The minister made the call in Abuja at a High-Level HeforShe Forum and the launch of Support to Increase Women’s Political Participation in Nigeria, by government of Canada in partnership with UN Women.
Tallen represented by Mr Ilyasu Zubair, the Acting Director, Women Development Department, Ministry of Women Affairs, said lawmakers should not find it difficult to pass the gender equality bill.
According to her, the good news is that as the lawmakers stepped down the gender equality bill, some days later the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a revised National Gender Policy.
This, she said, was to promote gender equality, good governance, and accountability across the three tiers of government in the country.
She maintained that the policy represented a set of minimum standards expected of the government to meet its mandate for gender equality, good governance, accountability, and being socially responsive to the needs of its vulnerable group.
“Nigerian women are not asking for too much because it is human rights issue, I hope and pray the lawmakers will keep to this,’’ she said.
Also speaking at the event, Rep. Nkiruka Ihejiocha, the Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives, said the votes on the gender equality bill were mostly from the North.
“All the northern people at that first roll and the presiding officers contributed, so it is not the issue of whether is North or South.
“Some Southerners were vehement on the floor that day saying it will not pass but some northern were saying it has to pass. Let us remove it from our mind that is the Northern agenda that killed the bill.
“Some northerners voted and some southerners voted and at a point some men were united against women. So, it is not a particular ethnic religion or ethnic community. That’s the fact,’’ she said.
On his part, the Mr Kevin Tokar, Acting High Commissioner, said that the new initiative launched sought to increase the participation, election and appointment of women in Nigeria, both in the 2023 electoral cycle and beyond.
“Canada is proud to support efforts to raise the voices of women in political and legislative spaces in Nigeria.
“We firmly believe that increased political participation by women ultimately leads to increased prosperity, peace and security for all Nigerians,” said Tokar.
Tokar said that the initiative responded to the efforts of women, women’s organisations and movements, and other key stakeholders in Nigeria to advance the rights of women and girls, and promote gender equality.
“The four-year ADVANCE project, with a budget of N2.6 billion (8 million Canadian dollars) will train and mentor women to participate in political and election processes.
“This is with the aim of increasing the number of women voters, candidates and elected officials at the federal, state and local level.
“It will also support the capacity of legislators, electoral bodies and political parties to enact gender-responsive laws and policies that promote gender balance in political leadership positions,” he said.
He said that working with women, political and traditional leaders, communities, the media, the private sector and other stakeholders would help achieve the initiative.
“The initiative aims to create a more enabling environment for women’s political leadership at all levels, while reducing violence against women in political processes.
“Canada firmly believes that supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the best way to build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous Nigeria,’’ he said.
He maintained that having women play a greater role in decision-making, particularly at the political level, was a key part of this process.
According to him, it is the gateway to achieving greater equality, justice and development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Women in politics also serve as critical role models, helping to transform attitudes toward women in society and in the home.
“Having more women in politics benefits everyone. It is not about men versus women.
“Although Nigeria is an important leader in Africa, it has one of the lowest levels of female representation in politics in the world,” he said.
He said that there was so much more that it could achieve by simply including women as part of the team, by providing them with an equal opportunity to shape the country’s future.
“Some progress is being made, but there are also big setbacks, such as the gender bills that recently failed to pass in the National Assembly.
“But we see the passion of women standing up for their rights at the gates of the National Assembly, and at state legislatures, peacefully demanding better from their elected representatives.
“We hear women and men increasingly speaking out about the importance of recognising women’s rights to participate in the political sphere. This includes political, traditional and religious leaders, whose support will be decisive.
“These efforts are a growing source of inspiration for many to ramp-up their efforts, and Canada’s new project with UN Women aims to support this momentum,’’ Tokar said
Similarly, Ms Comfort Lamptey, Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said the UN Women was proud to continue in renewed partnership with the Government of Canada to advance the flagship programme.
She said SDG Goal 5.5 on promoting gender equality: “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life” must be achieved.
According to her, it requires Member States to ensure implementation and achievement of the set targets of this goal by the set deadline of 2030.
“Nigeria is signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and UN Women as part of the United Nations stands resolutely behind Nigeria towards fulfilling the 2030 agenda.
“The objective of the ADVANCE project is to strengthen Nigerian women’s inclusion and representation in decision-making and public life.
“Building on the groundwork laid by UN Women and partners in support of legislative reforms, including the constitutional review process,” she said.
Lamptey explained that the programme would intensify efforts to pass gender-progressive legislation and strengthen the capacities of women aspirants, candidates, as well as women elected to political office.
She said that the project would further apply lessons learned from previous political and electoral cycles, to support effective coordination among multiple stakeholders and partners to enhance this work agenda.
“ Recognising the breadth of Nigeria as a nation and the need to ensure all women and girls are actively engaged in decision-making, particularly as we approach the 2023 elections.
“The project focuses on six target states: Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kwara as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
“The significance and timeliness of this programme cannot be understated. Nigeria has a standard setting role to play as a leading democracy in Africa.
“This means that half of its population must have an equal voice in steering this country toward economic, political, and social stability,’’ Lamptey said.