By Justina Auta
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen and a coalition of women groups have called for amendment in the review of the 1999 constitution to capture women’s participation and gender equality in leadership and decision-making positions.
They made the call during a joint ministerial media briefing ahead of the zonal public hearing on the proposed alteration to the provisions of the 1999 constitution in Abuja.
Tallen said “since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 and in spite of adopting the National Gender Policy (2016) which recommends 35 per cent of women inclusion in all sectors, the proportion of women in both elective and appointive positions has remained low.
“But our current reality in 2021 is that women’s political representation is still below 10 per cent. It is no longer news that women in Nigeria have yet to benefit from these provisions.”
The minister, therefore, stressed the need for such issues to be included in the constitution to promote inclusion and participation of women at all levels, as well as protect their rights, among others.
She added that “a country’s constitution is the single most important document, particularly as it directs the affairs of the government and people.
“Its processes and procedures should be inclusive and take cognisance of expectations and concerns of all and ensure people-centered legislation.
“Nigerians and indeed women, yearn for a Constitution that truly represents all and recognises gender equality as a human right, as emphasised in the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 5.
“This implies that women should enjoy the same status as men, so that they can fully realise their human rights and have a meaningful impact on the society.
“As it stands, the Constitution does not adequately afford women this opportunity,” she said.
According to her, the constitution needs to be reviewed to provide for at least 35 per cent women representation in appointive offices at the Federal and State levels, which will ensure equitable women representation in government.
Other areas, she noted, included the proposal to include gender as benchmark for Federal Character and Related Matters, creation of additional special seats for women in the Federal and State Legislative Houses.
The minister proposed an alteration by constituting an additional senatorial seat to be occupied by a woman in each state and the FCT, as well as two additional members for each state and FCT to be women in the House of Representatives.
She suggested that first ladies in the states, commissioners of women affairs should work with CSOs and mobilise women groups to participate at the public hearing in the 12 centres by making presentations, lobbying and advocating for inclusion of women’s position.
Similarly, Dr Anthonia Ekpa, the Permanent Secretary, FMoWA, said the non-inclusion of women’s rights and protection of other vulnerable groups in the constitution had become a bane in the agitations, mobilisation and strategic alliance to improve the situation.
Also, UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey said the review process was an opportunity for Nigeria to strengthen its democracy by ensuring increased participation of women in governance.
Lamptey, represented by Mr Desmond Osemhenije, a Programme Specialist in the organisation, appealed for an unbiase representation of groups advocating for a constitution that promotes the full participation of women in political roles.
“It is our fervent hope that the outcome of the national public hearings will echo the mood of the nation for a Nigeria that we want.
“A Nigeria which is more inclusive and representatives where women and girls can equally participate in democratic governance,” she said.
On her part, Prof. Joy Onyesoh, the Chair, Technical Working Group on Women Political Participation, called for a legal framework that would support women political participation. (NAN)