On women inclusion and national development

Again, the place of women in national development is at the front burner of public discourse following the nomination of nine women for commissioner portfolio in Kwara state. ENE OSANG writes on this and many more.

The 1995 Beijing Declaration on Women emphasises the need for, at least, 35 percent representation for women in politics and all other appointments.

As a result of this, women stakeholders across the country are working tirelessly towards the affirmative action in order to remedy the gender disparity particularly in politics.
According to the chief facilitator, Equity and Development Advocate, Ms Ene Ede, facts and research have proved massive positive impacts that can be brought to bear on the growth and development in the country if women are given their place in society.

The general secretary, Womens Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) Nigeria, Saudatu Mahdi, in her paper presentation at the just-concluded FIDA Regional Congress in Abuja said recent reports from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women indicate that African continent has demonstrated commitment to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women.
She affirmed that almost all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and more than half have ratified the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa including the African Union’s declaration of 2010–2020.

 Despite these, the reality remains disappointing across the continent and particularly in Nigeria as these treaties are yet to yield meaningful progress for gender equality.
Women in politics
Mahdi noted the slow and non-inclusion of women in governance saying this is mainly grounded on its failure to comply with national and international commitments for quotas and other special mechanisms.
“Most often quoted and legally safe commitments are the constitutional provisions in chapter two and four of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Another one is the adopted Beijing platform outcomes of 35 percent affirmative action stipulated in Nigeria’s National Gender Policy (2006).
“Overall, the trajectory of tokenism in numbers, quality of inclusion and weak enforcement of its commitments has left Nigeria at the lowest ebb among nations which is a demonstration of a meaningful representation of women in governance,” she said.

Kwara changing the narratives
At the moment, the Kwara state governor, Abdurahman Abdulrazaq has moved from rhetoric to action by becoming the first governor in Nigeria to record the highest percentage of female cabinet nominees.
Addressing a press conference on the development, the national president, Women in Politics Forum (WiPF) Ebere Ifendu, noted that the nominated female commissioners takes the proportion of women in the cabinet of Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRasaq to 56%.
“We consider this as a great achievement not only for the people of Kwara state but for Nigerians as a whole and the world at large,” she said.
Chief executive officer, Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) Mufuliat Fijabi, praised the governor, saying, “He has done excellently well; I strongly commend him for making history.”
Fijabi noted that stressed that the experiences of women are needed to fast-rack the growth and development of any society. She said, “The state assembly should remember that government should be by women and men, for men and women and for the needful.”
Similarly, Armsfree Ajanaku of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRISED) described the nomination as a commendable step by the state government.

 Ajanaku explained that affirmative action is a solid approach towards ensuring historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups get the space they need to make their contributions to governance.
“If you look at the outcome of the 2019 elections, it was clear that there was a regression in the participation of women, especially at the National Assembly where the number of women lawmakers elected dropped drastically.
It is an encouraging sign to see a state use the channel of appointment to address the lopsidedness in the participation of women in the political process,” he said.
He however stressed the need to institutionalise this commitment in the governance of the state.

“Today, the current governor is enthusiastic about gender balance and affirmative action. To sustain this, the idea of having women and other disadvantaged groups participate in governance should be pushed further through institutional frameworks like policies or laws.
“Governor Abdulrazaq may be very enthusiastic today about gender balance and women empowerment; what if a successor comes who is not so keen about these ideals? That is why the more effective approach would be to institutionalise the process and ensure it would not be based on the discretion of a political actor,” he said.

Also, Oyo state governorship candidate during past election under the National Interest party (NIP) Bolanle Asarmi Aliyu noted that no governor in Nigeria today has nominated that number of women into the cabinet, saying it is welcome development.
On her part, Ms Ede said the nomination came at a time when gender governance and leadership is at the deepest valley in the history of women’s disillusionment, saying this is giving way to hope of possible change from the bad narrative in inclusive and diversified governance and leadership.

More reactions
on her part, Toun Okewale Sonaiya described the nomination as the right step in the right direction.
“The governor has shown purposeful leadership and confirmed my age-long belief that where there is will, there is a way! The governor and party leadership have backed their words with action and must be commended. It is a very big congratulation to the people of Kwara for deepening democracy in the state,” she said.

Gains of inclusion
Sonaiya maintained that a community that invests in gender inclusion and empowerment of women and girls is building a foundation for peace, progress and development.
She added that the nine female nominees would complement the men; she therefore appealed to the state legislators to screen all nominees in the best interest of the state without fear or favour.

Mufuliat charged Kwara to lead the way in letting Nigerians know that gender gaps in development as seen at the national level slows down growth and development.
“Gender would be main-streamed; there would less security issues, growth in the economy and overall reduction in poverty.
Ms Ede in the same vein expressed high expectations, adding that history would be made by giving ministries of their competences so they could deliver development to Kwara people. She also called for overwhelming support to all the commissioners by stakeholders to avoid making them vulnerable.

Affirmative action
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, (2018) Nigeria occupies the 180th position among 193 nations of the world in terms of levels of representation of women in the national parliament.

Experts argue that the slow progress towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and routine poor basic human development indices in Nigeria is an indication of its prevalent gender gaps.

For a government to be said to be gender responsive means listening to voices of women, consult, give them space to engage, learn, lead and be accountable to them. Statistics from the 2019 general elections, Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Gender and Election Watch Room under the ageis of the Gender and Accountability project in partnership with Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternatives (WRAPA) supported by MacArthur Foundation, attests to increased female aspiration and candidature.
 The reality remains that Nigerian women require more extra efforts than their male counterparts to run for political offices, leading to a deprivation of contributions of women who are estimated to be almost 50% of the population and among the registered voters.

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