemic violence during war. The horrendous experience of victims of rape and “accidental” bombing in IDP’s camps is inexplicable as their case is of double jeopardy; long time shame of rape to live with and the ultimate death.
Sexual violence in particular is an act of total contempt for the individual and has specific characteristics:
- Women are the primary victims of sexual abuse which includes rape;
- The motive of the perpetrators are often to humiliate and demoralize the victims, and to satisfy the violators’ ego and libido;
- It has some medical, psychological and sociological effects on the victims;
- Rape victims are extremely reluctant to speak out, and they then have to cope with lasting psycho-social problems;
- The prospect of bearing a child as a result of this painful experience and the risk of contracting STI or becoming sterile are only the most visible consequences;
- In certain societies, rape victims face rejection by their families and their entire communities, which consider them unworthy of marriage, education, or employment;
- Sexual violence against women during armed conflict mostly remains unpunished, a fact that has not seemed to arouse much attention.
Human Rights of Women:
All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The full and equal enjoyment by women and girls of the following rights should be a priority: The right to:
- Liberty and security of the person
- Equality, and to be free from all forms of discrimination
- Freedom of thought
- Information and education
- Choose whether or not to marry and to found and plan a family
- Decide whether or when to have children
- Health care and health protection
- The benefits of scientific progress
- Freedom of assembly and political participation
- Be free from torture and ill-treatment.
Specific Sexual and Reproductive Rights:
The following reproductive and sexual rights should be a fundamental basis of all programs and policies affecting women. The rights include:
- The right to sex education
- Access to safe and affordable contraceptives
- Confidential contraceptive counseling
- Decision whether and when to have children and the desired number to have abortion
- Health care and information about STIs and AIDS;
- Sex preference of one’s baby.
SOME TRADITIONAL BELIEFS AND ABSURDITIES
- That husbands should not lend a helping hand to their wives in the house chores.
- That husbands can fool around unmolested and with impunity thus bringing STIs and HIV to their wives at the latter’s perils.
- That the boy (even as the last born when the girl is even the first born) has the right to the major portion of their father’s property.
- That a woman cannot ascend the stool of her ancestors (for example, as an Oba) even if she is the only one left in the family.
- That a widow has no access to her husband’s property if she has no son in that family.
- That a widow can be inherited as a wife (also as a property) by the sibling of her deceased husband even when the woman is older or of higher status than, or is not interested in the inheritor (sibling).
- That the husband has the right to demand sexual intercourse even when the health of the wife is at risk.
- That men are the sole owners of the children born out of wedlock, and that the woman cannot take the custody of the children in case of divorce even when the husband is at fault.
- That no tax relief is granted a working woman (unlike a man) for every child of hers since a man regarded being responsible for taking care of the children (financially?).
- That a “stubborn” wife should be beaten by her husband.
- That a girl-child should not be given higher education since she is going to end up in her husband’s house, and therefore money spent on her education is a waste.
- That early marriage for girls under 14 is desirable after all, Senator Yerima Abdulahi married an Egyptian girl of 13 years.
- That women need husbands’ permission to attend meetings or be involved in any activity outside the home; e.g. purdah system.
- That women need to be home in the evenings and at night to feed and care for their children, etc. (reproductive role).
- That a woman needs the consent of her husband before being issued an international passport.
- That a woman cannot stand as a surety for bail.
CASE STUDIES ON THE PLIGHT OF WOMEN
- Each year, dozens or even hundreds of women and girls in Afghanistan are subjected to invasive, humiliating, and sometimes painful vaginal and rectal exams in the name of “science.” These so-called virginity exams are not just demeaning – they constitute sexual assault and are often used as evidence against women in court for the “crime”of zina, or sex outside of marriage.
- The governmental Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recently interviewed53 women and girls as young as 13 who had been accused of zina, an act punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Forty-eight of these women and girls had been sent for “virginity exams” performed by Afghan government doctors. Twenty were examined more than once – up to four times in a couple of cases. One woman said that there were six people in the room watching the examination.
- Doctors write reports based on these examinations, and they are used as evidence in courts hearing the “moral crime” accusation against the woman or girl. These reports often draw conclusions on whether a woman or girl is a “virgin,” and whether she recently or habitually engaged in sexual intercourse.
- “Virginity exams” are bogus. Many people mistakenly believe that virginity can be determined because the hymen is always broken when a woman or girl has sexual intercourse for the first time. This is simply not true. Some girls are born without a hymen; hymens often break during daily non-sexual activities, and some hymens remain intact after sexual Purported virginity exams are so unreliable that the World Health Organization has saidthat they have no scientific validity and health workers should never conduct them.
