Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina has flagged off the International Women’s Day celebration in Nigeria, with an appeal to the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgent national importance, to pass in to law the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill, before the end of the 7th Legislative Session so as to address the increasing spate of violence against women, children and youths.
At a Press Briefing to kick start activities marking International Women’s Day, IWD, slated for Sunday, with the theme “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Make It Happen”, Maina condemned in strong terms, the brutalisation of widows in Imo state during a peace protest outside the Imo Government House, describing it as disheartening.
The minister, who said the theme would provide good opportunity to take stock of the accomplishments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action since its inception in 1995, expressed concern over increasing incidents of rape of infants, minors and older women as well as the rape cases emanating from Internally Displaced Persons’, IDPs, camps, noting that the Bill, if passed into law will stop the impunity of such acts and restore the dignity of women in Nigeria.
According to her, the ministry, in collaboration with its partners, has developed the National Guidelines and Referral Standards for Gender Based Violence, to provide criteria and create standards for intervention in such cases.
“In addition, I have paid advocacy visits to the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the State and Federal Legislature, to advocate for the speedy passage of various bills to protect and uphold the rights of women and ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are severely punished,” she stated
Hajiya Maina said though Nigeria has made significant progress in achieving increased basic education, reducing proportion of underweight children, eradicating extreme hunger, reducing maternal mortality rates, developing action plan for implementation of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and establishing National Guidelines and referral Standards for addressing Gender based violence in the country, more needs to be done.
She expressed regret on the inability of the country to make appreciable strides in implementing the 12 critical areas of concern due to various challenges and obstacles impeding achievements of the set goals some of which are, poor funding of gender equality and women empowerment initiatives, non legislation of 35% gender affirmative action, non passage of pending gender bills, negative cultural/traditional perceptions, poor institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming amongst others.
The minister reiterated that because women make up half of the community, gender inequality in any community impacts negatively on individual productivity and eventually the output of the community, consequently affecting human development indices likewise, lack of access to education for women.
She called on women to compliment efforts of the ministry in ensuring full participation of women in the forthcoming general election by coming out en masse to vote, and resist attempts by selfish politicians to cajole them to sell their PVCs, saying their PVC is their power to right decision while calling on them not to allow their children to be used as thugs by politicians.
In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Ezekiel Oyemomi, noted that despite many important milestones, the current situation of women and girls in Nigeria leaves much to be desired.
According to him, “women continue to e deprived of the right to quality education because priority is given to male education. Women are also systematically excluded from decision making with only about 8% of elected officials in Nigeria being women. Gender Based Violence , cultural practices and traditional attitudes continue to constitute serious problem.”
He said this year’s International Women’s Day is historic as it marks the 20th Anniversary of the 4th World Conference for Women held in Beijing, China in 1995, the 15th Anniversary of Millennium Development Goals which is being transformed to sustainable Development Goals and the 15th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
“This year, International Women’s Day celebrated globally on 8 March, will highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark road-map signed by 189 Governments 20 years ago that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights.
The need to mark an international day for women was first conceived over a hundred years ago with the first IWD event held in 1911 to mark the protest by women garment-makers who were subjected to deplorable working conditions in New York. Motivated by its commitment to freedom and equality for all, the UN in 1975 resolved to set aside a day to recognize the contribution of women to peace and national development. Since then, the International Women’s Day has helped to create a historic legacy of advancing the status of womenworldwide.