By Emmanuel Elebeke and Gabriel Ewepu
AS the nation marks 57 years of independence, wife of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, has called on the National Assembly to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill into law that would enable women have more access in the nation’s political process.
Fayemi made the call while presenting her keynote address at a capacity building workshop for selected women politicians, which was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in Abuja. She said the bill when passed would serve as part of the road map for achieving the 35 per cent Women Affirmative Action and open up the political space for more women of substance and character to compete with their male counterparts who have been dominating the political space.
She also called on members of the 36 state Houses of Assembly to pass the bill in order to widen the space and participation of more women at the state level as well.
The former First lady of Ekiti State who listed African tradition, inaccessible political machinery, lack of financial support, violence and intimidation, and lack of support as key impediments to women’s participation in politics, urged the participants to put more pressure on political parties to free more space for women to be actively involved in the political process.
She said: “We can’t make a headway if Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill at the National Assembly if it fails to pass through as a law, we (women) will keep going on begging. We have a National Gender Policy which should be part of the road map. All states should pass the bill into law because it will give women access to vie for any political position. You need to develop a thick skin, have courage, and keep your integrity intact.”
She also charged women to build a critical mass of capable women who can vie and fit into any position at all levels, adding that Nigeria is not where it should be in terms of women participation in politics that lags behind when compared with other African nations.
Earlier in her welcome address, the director of CCD, Idiyat Hassan, said the workshop was organised to prepare Nigerian women ahead of the 2019 general elections. She said the downward trend in the participation of women in Nigerian politics was no longer acceptable to them, hence the need to build the capacity with requisite skills and knowledge to go into the contest with better understanding of the rules of the game.