- The continued use of degrading and unscientific “virginity exams” by the Afghan government is part of a broader pattern of abuses in which women and girls in Afghanistan are jailed on spurious “moral crimes” accusations, often in situations where they are fleeing forced marriage or domestic violence. The government should end these arrests entirely and reform the law that permits them. Banning all “virginity exams” could be an important first step toward reform. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani could abolish these exams through an executive order. Recognizing everyone’s inherent dignity, respecting human rights, and appreciating real science over pseudo-science all demand he do so.
- Khadija (name changed to protect her privacy), 23, married in 2011 and lived with her husband in Oujda, Morocco. At the time of the interview, she had a 7-month-old son and was pregnant.
- She said her husband beat her from the start of their marriage and during and after her pregnancy. He hit her on the head with the back of a knife, punched her face, and threatened to cut her face. “He knows I have nowhere else to go,” she said. “I had bruises all over my body.”
- Khadija said that she went to the Oujda police many times, but they told her to go to the court and did not investigate. One time, she said, “I went at night with my nose bleeding and they said, ‘Leave, we can do nothing for you. Go tomorrow to the courthouse.’” On that occasion and others, she went to the prosecutor (in the courthouse), but the prosecutor did not file charges and sent her back to the police with a document directing the police to investigate. Each time she arrived at the police station with the document from the prosecutor, the police called her husband and told him to come to the police station, but he did not come. The police did not investigate further.
- The police arrested her husband only once, in 2014, after he broke her nose while she was pregnant. A doctor issued a medical certificate indicating that she needed 21 days of rest for her injuries. Khadija showed the medical certificate to the prosecutor, who gave her an order to present to the police. She did, and the police arrested her husband. But before the case could proceed, Khadija dropped her complaint as she was seven months pregnant and worried what would happen to her if he was tried. The prosecutors did not pursue charges.
- Khadija said her husband continued to beat her. She left him in August 2015 and went to a shelter. She wants a divorce, but fears she will have no choice but to return to him. She cannot stay in the shelter for more than two months, and has nowhere else to stay. She said: “Even if I get divorced, I don’t have any place to go. I feel like I have to go back, but I know that he will beat me.”
- 14-year old Ese Oruru was abducted in August 2015 by a Yunusa Dahiru a.k.a. Yellow, and taken from Opolo, Yenagoa L.G. in Bayelsa State to Kano but reunited with her family in the first week of March 2016. This can be linked to the story of Sanni Yerima then Governor of Zamfara State 1999-2004 now one of the Senators of Nigeria who married to a an Egyptian 13-year old girl some years ago. Forced marriage especially of the under age or minor has some psycho-social and health implications on them. One can think of the pains associated with the penetration of the manhood into the vaginal of the minor or the rigor attendant to her emotional maturity to carry the pregnancy to term if she is pregnant. This is coupled with the resultant effect of vesico-vaginal fistula and recto-vaginal fistula as the case may be.
Radical De-education of girls
UNICEF in 2016 lamented over 11 million children out of school in Nigeria. One is saddened by radical de-education of girls in the northeast through the dangerous activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. Boko Haram extremists are further decimating the poor number of children in schools in the northeast by adopting school girls. The unpalatable news started on April 14 2014 with the adoption of over 276 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram. The same month in 2014, 58 male students of the College of Agriculture, Buni Yadi, Yobe State were murdered in cold blood while asleep. Yet on February 19, 2018 Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State and made away with 110 girls. The aim of these incessant attacks is to discourage education through radical de-education which tallies with the agenda of Boko Haram, “education is a sin”. These Boko Haram killings in addition to the killings being perpetrated by Fulani Killer Herdsmen across the country are radically de-educating our girls so that Nigeria can have a bleak future or no future at all. Sad enough, Nigerian government is seen not to be sympathetic to the plight of her young ones as the President himself failed to pay a commiseration visit to Buni Yadi or Dapchi but had the brazen effrontery to attend the wedding ceremony of the children of his party men in Kano barely less than a month after Dapchi incident. The behavior of the president is not strange because his own very predecessor too did not pay an immediate mission to Chibok as denial was the order of the day by that regime then.
Specifically, Goal 4 target 1 of the SDGs ensures “that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”. Primarily, education is the bed rock of development while quality education is dependent upon a good learning environment. True is the maxim: educate a boy you educate a family; but educate a girl you educate a nation. How will a nation that is killing her own girls make progress?
Nigeria is good at signing and ratifying international instruments but slow at implementing their content. There are many covenants and local laws on women’s rights that the system doesn’t allow to work. The following are some of the international instruments that Nigeria is a signatory to or that Nigeria has institutionalized:
- Nigeria ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 13 June 1985, although efforts to operationalise its thirty articles locally have faltered.
