March 25, 2022

2023: All hope not lost on NASS rejection of gender equality bills — Ekpere Eta

2023: All hope not lost on NASS rejection of gender equality bills — Ekpere Eta

By Victoria Ojeme

The immediate past Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development, Barrister Mary Ekpere-Eta, has said that ahead of the 2023 general elections that it is time for a female president to emerge.

Amongst other issues, Ekpere-Eta called on Nigerian women to quit the back stage and occupy the political space, particularly during the 2023 general elections.

In this interview in Abuja on the sidelines of activities marking the International Women’s Day, Ekpere-Eta said that with constant push, the bills will see the light of the day, as all hope is not lost.

The theme for the 2022 International Women’s Day is Gender Equality Today for Sustainable Tomorrow. How do you relate this to happenings within and outside the country regarding women?

The theme is very apt considering that women form the very cornerstone, the foundation of every facet of human endeavour. 

It brings to the fore, the need to break the barriers militating against the aspirations and development of women, politically and otherwise, both in Nigeria and the larger society. So, by ensuring gender equality, the world would have done well in moving from a primitive past and present to a glorious tomorrow which will in turn, lead to a better and conducive global environment.

Issues such as sexual and gender-based violence readily come to mind whenever the International Women’s Day is being celebrated. What is your position on these two key issues that affect women?

These two issues are condemnable in whatever forms or perspectives you view them. They play down on the identity and personality of women and I encourage all and sundry to rise against these twin evils. 

Governments, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and other well meaning organisations are already rising against them and I have no doubt that in the near future, they will be issues of the past.

How was your tenure at the National Centre for Women Development?

The four years I spent in office were quite eventful as I was opportune to see life from a different perspective. I have since returned to my law practice and making giant strides in the profession I cherish very much. 

Bills on gender equality in the country were recently rejected by the National Assembly, a situation that led to protest by women. What is your view on this? 

The National Assembly, in its wisdom and through the simple majority votes, rejected the bills. 

As a woman and someone who has been a champion for the cause of women, I feel very sad about the development that none of the five bills was passed. However, that is the beauty of democracy. 

My take on the bills is to send out to my fellow women, a message of encouragement. A journey of a thousand miles, as they say, begins with a single step. I am sure that with constant emphasis and political push, we will arrive at our desired destination. 

So, all hope is not lost. I am optimistic and very hopeful that in no distant time, the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian women within and outside the political sphere will become realities. 

Nigeria is warming up for the 2023 general elections. What role are you expecting women to play? 

The role of women in any election is very crucial. Apart from being great and efficient mobilisers, women have proven themselves to be pacesetters in terms of carrying out the leadership roles. 

So, as we move towards the 2023 elections, I expect Nigerian women to break all barriers, offer themselves and put themselves forward for the various political offices in the land. 

Gone are the days when women would sit back, fold their arms and allow men to dictate their political path. A lot of women have made their marks and I expect more active and robust participation in the coming elections. 

Is Nigeria ripe for a female president? 

Why not? For a meaningful period of time now, the Nigerian political space has been ripe for the Nigerian women. I think it is high time Nigerian women queued behind one of their own and take the country to an enviable stage in the comity of nations. And I also expect more women to emerge as governors in their respective states. 

It may interest you to note that women are taking over the stage globally. Apart from the current Tanzanian President here on the African continent, the Vice- President of the United States, Kamala Harris, who also readily comes to mind, we have also had women like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Hilda Banda of Malawi as presidents.

 And if you look at the current diplomatic representation in the country, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, the French Ambassador and the German Ambassador to Nigeria are all women.