By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, does not subscribe to the 30 per cent affirmative action on political appointment for women in Nigeria.
She spoke against the backdrop of the agitation by some women groups who have been calling for 30 per cent affirmative action at the just-concluded Vanguard International Women’s Day held in Lagos.
It will be recalled that women stakeholders especially in Nigeria have been calling for at least 30 per cent representation of women in power and decision-making in the country.
Their position is that, despite the persistent call for affirmative action to remedy the gender gaps in politics especially in the aftermath of the Beijing World Women’s Conference of 1995, which popularised the recommendation, Nigeria’s present political arrangement has significantly excluded female legitimacy.
One of the advocates of the movement was the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Founder of Women Aid Collectives, Barrister Joy Ezeilo, who delivered the special guest lecture on Women and Politics: Towards 2011 General Elections.
She drew the attention of Nigerian women to the fact that the increasing rate of abandonment of political projects of women aspirants and the high outright-failure rate of political campaign projects of women is now a recurrent feature of politics in Nigeria.
Contrary to the submission of Ezeilo and other women groups on the issue, Yesufu opined that 30 per cent of affirmative action is not only ridiculous but also shameful.
According to her, women have been ridiculed and mocked for a long time, adding that it is time for Nigerian women to take charge and also bring themselves to the decision-making table. “When we do not have a table, let us get our own mat and get people to be at the conversation”, she said.
“In terms of getting policies, the first thing we need is to ensure that we are at the drawing table, we are not asking for 30 per cent, we should be part of the decision-making, as well as making the law.
“As long as we are not part of lawmaking, we are not going to get those laws that we need to have that would ensure that women are projected.
“In our constitution, we have a lot of discriminatory injunctions and laws against women. We must be able to expunge those laws that are discriminatory against women and ensure women are part of the conversation and not just be waiting to be given an opportunity.
“Our problem is not COVID-19, but systemic and societal discrimination against women and these are the things we need to challenge.
“COVID-19 should tell us that it is no longer enough to ask but to challenge the system, for us to go out there, get what we want, it doesn’t matter whether we sail or not, it doesn’t matter if they are going to ridicule us or not, whether they are going to mock us or not, we are already being ridiculed, we are already being mocked, and we are not anywhere. We need to go out there to challenge the system and ensure that every one of us begins to participate in politics and ensure we are at the table not just as wives of those who are in offices but as people who are actually making decisions.
“First of all, we need the constitution that has no gender barrier against the female gender, the constitution that treats everyone equally. Right now, we do not have that. How do we get this done? It’s by having more women in the legislative arm of government.
“When you are talking about the security architecture of this country, not a single woman will be at the discussion table. It is shameful because we do not have women in places that are supposed to be working.
“Women are taught multitasking at an early age. They do everything to be in charge and even volunteer and sacrifice where necessary but the moment it becomes something that has a reward, women are thrown out of the way, then they begin to remember the society and religion,” she explained.