- The country also adopted the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
- Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol)
- National Gender Policy
- Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In doing so Nigeria has committed itself to, among other things, promoting affirmative action and taking other measures to ensure that women participate equally in electoral processes. Since the National Assembly rejected a draft bill on the full domestication of the Convention in 2005, despite its unreserved ratification in 1985, CEDAW is not a part of the national legal framework and its provisions are therefore not part of the national law, not justiciable and not enforceable in Nigerian courts.
WOMEN’S SOCIO-POLITICAL MAGINALISATION AND DISCRIMINATION
Gender has been a topical issue as it affects womenfolk in all ramifications. Women are classified among the vulnerable and disadvantaged or less privileged on socio-economic and political dividends. Marginalization and discrimination are commonplace in political office sharing and decision-making positions. From the recent past till this present moment, there has been so much agitation for more women, most especially the educated class, to participate in politics to enable them contribute more effectively in decision-making processes. Women’s effective participation and leadership in civil society, political parties, and governing bodies ensures that decision making includes a broader range of perspectives and interests which leads to policies that are more likely to foster inclusive economic and social development and benefit more people.
Women have the right to participate in political processes that affect them, their families, and their societies. Countries with increased women’s participation and leadership in civil society and political parties tend to be more inclusive, responsive, egalitarian, and democratic. When women meaningfully participate in peace processes, they can help to expand the scope of agreements and improve the prospects for durable peace. Yet, women around the world are still largely absent from national and local decision-making bodies; struggle to have a voice in peacebuilding transitions; and are excluded from political processes. Despite representing half the global population, women comprise less than 20 percent of the world’s legislators.
From discrimination and violence to a lack of support and resources, women face countless challenges to participation in the civic and political life of their countries. The hostile environment in particular tends to ossify the participation of women in politics. Fear of violence, thuggery and intimidation, non-indigenship syndrome, political parties’ internal democracy including masculine regulations, night meetings, high cost of registration and nomination fees all contribute to hostile environment for women to join politics.
The 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report shows a widening of the gap across all four pillars: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment. Especially the latter two pillars show the largest gender gaps despite progress in previous years. The report finds that it will take 100 years to close the global gender gap overall and 217 years to achieve economic parity between women and men. This number is significantly larger than the 170 years the report estimated in 2015 or even the 80 years it predicted in 2014.
The proportion of people employed in the public sector in Nigeria is tilted in favour of men against women. For example, 28.5 per cent of women were employed in the public sector as against 71.5 per cent of men in 2001 while the figure for women had a maginal increase of 28.7 in 2002. However, the number also insignificantly increased in 2004 to 29.5 per cent which is far below 70.5 percent recorded for men in the same public sector in the same year (Fatile et al 2011 p115).
Considering the top public positions in Nigeria, there is also a grave gender disparity. Specifically for judges position in Nigeria, the number of women judges between 2001 and 2007 has been so low to the extent that the lowest in 2001 was a mere 146 (16.8%) as against 724 for men. The highest number of women so far as judges in 2007 stood at 226 (20.1) far below 901 recorded for men. Similarly in the appointment as permanent secretaries, women have not faired well as less women are being appointed than men between 2001 and 2007. For example, the highest number of women permanent secretaries was 208 which translates to 20.7 per cent compared to 797 men appointed the same year. The situation was worse for women in the earlier years as, for example, only 15.8 percent, 15.9 percent and 16.1 percent were appointed permanent secretaries for 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively (NBS 2009 p.51).
During the 2007 elections, women constituted about 11% of all candidates with only one woman contesting for the office of the President; 33.9% for governorship positions; 13.5% for Senate, 15.6% for House of Representatives, and 15.8% for Houses of Assembly. At the end of the elections, women occupied only about 7.5 percent of key leadership positions in Nigeria. During the last parliamentary term in 2007, only 15.8% of the representatives in Nigeria’s upper and lower houses were women (8.3%; 7.5% respectively). In 2011 election, 200 out of 2400 (8.33%) candidates for the House of Representatives and 80 out of 720 (11.11%) candidates for the Senate were women. Overall, 909 out of 10037 (9.06%) candidates for all elective positions were women. These positions include the Presidency, governorships and parliamentary seats. There has been an overall regression in women’s representation in elective positions. Seven out of 109 (6.42%) senators elected in 2011 are women compared to 9 (8.3%) in 2007, while only 12 out of 360 (3.33%) members of the House of Representatives are women, down from 26 in 2007(NBS 2009 p.63-65).No woman has ever been elected as governor in Nigeria while it is only in few cases women are deputy governors like in Lagos and Osun States.
