A Non-Governmental Organisation, Alliances for Africa, has urged the Senate to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, which is currently pending before the upper legislative chamber.
Executive Director of AfA, Ms Iheoma Obibi, who made the call at a news conference in Enugu on Monday, explained that the Bill seeks “equal participation and representation of women and men in all decision making processes”.
Obibi urged the Federal Government to emulate some African countries that had addressed the under-representation of women in political leadership by promoting gender equality in decision-making and legislative processes at the local and national levels.
According to her, Nigeria is currently lagging behind other ‘progressive democracies’ in Africa like Rwanda and South Africa in the participation of women in the legislative process.
”In the Nigerian parliament as presently constituted, women represent a dismal 5.6 per cent in the House of Representatives and 6.5 per cent in the Senate.
“Obviously, this is very far from the agitated 35 per cent Affirmative Action provided for in the National Gender Policy (NGP) 2006.
“This trend flows from the national level to the states and down to the local levels.
“We note that in other progressive democracies in Africa – in countries like Rwanda, women make up 63.8 per cent in the lower house of assembly and 38.5 per cent in the Senate.
“In South Africa, women represent 41.9 per cent and 35.2 per cent respectively. In Burundi women represent 36.4 per cent in the lower assembly and 41.9 per cent in the Senate.
“Even Zimbabwe has 31.5 per cent and 37.5 per cent respectively.
“Nigeria, as a member of the United Nations, signed and ratified various international instruments, treaties and conventions without reservation.
“These instruments have always emphasized that member nations put in place all the necessary mechanisms needed to eliminate gender discriminations, ensure equality and human dignity to all men and women,” she said.
Obibi disclosed that AfA, with support from the United Nations Women Fund for Gender Equality, is seeking ways to actualise the full implementation of the 35 per cent Affirmative Action representation of women in public governance in the five South-East states.
She noted that the project had recorded some success, with three female politicians elected as local government chairmen, while some others are members of the various state legislative assemblies.