Nollywood stars, women activists rally against gender discrimination

on   /   in Just Human 4:12 am   /   Comments

Ebun Sessou

More than 200 women across the nation walked against gender discrimination. The walk, which lasted two hours, had in attendance female activists, women politicians and Nollywood stars, including Ejike Asiegbu and Shan George.  With one voice, they demanded that the review of the 1999 Constitution should address gender discrimination.

The road show was organised by a network of women groups under the aegis of Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN), and supported by the  Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) project of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.

From the secretariat of the Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos, the women and youth groups took to the streets singing, dancing and sharing information leaflets about issues of gender concerns in the constitution.

National Coordinator, GECORN,  Ms. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, in a paper entitled: “Gender Gaps in the 1999 Constitution,” observed that participatory constitution making provides a veritable opportunity for women to gain representation in process and outcome.

 walk for liberation

walk for liberation

“Women in some notable African countries like South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda and Eritrea were instrumental in demanding such constitutional inclusion, where governance or social conditions have previously made free entry difficult or silenced their voices, Nigeria should not be an exception,” she stated.

“The history of successive constitutions in Nigeria has been a history of exclusion, discrimination and imposition on gender bias provisions, a trend which should not be continued, especially in the face of current democratic realities and so the whole essence of the road show and dialogue is to advocate for the inclusion of women concerns as well as the concerns of people with disabilities in the current ongoing constitution review process in Nigeria.

“A truly democratic constitution as being sought by Nigerians should be genders sensitive and non discriminating and what we are telling the constitution review committees as we have earlier stated in the memorandum submitted to the committees and at the zonal hearings, is that Nigerian women want discriminatory provisions against women in the current 1999 constitution to be reviewed and appropriately amended.

“Look at the issue of the language of the constitution for example. The language in which the current constitution is written is not gender sensitive as the pronoun “he” appears in the 1999 Constitution about 235 as if it was only men that were considered as citizens, and the two places that the word ‘woman’ was used {Sections 26 (2) (a) and 29 (4) (b)} was used to cause some disadvantage to and discrimination against women.

“The use of the masculine pronoun ‘he” to include women in the entire provision reflects an unequal status between men and women and so it is necessary to divest the constitution of this anomaly to reflect the entirety of the country and affirm that not only men are citizens in Nigeria. We are therefore recommending that the 1999 Constitution should be re-drafted so that the language becomes user and gender friendly”.

Former Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and a member of the House Representatives (Calabar/Odukpani Federal Constituency), Nkoyo Toyo,  said women in the National Assembly have a strong voice on the committee working on the constitution, and “it is our responsibility to lobby our colleagues on the issues and ensure their inclusion in the constitution. We also need to follow up with our governors and the leadership of political parties including the President and his executive”.

Other women who also lent their voices on the issue include House Committee Chairman on Women in Parliament, National Assembly, Alhaja Binta Bello, who disclosed that, consideration of the constitution review for female folks will provide for a gender sensitivity throughout the country as there will be no room for discrimination against people either men or women.

A United Nations Development Programmes, UNDP, National Gender Expert, Hajiya Mufuliat Fijabi, noted: “The five-point agenda are the irreducible minimals on gender issues, which the constitution review must not fail to include. With this five-point agenda, the indication is that all the groups that submitted memoranda to the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee have now come together to say that these five points must be part of the constitution that will come out of the review”.

Dr. Lydia Umar, Executive Director of  General Awareness Trust, GAT, said the essence of the programme was to create awareness and sensitise people to become good advocate towards the memorandum that has been submitted to the National Assembly.

Nollywood actor, Asuiegbe, pointed out that he had been in the human right circle for 30 years, adding that, as a change agent, he will be using his medium to disseminate information to people particularly women who are marginalised.

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