The table below shows a summary of women’s representation in elective positions since 1999:
|S/N||Position||No of Available Seats in 1999||No of Women in 1999||No of Women in 2003||No of Women in 2007||No of Women in 2011||No of women in 2015|
|2||Senate||109||3 (2.8%)||4 (3.7%)||9 (8.3)||7 (6.4)||7 (6.4)|
|3||House of Reps||360||7 (1.9)||21 (5.8)||26 (7.5)||12 (3.3)||19|
|6||36 States Houses of Assembly (SHA)||990||24 (2.4)||40 (3.9)||57 (5.8)||68 (6.9)||NA|
|7.||SHA Committee Chairpersons||829||18 (2.2)||881seats: 32 women (3.6%)||887 seats: 52 women (5.9)||887 seats: NA/NA||NA|
|8||LGA Chairpersons||710 seats||13 women (1.8)||774 seats: 15 women (1.9)||740 seats: 27 women (3.6)||740 seats: NA/NA||NA|
|9||Councillors||6368||69 women (1.1)||6368 seats: 267 women (4.2)||6368 seats: 235 women (3.7)||6368 seats: NA women||NA|
|Total||9,439||145 (1.53%)||9555 seats: women 381 (1.58)||9527 seats: women 412 (4.3)||NA||NA|
Source: Adapted from NBS 2009 p.51; and Fatile et al 2011.
Strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation are critical steps towards empowering women, reducing poverty and achieving national as well as local developmental goals. Women remain largely under-represented at most levels of government, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies or in reaching the target of having 30 percent of decision-making positions held by women by 1995, as endorsed by UN ECOSOC. This under representation in decision-making positions in the arts, culture, sports, the media, education, religion and law has prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions and policies.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
Nigerian Governments should:
- Accord priority attention to the adoption of comprehensive measures to address violence against women and girls in accordance with its general recommendation 19 on violence against women.
- Enact speedy comprehensive legislation on all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, indicating that it constitutes a criminal offence, ensuring that women and girls who are victims have access to immediate redress and protection, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.
- Through political parties, promote women’s participation more effectively, and should develop accountability mechanisms and seek technical assistance, including from civil society, to meet this objective.
- Expand training activities and programmes for parliamentarians, the judiciary and public officials, particularly law enforcement personnel and health-service providers, to ensure widespread sensitization and adequate support to victims.
- Through the Independent National Electoral Commission, conduct a focused drive on female voter registration and run specific voter education campaigns for women during elections.
- face headlong the menace of Boko Haram and Fulani killer herdsmen who are decimating the lives of our girls and women thus preventing them from having a worthwhile education.
- Through the National Assembly, domesticate CEDAW and the African Union Protocol of women’s rights by passing the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill as soon as possible.
Development partners should:
- promote good governance by giving preference to organisations whose constitutions and policies promote accountability and gender equity.
- provide training for female members of political parties and parliaments and supporting the development of women’s caucuses.
- provide skill building and leadership training for women civil society members, women’s organizations, and female journalists.
- support women’s participation in political and post-conflict transitions.
- build capacity for civil society organizations to advocate for women’s participation in political transitions and governance processes.
CSOs/NGOs should :
- support local efforts to advocate for legal rights that enable women to participate fully in the political and economic life of their societies.
- Clamour for improved women’s access to justice and increasing women’s participation and representation in the justice sector.
- lead and promote gender training and orientation for political parties.
- hold politicians to account and make women’s votes count.
- be supported to orient women on their rights as constituents.
- build their capacity to advocate for women’s participation in political transitions and governance processes.
Pressing for progress should be the responsibility of all. We all have to be determined about the issues affecting women and girls in our society. From the international women’s day website, is what we need do as a people. We are expected to specifically concentrate on press for progress for gender parity in our own sphere of influence.
We are to press for progress and maintain a gender parity mindset by:
- questioning any lack of women’s participation
- identifying alternatives that are more inclusive
- nominating women for opportunities
- always including and supporting women
- thinking “50/50” as the goal
We are to press for progress and challenge stereotypes and bias by:
- questioning assumptions about women
- challenging statements that limit women
- always using inclusive language
- working to remove barriers to women’s progress
- buying from retailers who position women in positive ways
We are to press for progress and forge positive visibility of women by:
- identifying ways to make women more visible
- extending opportunities to women first
- assuming women want opportunities until declined
- selecting women as spokespeople and leaders
- supporting visible women
We are to press for progress and influence others’ beliefs / actions by:
- supportively calling-out inappropriate behaviour
- campaigning for equality in meaningful ways
- leading by example via inclusive actions
- being a role model for equality
- actively contributing to changing the status quo
We are to press for progress and celebrate women’s achievements by:
- believing that achievement comes in many forms
- valuing women’s individual and collective success
- ensuring credit is given for women’s contributions
- celebrating women role models and their journeys
- supporting awards showcasing women’s success
Ladies and gentlemen, it is through doing all this that we can confidently say that we are set to press for progress; we are not yet there until we press for progress.
Thank you for listening.
Tola Winjobi (PhD)