Over 230 pro-women groups, under the aegis of Women of Nigeria, have condemned the National Assembly for voting against proposed gender bills on Tuesday, saying the lawmakers denied women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance.
The groups have, therefore, demanded that all rejected gender bills should be reconsidered, saying they will storm the National Assembly on Wednesday to seek an audience with the lawmakers.
“Nigerian women demand an emergency meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to discuss these provisions. We will be there at 8 am, tomorrow, Wednesday, March 2nd,” the groups have said.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Tuesday evening, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director at Ward-C, who spoke for the groups, which are signatories to the statement, said Nigerian women were disappointed by the actions of the lawmakers.
She said, “Nigerian women, therefore, demand that all gender Bills be reconsidered. Ultimately, our demands will benefit not just women but Nigeria as a whole.
“More women in governance will only bring progress, and respect for Nigeria in the committee of nations. We cannot, in 2022, be negotiating the rights of women and the sanctity of the dignity of girls. We call on the National Assembly to represent these Bills as a matter of urgency and ensure that they are passed.”
The groups also said they were “disappointed and aggrieved at the actions of the 9th National Assembly (NASS), Tuesday, March 1, 2022, when they denied women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance by voting against the gender bills”.
The statement further read, “The NASS has spoken loud and clear that they do not want progress for society: for mothers, aunties, sisters, wives, and for daughters.
“It is particularly sad that in a month globally dedicated to celebrating women worldwide, our NASS has chosen to deny women basic human rights particularly, the right to identity and belonging.
“The proposed gender bills in the 5th Constitution Alteration Bills that were all rejected are Bills targeted at addressing the current gender imbalance across the legislative arm of governments across the country whilst reducing the under-representation of women in political office.
The men of the 9th NASS have reinforced the discrimination and political bias against women as enshrined in the 1999 constitution by:
1. Denying citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman. (While it allows Nigerian men’s foreign-born wives to be awarded automatic citizenship)
2. Denying Nigerian women indigeneity through marriage.
3. Denying 35% appointed positions for women and settling for 20%.
4. Denying women affirmative action in party administration and leadership.
5. Denying specific seats for women in the National Assembly.”
According to the groups, the federal lawmakers, “by their actions have taken us backwards”.
“Their actions undermine the importance and relevance of women’s contribution to the governance of Nigeria including the key role women play to bring victory to political parties in elections at all levels across the country. They also voted against diaspora voting,” the statement added.
The groups involved include 9jafeminista, Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, Action Aid Nigeria, Above Whispers Foundation, ACTS Generation GBV, Amnesty International Nigeria, ARDA Development Communication Inc., Arise Nigerian Woman Foundation, FIDA Nigeria, First Future Leadership, FOMWAN, Forward in Action for Education, Poverty and Malnutrition (FACE-PAM), Women Advocacy, HIV Prevention and Other Diseases (WAHPOD), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Women and Youth Empowerment for Advancement and Health Initiative, Women Youth and Children Upliftment Foundation (WYCUT), Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON), Women education advocacy and development Initiatives (WEADI), and Women Empowerment and Initiative Development.