Decry slide in representation in NASS
By Morenike Taire, Woman Editor, Josephine Agbonkhese, Ebunoluwa Sessou & Gabriel Ewepu
As the world marks International Women’s Day, stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to enact policies that will ensure an increase in the number of women in decision-making positions across the country, lamenting that they currently lacked the number for representation and voice to push through as democracy is a game of numbers.
They also urged women to remain resilient in their quest for a balanced society and not hastily forget the focus of this year’s celebration, describing this year’s theme ‘Balanced for Better’ as an avenue for women to continuously participate in active politics and governance.
Among them were National Coordinator, Virtuous Women and Youth Initiative, VWYEI, Esther Akwo; Founder, Voice for Less Privileged Organisation, Dr Ego-Queen Ezuma; Executive Director, Lagos International Trade Fair, LITF, Lucy Ajayi; Sa’ida Sa’ad-Bugaje, legal practitioner and Rose Gyar, an Abuja-based politician.
Sa’ad-Bugaje, who called for an urgent need to galvanise, strategise and impress it on President Muhammadu Buhari in his second tenure to do his best with women in appointments, lamented that the just concluded National Assembly election was the worst showing for Nigerian women since 2007.
She said: “Out of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives, women got only 11. This was a house that had 22 women after the 2015 general elections.
“Of the 109 seats in the Senate, they got six as opposed to the seven slots clinched at 2015 general elections. These were houses that had 22 and seven women respectively after the 2015 general elections.
“The implication is that we will have a 9th National Assembly in which the voices of women will neither be heard nor respected. Issues affecting our health, children, and all, will not be brought to the front burner. How do you connect governance with a situation where only 17 women represent a female population that constitutes almost half the entire population of Nigeria?”
Akwo, on her part, regretted that celebrating the International Women’s Day annually had become a ritual with no positive impact despite thought-provoking themes.
She said: “We are not happy with the high rate of infant mortality and women dying incessantly in this country during child-birth even in this 21 century.
“Nearly 10 per cent of new-born deaths in the world last year occurred in Nigeria. Five countries accounted for half of all new-born deaths last year and Nigeria was third on the list.
“On the occasion of this celebration, I, therefore, call on government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector to salvage this carnage in the country.”
Calling on the Federal Government to urgently address the spate of poverty among women, Ezuma, said poverty among Nigerian women had become a global disgrace spurring mass exodus for greener pastures abroad where Nigerian women and girls end up as sex slaves and “animals” for rituals.
“We have no real protection and welfare for our women in this country because these women are living in abject poverty, are exploited and abused because of their situation.
“We see how so-called madams who export them to Europe and Asia for prostitution and drugs, some end up as slaves and ‘animals’ for rituals.
Gyar, speaking in Abuja, argued that the bane of good governance and development in the country was the failure of government at all levels to operate an inclusive government.
Meanwhile, at a reception held in Lagos, yesterday, to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his victory at the just concluded presidential election, Ajayi charged Nigerian women to continue pushing for a gender-balanced world.