Whatever his critics would say, President Goodluck Jonathan can hardly be faulted in his drive towards the attainment of the 30 per cent benchmark for women in public office positions. His success in that respect nonetheless, Nigerian women still want more and more from him. Leading Nigerian women were in the frontline for female assertiveness at the recent Jemide Conference series.
BY CHARLES KUMOLU
DESPITE the increasing number of women in governance globally, the latest hunger for more women participation in politics could be likened to the pre-Beijing Conference era when gender issues were mere tokens by governments in Africa and Nigeria.
This renewed quest for the main streaming of gender issues in politics and governance, played out at a recent Women in Government and Politics conference.
The two-day conference, held at the House of Commons, London, which was sponsored by Onboard Impact Consultancy, attracted female delegates in influential leadership positions such as parliamentarians, cabinet members, academics and activists from many parts of the world especially Africa.
In attendance were Madam Grace Kabayo- Uganda, Executive Secretary, Pan African Women Organization; Dr. Dere Awosika- Nigeria, Former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power; Dr. Nic Cheeseman- Oxford University, UK; Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke – Nigeria, Minister for Petroleum Resources; Mary Chinery-Hesse – Ghana, Former Vice Chairman, National Development Planning Commission; Dr. Elsie Scott- USA (Howard University; Senator Aisha Al-Hassan-Nigeria; Dr. Erika Bennett- Ghana, Founder and Head of African Union Diaspora Forum; Proscovia Alengot- Ugandan Parliamentarian,and Senator Nkechi Nwaogu of Nigeria among others
Convened by the Winihin Jemide Conference Series, the event particularly focused on how to articulate steps and concepts that will make government leaders, lawmakers and academics, who jointly influence policy, to support an increase in the number of women in politics.
Expectedly, the deliberations among participants, threw up issues on gender inequality across the Africa, which many present claimed had reduced the position of women in governance.
In her keynote address, Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, acknowledged that only 11 African countries had attained the 30 per cent benchmark of female representation in leadership positions, adding that Nigeria had surpassed the average.
“We need to pull up as many women as possible up the ladder and put aside petty grievances and nuances. We must educate, empower, and mentor more of our women to ensure that they have the compelling attributes and capabilities that make us as good as anyone else that may be considered to occupy any job or office,’’ she noted.
Lending her voice, Sen Al-Hassan stressed that successful women ought to sponsor younger women, as opposed to limiting themselves to mentoring, which appears to be appealing to most women across the continent.
Former Deputy Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Dr. Mary Chinery-Hesse, underscored the need to revive some traditional African values which placed women at the forefront.
Earlier, founder of the lecture series, Winihin Ayuli-Jemide said: “The Women in government and politics conference boldly explored issues and concepts surrounding womenfs increased involvement in Africafs political arena with consideration given to succession planning and the next generation. This will be an annual conference aimed at raising the global profile of the growing role women play in the heart of African public life.’’
She further said: “The Winihin Jemide Series is an umbrella organisation that works to increase awareness in several diverse spheres and causes. Through various programmes, events and platforms, it serves to support and articulate conversations and initiatives that enable nation building, community development and transformative thinking. These events are as diverse as Youth Internship Africa, WIGP Conference, The Garden Show and This African Woman.’
“Many sub-Saharan countries had not invested in women and most of the women who have gained relevance in society have done so mostly on their own. Few governments in Africa have been helpful in creating the structures required to guarantee that they excel. A new breed of men are required to open these doors, according to statistics provided by the United Nations.”