By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI-NO fewer than 100 women drawn from communities in the three senatorial zones of the state, Ebonyi South, Ebonyi North and Ebonyi Central, yesterday, called for the stoppage of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and cutting, FGM/C, sexual harassment against women and protection of the rights, equality of women in politics and the society at large.
The women in their numbers moved from Dr. Akanu Ibiam junction to the State House of Assembly where they were seen in red T-shirts carrying flex banners with various inscriptions such as: The time is now, restructure women into the structure; Gender equality is not a woman issue, it is a human issue; Gender and equal opportunity bill will uphold women and girls’ sexual reproductive rights, citizenship rights and ensure protection against sexual harassment in education, employment and political domains; 45% of girls are married before they turn 18 years; The practice is as high as 76% in Northern Nigeria; Girls education is vital for economic growth. Educating girls is smart economics; End the neglect! Rural women deserve access to social amenities.
In a chat with South-East Voice immediately after their presentation at the State House of Assembly, the leader of the group and Chief Executive of Participatory Development Alternatives, PDA, Mrs. Victoria Ebere Eze who stressed that it was necessary for women to add their voices to the myriad of issues affecting the nation, expressed optimism that the State House of Assembly would uphold their demands and make laws for the benefit of the women of the state.
“What we are here for today is called Women Rising on the State of the nation; women presenting their demands to government in order for their voices to be included in whatever the government is doing. For instance, the issue of restructuring has been ongoing and the voices of women have not been heard. So ActionAid Nigeria supported Participatory Development Alternatives, PDA, to gather women in the three senatorial zones and the women that participated were 443 that articulated their different demands. And so we are here to present our demands to the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
“As you can see, the T-Shirts we are putting on bear different inscriptions and those inscriptions are what the women are actually demanding. I am optimistic that the state House of Assembly is going to do something about it especially those ones that caught their attention.”
Receiving the women, the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Odefa Obasi Odefa assured them that the House of Assembly would protect their rights and privileges within the framework of the law even as he described the wife of the Governor, Deaconess Rachel Umahi as a great apostle for the protection of women at all levels of human endeavour.
According to him, “everything you have said here will be taken to the floor of the House and the Executive arm for consideration; we are grateful to the women of Ebonyi State for supporting the Governor David Umahi-led administration.
Earlier, Mrs Aribe while presenting the charter of demand by Ebonyi women to the State House of Assembly stated that the charter was to ensure that Nigeria is restructured and reverted to 1954 Constitution as this will help to abolish favouritism, nepotism and marginalization of Igbos.
Continuing she said: “Give more powers to the states for rapid growth and development. Reduce the number of states to cut administrative cost. Ensure women are involved in decision making and create avenues for women to take up key positions in governance in the country. Provide social amenities such as accessible health care services, good roads, education, and electricity for all. Provide a safe environment especially for the challenged citizens (disabled). The 35% affirmative action policy should be passed into law and included in the constitution for further implementation until there is gender equality. Imposition of candidate on women during elections should be stopped. Harmful cultural practices that affected women should be abolished.”