By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Josephine Agbonkhese, Prince Okafor & Precious Nicholas
LAGOS—AS the world marks International Women Day today, women in trade unions in Nigeria, yesterday in Lagos, pleaded with the Federal Government and all the security agencies to step up efforts at rescuing about 112 school girls of Government Girls Science Technical College, GGTC, Dapchi, Yobe State, abducted by Boko Haram terrorist group since February 19, 2018.
Similarly, leading women’s groups in the country have urged the Federal Government to take bold steps towards achieving gender equality, calling on the National Assembly to ensure passage of the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill.
Under the aegis of IndustriALL Global Union, the women who marched round some Jibowu and Yaba areas of Lagos were unanimous that the abduction of the school girls even when those earlier abducted in Chibok four years ago, remained unaccounted for, had disrupted the peace in several homes as well as the country as a whole.
In a remark, Vice President of IndusriALL Global Union, Africa, Region, Issa Aremu, noted that whoever abducted the girls had abducted a nation, urging the Federal Government to show seriousness and work hard to bring back the abducted Chibok and Dapchi Girls.
Addressing the gathering Aremu said: “Today we use International Women’s Day to demand sensitivity and accountability on the part of all Nigerian and African Leaders to the plight of African girls including Dapchi and Chibok abducted girls. Whoever abducts girls has abducted a nation. An injury to Chibok and Dapchi girls is an unacceptable injury to humanity. Our leaders should acknowledge that we are not just facing a National Disaster but a National Catastrophe.
“But regrettably, almost a month after, the girls are yet to be found. Indeed the body languages of the President, Governors and Legislators who are charged with the responsibility of protecting lives and rescuing the girls, show un-seriousness about the plight of the girls. Just last week, in a reported surprise attack on the 3rd Battalion in Rann headquarters of Kala-Balge, the terror inflicted damage, abducted three aid workers (two from ICRC clinic team, one from UNICEF) in addition to killing a UNICEF doctor, and two workers from the International Organization for Migration.”
For the women group, they also urged women to remain resilient in their demand for equal opportunities, describing this year’s theme, Press for Progress, as a nod to the growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support surrounding gender parity.
Among the group were the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria, FOMWAN; Women’s Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria, WOMICAN; Women Advocates Research & Development Centre, WARDC; and the Women, Law and Development Centre, Nigeria, WLDCN.
“Nigeria is today joining the rest of the world to mark this day but the truth is that we cannot claim to be pressing for progress for women if we fail to support them with laws and actions that will better their lives. The Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill, for example, which is still at the senate, is a legal instrument that is bound to transform the lives of women and girls in Nigeria,” Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Founding Director, WARDC, said yesterday, while speaking at a media briefing organised in partnership with the Kingdom of Netherland, to mark the day in Lagos.
However acknowledging that there had been marginal efforts at articulating policies and programmes that seek to reduce gender inequalities in socio-economic and political spheres, both at national and state levels, Akiyode-Afolabi lamented that several factors which have the potency of constraining their effectiveness, still existed.
Also, Executive Director, African Radio Drama Association, ARDA, Mrs. Alison Phido, called on Nigerian women to support their fellow women to surpass the 35 percent affirmative declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing.
Mrs. Phido disclosed this during her presentation at a forum organised by ARDA in partnership with the Ikoyi-Obalende Local Council Development Area, LCDA, to mark the International Women’s Day.
In her presentation titled: ‘Women supporting women is good for the society ‘, she noted that, with the population of Nigerian women averaged 50 percent of the its total populace, it would also be nice if there are more women manning the political and appointive public service positions of the country.
She quoted the National Gender Policy (NGP) saying that, “In Nigeria, the extant NGP recommended 35 percent affirmative action instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35 percent of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively, it will not be a bad idea if we surpass the percentage.”
According to her, “In 2007, there are eight female senator out of 109 available seat, while in the House of Representative, out of 360 available seat, we have 23 which are women. The number of female senators in the nation dropped to seven in 2011 while that of HOR increase by just three. Currently, we have only eight female senators, while in the HOR, the number declined further to 19.”
The WLDCN, on its part, regretted that majority of Nigerians erroneously bear negative mindsets about the concept of gender equality.
According to its Founding Director, Dr Keziah Awosika, “They think women are demanding equality with men, but that is not true; what we are asking for is equal opportunities. Why is it that only in Nigeria, at this age and time that girls are being forced out of school as a result of abduction? Is it not disgraceful? Why is it that we have never had an elected woman governor even when other countries are having Heads of States? Look at Rwanda. 70 percent of its parliament is female; but look at the structure of the Nigerian parliament. Even at the national level where Lagos State had several women representing it, now, it is only Mrs Remi Tinubu.
“Unfortunately, we can all see the implications of relegating women in every facet of our lives. Ordinary yams that the country wanted to import could not be packaged well and therefore they became rotten. If women were carried along in the process, they would have employed better preservation methods. Look at our political and social lives?”
Speaking on behalf of FOMWAN, Alhaja Daudu Zainab, Health Secretary, Lagos Chapter, urged Nigerian women to brace up to the challenges of Nigerian politics if they must get a chance to rewrite the history of the country, while also joining in the call for the passage of the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill.
WOMICAN, speaking through Mrs Elizabeth Banke Bassey, one of its executives, advised womenfolk to ensure they abided by the fear of God in their pursuit for progress, even in politics.