Nigerian women have been advised to extend the advocacy for inclusion in leadership positions to the grassroot level. This exhortation was made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu.
Kalu gave the advise in Abuja when he received a delegation from an advocacy group, known as Women Round-table for Development and Good Governance, who paid him a courtesy visit in his office at the National Assembly.
The Deputy Speaker emphasised the importance of women aside from the federal legislature and to also advocate to fill other leadership gaps such as councillorship positions in the local government and House of Assembly membership in the states.
Kalu who observed that the advocacy has been centred mainly around the federal legislature, said that leadership should start from the grassroots to reflect the bottom to top approach.
He said that it’s high time the women started looking at available opportunities, where these various gender imbalances exist and begin to drive it.
Commending President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the inclusion of women in his administration, the Deputy Speaker reassured National Assembly’s commitment to reconsider and pass the rejected gender bills.
He said, “I’m incredibly humbled that you deem it fit to be here today to start your advocacy, early, it appears to me that you have drawn your stakeholders mapping, stakeholders administration lists for the passage of gender related bills. The Office of the Deputy Speaker remains the Chairman of the Committee of the House on constitution review and coming here today means you’re joining forces with other gender based advocates across Nigeria to speak with one voice. I must say that in a society striving for equitable development, addressing fundamental issues like gender equality, inclusiveness is imperative.
“In Nigeria where women and girls constitute 49.32% of our population. The representation in institutions, especially the legislature, like you just mentioned now, which currently has about 4% of the women, needs urgent attention. But beyond that, it is important for women to know that the federal legislature is not only the political platform for their participation, there are other leadership gaps, from councillorship positions in our local government to members of the House of Assembly in our states. It appears to me the advocacy has been centred only around federal legislature. That is a top bottom approach. The bottom top approach is that we should accommodate that leadership should start from the grassroots. It’s high time the women started looking at available opportunities. Where these various gender imbalances exist and begin to drive it, because everything that is handed over to the women multiplies. It have been proven time and again. If that is the case, like we know is the case, how come the local governments are not feeling the impact of these women’s participation? How come the advocacy is not resonating at the local government level, at the state level? I’m not hearing of advocacy at the state level for women participation.
“The legislature is just one, executive is there and the judiciary. As you advocate for the participation of women and the balance in the legislature, encourage your girl child to also show presence in the judiciary. It is important that they are educated to occupy the leadership position that exists in the judiciary, which is driven by professionalism, by education. That brings me to ensuring that every child is given an opportunity to be well educated. Having said that, the tenth assembly presents a pivotal moment to advance women’s rights and increase female participation in politics, it’s one of the areas of focus in our legislative agenda are vital for national progress given historical context.
“In conclusion, let us seize the opportunity presented by the tenth National Assembly to champion gender equity of women empowerment. We are ready for that it is part of our legislative agenda, which we just passed. We paved the way for a more inclusive and Representative society. Together, we can rewrite the narrative and ensure that our institutions reflect the diversity and reflect the potentials of our nation. I want to assure you that the parliament is on this journey with you.”
Speaking earlier, the leader of the advocacy group, Hon. Princess Nikky Onyeri appealed to the Deputy Speaker to help ensure that the gender bills when reintroduced, get the support of his colleagues.
While informing him that they are starting the lobbying and advocacy early, she opined that the bills before they are reintroduced should be domesticated in line with our culture so that men and women in the country will buy into it.
In response to this development, The Executive Director of LightRay Media and Converner of 100 the LightRay Women in Media Leadership, Lady Ejiro Umukoro, applauded the decision of the National Assembly to review the five rejected gender bills namely: the Bill to Provide Special Seats for Women at National Assembly; Affirmative Action for Women in Political Party Administration – 35% of Executive Positions; Bill to Grant Citizenship to Foreign-born Husbands of a Nigerian Woman; Bill on Indigeneship, which would enable married women to have a choice on state of origin and bill seeking inclusion of at least 10 percent affirmative action in favour of women in ministerial appointments.
Lady Ejiro Umukoro calls on the Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon Sherrif Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori to affirm the 35% affirmative action by former President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure a free and fair election in Delta State for more Women to parcipate at the forthcoming Local Government Elections. A situation of high-handed practices in the past where local government chairpersons are appointed rather than duly elected by the people is a recipe for poor governance and accountable government.
She emphasised that women must seize the day and be involved in all spheres of leadership across all sectors and governments.
Umukoro called on all members of the media, CSOs, policy makers and the leadership of the national assembly to ensure their effective passage for the impact it will create across board in Nigeria in reshaping the perception of women in positions of leadership and with their capacity to deliver responsibly.