Source:Daily Independent This is another month of election in Nigeria when the question many pundits and analysts use statistics and mathematics to answer is not only the proportion of Nigerian women that exercised their voting right, but the number elected councillors, council chairmen, Honourables, governors, Representatives, senators and president, but the last is an impossibility through this election.
Women and youth constitute a critical segment of the national population. Numerically, they are over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population, therefore, development of our society and its sustenance is heavily dependent on their vibrancy, health and support, therefore government evolves policies and programmes aimed at maximising their potentials.
In the past, governments have promised more women representation in governance, but this is yet to fully materialise.
Senior Reporter Anthonia Soyingbe spoke with some women leader and organisations on their expectations from whoever emerges as political leaders.
Spokesperson for Niger Delta Women for Peace, Grace Ezode, said women in the past have been relegated to the background and governments at all levels has failed to accord women befitting place in the scheme of things. She however enjoined politicians not to pay lip service to women and children’s development in Nigeria when elected into power. “We are tired of promise and fail; we are tired of being relegated to the background. Women are not asking government to come and put food on their tables rather we want whoever emerges to create an enabling environment for Nigerian women and children to work. We know what rightfully and what lawfully belongs to us, we are not equating ourselves with men, we want justice and we abhor gender discrimination. No woman I believe is aiming to attain any political post because she is a woman rather we want to get there because we are agents of change. ”
Ms. Dayo Okuyega, the founder of Agent of Change, a non-governmental organisation insists that gender discrimination exists in every sector of Nigeria. She however called on government at all levels to curb this trend by sensitising the citizens on need to shun gender inequality. Speaking recently to Sunday Independent, she said further: “Women must have equal access to finance and positions. This is only attainable when there are legislative backings that will guarantee the right of women, giving women access to participate in policy formulation. Whoever emerges should also ensure that women are promoted economically. All these will go a long way in ensuring national development.
Women were not so interested in politics in the past, but now many are holding their own strongly against men on political play field even featuring in the in the big leagues such as in the Lower Legislative House, where Abike Dabiri-Erewa is very visible; in the Upper Chamber, where Chris Anyanwu is a head of a committee. In this election Gbemisola Saraki and Pauline Tallen are in the governorship race. But at the top, women are absent, even Sarah Jubril, the only amazon that eyed presidential seat failed amazingly, but honourably at the Peoples Democratic Party’s primaries.
Sunday Independent has discovered that most women contestants don’t really have plans for women and children in their manifestoes, but the few candidates and political parties that have stated them failed to do so boldly, strongly and in substantial real terms.
Action Congress of Nigeria states that it will provide free immunisation for women of child-bearing age against the deadly disease of tetanus and provide free supply of micronutrient supplements to children 0-5 years and pregnant women.
Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), whose presidential candidate is former military head of state, Mohammed Buhari, has the following plans for women and children if elected into power:
. Ensure the rights of women are protected as enshrined in our Constitution.
. Guarantee that women are adequately represented in government appointments and provide greater opportunities in education, job creation and economic empowerment.
. Recognise and protect women empowerment and gender equality with special emphasis on economic activities in development and in rural areas.
. Promote the concept of reserving a minimum number of seats in the National Assembly for women.
For the incumbent deputy governor of Plateau State and the Labour Party governorship candidate in Plateau State, she has the following plans for Plateau women if elected into office.
.Design youth and women programmes that will inculcate in them desirable values of trust, self-restraint, mutual respect, selflessness and communal interest.
.Provide attractive avenues for the youth and women to be self-employed.
.Initiate appropriate bills to the House of Assembly to help protect these groups.
.Micro, small and medium scale enterprises will be encouraged as deliberate empowerment policies for women and youth.
However Kaduna State Government under the leadership of Governor Patrick Yakowa has organised a skill- acquisition programme tailored for women. It is going on at the state’s Ministry of Women Affairs. There is also a poverty alleviation scheme where funds are made available to empower many to start small-scale business. Maternal mortality is also addressed while girl child education is made compulsory in the state.
But Dele Belgore, governorship candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria in Kwara State promised that when elected into Kwara Government House, he would provide free medical care to pregnant women, children under 18 and adults over 70.
Many women organisation such as National Council of Women Society of Nigeria, Women in Nigeria, Federation of International Lawyers, National Council of Women Journalists in many sensitisation programmes prior to this general election emphasised the need for women to take advantage of their large population to change Nigeria either by voting for the male candidates that will have sympathy for women’s cause or by rallying support for capable female candidates. However most women Sunday Independent spoke with felt in this era of gender equity or female empowerment more women should find their way into legislative Houses in the three tiers of government. But this may be a pipe dream because they are yet to find their rhythm in the mainstream Nigerian political plain dominated by men who boast not only sufficient fund for electioneering, strategic organisation, political savvy and strength to meander through thick electoral forest and come out with crown of honour.
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