ENE OSANG in this piece reports that Nigerian women blame the slow passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunies Bill (GEOBill) on the lack of commitment from their male counterparts.
Deputy Minority Whip at the House, Senator Biodun Christine Olujim, has poured out her thoughts on the (GEObill), as she pegged the refusal to pass the bill into law on the lack of support from the men.
Speaking exclusively to Blueprint, Senator Olujimi said gender issues needs attention of the men, saying they have ways of making things work when they put their mind to it.
‘’We need the men to put us in proper shape we have done enough over the years but its not working for us.
‘’However we have our own problems that you can help us resolve because it is always difficult for women to resolve issues among ourselves. Women, unlike the men who settle issues over beer but women have no where to settle issues because its either they go back home to their husbands or business or children and so we don’t have that forum to resolve issues.
‘’Even as politicians we carry grudges for long because there is no forum to discuss so at any time we need people to come between us and sort things out for us that’s why we always need men infact, we have decided that the position of women leaders should go to the men so that they can bring us together,’’ she said.
She expressed displeasure that the GEO bill has been lingering for a very long time, saying most women holding leadership positions have been in the struggle whike they were only gender activists.
‘’We have been trying but it has not worked as expected. The seventh assembly brought up the GEO bill but they never saw the light of the day because the men are not sensitized enough to believe in the issues promoted by the bill.
‘’This is why this time around we have a window for opportunity in the Senate President’s wife because she believes in gender and believes that we should do whatever it takes to put the bill on the front burner,’’ she said.
Recalling when she first brought up the GEO Bill, she expressed disappointment at the way it was turn down, adding that the men wouldn’t support because they are getting the point wrong.
‘’I assumed that I had spoken to everybody and that it would go through but on that day nine people spoke with seven in favour of the bill but when it came to the voice votes the nays had it even when it was done twice.
‘’That goes to show that what men say is not what they believe and that is where the problems lies, the fact is that most men are with us on the GEO bill but on the surface.
‘’They don’t want us to get angry because they know we can do certain things but deep down they don’t believe that we need the powers we are asking for and we are not asking for much we are saying that as 50% of the population let us be able to determine what happens to us.
She however expressed hope that it will be passed into law, noting that the Senate President Bukola Saraki has directed that they have a second look at it.
‘’It was thrown out initially but we wont give up and more so because the Senate President has asked us to go look at the bill again and bring it back.
‘’We have a few NGO’s together the UN women, the EU, ECOWAS joined us the Swedish embassy, the NDI, IRI all have joined us to look at the bill again, after all done, the minimum is still not ok.
It is worthy to note that women wants ownership to lands, family property, and other economic areas which have been restricted for men over the years.
‘’We still want the inheritance clause taken out and I have said to them, laws are not made just because one is not involved, if your believe supports that what about mine? Who now make laws for those who have no one to protect them because that is where we are now.
‘’We are going to have a public hearing as soon as we get funds and we will invite everybody and also mobilise women and men who believes in the women struggle.
She further regretted that some religious leadrrs are strongly against the bill, saying they have gone to the extent of calling their representatives to show their disapproval as they were not voted in to champion such bills.
‘’One Imam called his representative and said, we didn’t know we voted you in to destroy us. You were married as a child, why are you assisting Senator Olujimi to peg marriage at 18?
‘’We had to remove that part because even the women said they were married at 14 and they believe that 18 years is too far but for me I have 14 year old who cannot take care of themselves, how can you send such a child to marriage?,’’ she lamented.
‘’The world has come a long way and those women who they marry at 14 some are right now unmarried because they no longer have the flair, she is no longer a minor, a juvenile and the innocence that brought him close to her is no longer there so we don’t want women to be used and dumped.
‘’We are trying to include all of these into the constitution and the constitution review we expect we have 35% with political appointments and participation,’’ she explained.
The Senator is optimistic that there can be 35% affirmative action especially in political appointments, women can build on that for a better life for all women.
She daid further that another bill which went alongside the GEO bill was the empowerment bill, saying this has been kept low so as to let the one work before introducing another.
She harped on women active political participation, stressing that more involvement of women in politics will enable them understand politics better and know how to jostle for positions.
‘’We got women into elective political positions because we were able to come together across party lines we came as women and we told them the issue is with our parties.
‘’If we can get all parties in Nigeria say for every election 20% of the electable positions are given to women 20% will be left for us and then we still contest the remaining 80% which means at every election we should be able to get 20 or 25-30% of women into positions across the political parties,’’ she said.
‘’We believe the GEO bill will be an addition to whatever we can do as individuals in our various parties. There is no doubt that as an individual you need to showcase your party and tell the people you have what it takes to occupy a position and if we now have a quota that is reserved for us then we can fill it in and be able to contest for it so it is part of it but not the entire problem,’’ she added.
‘’We are 50% of the population and we should be able to get value for that not tokenism of putting 6 women among 46 men that’s not good enough.’’
‘We have been trying but it has not worked as expected. The seventh assembly brought up the GEO bill but it never saw the light of the day because the men are not sensitized enough to believe in the issues promoted by the bill.