March 15, 2022

Movement for gender equality is a fight for sustainable development of Nigeria — UN Women Rep, Comfort Lamptey

Comfort Lamptey


…Vote for men who are not misogynistic in the next election — Chimamanda urges women

By Funmi Ajumobi

The United Nations Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey has said that the movement for gender equality is a fight for sustainable development of Nigeria and not just women’s movement.

Speaking at the inaugural International Women’s Day (IWD) Awards Gala held in partnership with the British High Commission, the European Union Delegation, the Embassies of France and Germany, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women over the weekend, Lamptey stated that youth movement, the labour movement and different movements in the country should support women to achieve the passage of the gender bills.

“ Rejecting bills that provide an opportunity for women to be able to participate in decision making tells you that the work that needs to be done is deep and we are not giving up. Together with the men who actually understand women empowerment, it is progress for us and we will get there”. Lamptey Added.

Explaining the motive behind the inaugural awards, she said it was to recognise Nigerians who have championed women’s political and socio-economic empowerment. “Though the awards only showcase a fraction of that, there are so many women who are making phenomenal contributions in the society. Giving out the awards provides an inspiration for them to also do more”. She added.

Disappointed on the way the gender bills were rejected by the National Assembly, renowned writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said it was sending a message that women don’t matter, the action which she said everyone should be outraged about. She urged women to come out en masse in the next election to vote for women and if there are no women, they should vote for men who are not misogynistic. 

Chimamanda who spoke on, ” Reflections of women’s leadership and gender equality,” said leadership isn’t gender-specific and the fact that women need a women’s day is proof that there is no equality between men and women.  She reiterated that the inclusion of all groups isn’t remarkable but normal.

“Humanity has lost a lot because women were excluded. We reject ambitious women, judge powerful women harshly and extend less grace to them compared to men. Women have to prove their selves from the start because they’re not given the grace of competence we extend to men.

 Women in positions of power have to deal with double standards; a man would be called confident while his woman colleague would be called arrogant, a man would be called strategist while his woman counterpart in office would be labelled arrogant. Let’s ask ourselves if we judge men in the same harsh light we judge women” she added.

H.E. Ambassador Samuela Isopi, Head, European Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS observed that there are improvements in terms of legislation but there is still a need to speed up to actualize gender equality. She advised women to voice out and be ambitious, saying she expected strong participation of women in the coming election which will be an avenue to express their words.

On his part, Mr Mohamed Yayha, UNDP Resident Representative to Nigeria who said he was delighted to be in support of ‘He for She’, said Nigeria is not doing well on gender equality despite producing incredible leaders in every facet of the economy. Yayha added that he believes that as soon as gender equality is achieved in Nigeria, as soon as the country will achieve its development. “Any chance for fighting for equality anywhere in the world is tough. For me as an African man, it’s a matter of time. It will happen”, he added.

H.E. British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing on her own comment on the Gender Bill said, Nigeria is absolutely ready and believes women themselves are taking more responsibility to set forward to be heard. She said she was hopeful that the election coming up in a year’s time will be the one seeing all the female candidates coming forward from all the levels of government. “We are not giving up, we are fighting on”, Laing declared.

Professor Joy Ezeilo, in her words, said the struggle for inclusion is all part of democracy and women can no longer continue to constitute the electorate or just spectators. “We can’t be left behind anymore and the time is now. Don’t be afraid. Go out there, mobilise your constituency and contest. With the independence candidacy that has been passed, if you are not getting a party adopting you, go and run it on your own”.

H.E.Mary Beth Leonard, United States Ambassador to Nigeria, said in her own comment on the gender bill that was not passed, that It is really hard to break long-standing barriers and believes that if one didn’t succeed in something, he should try and try again.  “Next year is an amazing year for Nigeria because of preparation for the election. Now is a fabulous opportunity for conversations, for dialogues, for remembering that everybody’s voice matters”.

Honourable Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives and one of the convenors of the awards gala, said one of the indices affecting Nigeria’s economy was non-inclusion of women in all standards, saying that when a woman is put in place of authority, it is putting integrity, deliverables, prosperity, posterity and a lot of potentials.

On the rejected bill on gender equality, she said, “I weep for my generation because those that voted against the bill are not looking towards leaving a legacy that would stand the test of time. Having done that to the women, I am saying we are not broken, we can’t be broken. It will just spur us to do much more work that has never been done before”.

Her Excellency Cecelia Eze, Deputy Governor, Enugu State while speaking on the rejected gender bill, said she still stands with the idea of lobbying until women are able to get it constitutionally and to let the men know also that women are not fighting them because they are not their enemy. “We are still women. We are not going in there to stop cooking for our husbands. We are going in there because we have something to give”, she added.

On the issue of violence against women, Eze said there is a need for the country to up its game on fighting drugs because most of the perpetrators of the act are under the influence of drugs.

Speaking on the bill also, Amina Oyagbola observed that women do not know the power they have in their numbers and unfortunately we haven’t learned to really form a voice and a movement. Things like this have to cause collaboration to happen and everybody is going to put their sentiment aside and come together to focus on things that are important.

“Any kind of change will face resistance. We have to engage and also ensure we manage to change the way we normally do. So you have to galvanise people, make them understand the reason why and let them see the benefits.

“By this time next year, I am expecting a lot larger female representation especially political female representation where it really counts and also ensures that in terms of private leadership, we begin to see the change happening across all sectors of the economy, ensuring that all the barriers, all the structural processes and obstacles and limitations that have held women back over the years are removed. Ensure that all the constitutional reforms happen, all the legal frameworks that are very archaic are removed”.

.Comfort Lamptey

Toyin Saraki advised women not to be discouraged nor be scared that the hands that rock the cradle rule the world and women are the hands that rock the cradle. “We are the backbone of the nation. For those who voted against us, I believe we will meet at the polling booth. It’s the time for women to begin to stand up and let our voices be heard and for our actions to be counted for the good of our nation. We will stand together and we will stand for each other”, she said.

Winners of the maiden edition of the International Women’s day Awards Gala were, Barrister Ebere Ifendu, Political Leadership & Governance Category, for being a long time champion of women’s political participation, Private Sector; MS Amal Hassan for harnessing the creative potentials of women and young people to foster sustainable partnerships, digital solutions and innovative models globally, while Professor Joy Ezeilo won in the Civil Society Category for her dedication to promoting and protecting the human rights of women and young people.

Princess Elizabeth Olowu won in the Arts and Culture category for being the first female bronze caster in Benin’s history that went against the ancient Benin tradition that says a woman does not cast bronze.

Laila Johnson-Salami won in the Media and Journalism category for changing the narrative around gender equality, youth empowerment, climate action and social inclusion, one conversation at a time, while Habiba Ali won the Feature Award: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow for strengthening women in northern Nigeria on the production, sales, service and installation of renewable energy products. 

The Outstanding Woman Leader award went to Her Excellency Erelu Bisi Fayemi for her leading voice not only in the African women’s movement and civil society but in the international development community.

Vanguard News Nigeria