The United Nations International Women’s Day comes off again this March 8 2014 as it is annually celebrated globally. CAFSO-WRAG for Development joins the people of the world in celebrating the progress made for women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme and which encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.
According to the Executive Director of UN-Women Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “we acknowledge that progress has been slow, uneven and in some cases women and girls face new and more complex challenges”. In Nigeria, of much concern are major challenges such as poverty, hunger, inequality, violence against women or gender-based violence and insecurity of our children being slaughtered at will by dreaded Islamist sect Boko Haram in northeastern part of Nigeria.
The issue of gender-based violence and its attendant crimes should be of grave concern to us all. Up to a third of women in Nigeria report that they have been subjected to some form of violence including battery, verbal abuse, emotional and psychological trauma, marital rape, sexual exploitation and harassment (Nigeria NGO Coalition 208: 66). As much as 70 percent of unmarried women in some southern states of Nigeria are the most frequent victims of violence (Obi and Ozumba, 2007). Worse still, commonplace are cases of rape, pedophilia and incest apart from cases of husbands or related partners violating their spouses and close friends.
On the other hand are the challenges facing women’s participation in politics in Nigeria. Nigerian women remain largely under-represented at most levels of government including political positions and appointment, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies and 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 position in the arts, culture, sports, the media, education, religion, and law has prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions’ plans, programmes and policies. Men dominate political space by planning and organizing political meetings in the night. Ossifying women’s political participation is men’s use of violence including intimidation and physical assault. Women are constrained by men’s seemingly deployment of dirty politics characterised by character assassination, mudslinging, rigging, innuendos about moral standing etc apart from exorbitant nomination fee running to multiple of million Naira, depending on political party.
CAFSO-WRAG hereby calls on government to put appropriate and workable mechanisms in place to obstruct the obstacles preventing the realisation and enjoyment of all socio-economic rights of women including participation in politics.
On the issue of gender-based violence that has become commonplace, we urge the government to strengthen the implementation of recommendations in the National Gender Policy rather than paying political lip service to its implementation. We also enjoin each state government to enact (where non-existent) a bill prohibiting gender-based violence with stringent sanctions against the violators while justice is not only done but also seen to be done accordingly. If possible, each state government should establish and adequately fund a Gender Equality Unit within the judicial system which would be taking up cases of gender-based violence and playing an advisory role to the judiciary.
CAFSO-WRAG for Development also supports the UN Under-Secretary-General’s recommendation to various governments that by protecting our children from insurgency attacks and especially keeping girls in school longer, with quality education, we will empower young women to play their full role in society and build stronger families, communities and democracies. By advancing equal opportunity and removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment, we will reduce inequality and spur inclusive economic growth. By supporting women’s equal representation in leadership positions in peacemaking, in communities, in politics, in business and in religious institutions, we will build a more just, peaceful and secure world.
We wish Nigerian government a happy centenary celebration, a fruitful National Dialogue, an inspiring change for women’s rights, and a peaceful co-existence among Nigerian peoples for unity and faith, peace and progress of our country.
D. Tola Winjobi (PhD)
CAFSO-WRAG for Development