By Josephine Agbonkhese
Women’s human rights experts have challenged the Nigerian government to fully domesticate the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women’ (CEDAW) which it voluntarily ratified over 30 years ago at the United Nations.
The experts who appreciated the various piecemeal legislations, such as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill, that integrate components of CEDAW into Nigerian law, insisted on full domestication of CEDAW by 2015, arguing that “CEDAW is not a foreign or demonic document but an aspiration tool to a reality that can advance the Nigerian state.”
This call came penultimate Monday in Lagos at a two-day national round-table tagged ‘Advancing Women’s Human Rights in Nigeria: Strategies and Actions’ organized by the Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre, WARDC with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, which centred on three international instruments- CEDAW, Millennium Developments Goals, MDGs, and the Beijing Declaration.
The event whose focus was to review the status of women’s human rights in Nigeria with a view to producing a comprehensive report that would, among others, serve as a veritable instrument for post 2015 elections engagement, brought together key players in the area of women’s human rights protection from across the country.
The experts who further argued that the aspiration of any democratic setting was that citizens enjoy a sense of well-being, identified CEDAW as one perfect instrument which provides for the minimum standard rights any human being should have.
“This is because CEDAW simply talks about women’s economic, health, employment, political rights and more.
“The Beijing Platform for Action and the MDGs also stand strongly as the implementing tools for the aspirations of CEDAW, and that is why we must look at the MDGs which are expected to have been realised by 2015, which is only a few weeks away,” they collectively noted.
Earlier while reeling out reasons behind her decision to review the status of women’s human rights in Nigeria, Executive Director, WARDC, Dr.(Mrs) Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, fumed that pronouncements made publicly by several governments on maternal, newborn and child health, had not matched investments at all levels of governance.
“Nigeria still accounts for about 13 per cent of the global maternal death rates with an estimated 36,000 women dying in pregnancy or at child birth each year. The country is also recorded as being the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
“Women and girl child access to basic education are also issues of concern with the country having high illiteracy level and the world’s highest number of out-of-school children which was recently put at 10.5 million,” Abiola emphasized.
Notable participants at the round-table included Prof. Patricia Donli, Executive Director, Gender Equality Peace & Development Center, Borno State; Dr. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Executive Director, Women’s Aid Collectives; Prof.Ayo Atsenuwa of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies; Prof Olabisi Aina, Director, Center for Gender and Development Studies, Ekiti State University; Chief(Mrs) Olabisi Olateru-Olagbegi, Executive Director, Women Consortium of Nigeria; Dr. Keziah Awosika and Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin amongst many other key players.