By Maureen Okpe
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Benjamin Okezie Kalu, has given a ray of hope on the five rejected gender bills by the 9th assembly, with his support for its reintroduction and consideration.
Kalu made this known on Thursday in Abuja, at the social media action and launch of advocacy hashtag and signature campaign #Reconsider5genderbills , #affirmativeaction organnized by the Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) and her gender bill cluster including Womamifesto, National Coalition on Affirmative Action , Gender and Constitition Reform Network,SAGE and Gender Mobile with support from USAID and SCALE Palladium.
Represented by his Special Adviser (SA), Strategy and Programme Development, Karu Simon, he stressed the need for advocacy and more enlightenment of the gender bills not just for the legislatures but to the general public.
Kalu said although the gender bills were not passed in the 9th assembly, he is confident that it will see the light of the day.
According to him, “The five gender bills need to have a level of enlightenment to the populace, as some of the legislatures did not understand the bill until it got to the level at the floor of the house.
“Not all issues or debate get to scale through at the first attempt, although it failed at the 9th assembly, it was a successful attempt , that I am confident will see the light of the day and which has given rise to a better strategy for massive mobilization.
“If there is anything that should be done more or better, is the education not just to the legislatures but people within the grassroot, let there be a level of understanding with the citizen, let every woman, young person speak about it, because it has a generational value.
Speaking on the launch, he commended the initiative, describing it as a fantastic approach as the sacrifice and labour are displayed in a very impressive manner.
Chief of Party, SCALE project Palladium, Lydia Odeh commended the strategic initiative used to advocate for the gender bills, stating this will change the narrative, create a pathway for women inclusion and break the barriers limiting women from appointive and elective positions of decision making in Nigeria.
Odeh reiterated the need to maintain the level of engagement not only on the five gender bills but also on the affirmative action for women in political parties as well as eliminate the gender discrimination on citizenship. Supporting and standing for a justifiable movement that transcends virtual spaces.
“As we formally kickstart a social media action to galvanize public support for the passage of what has come to be known as the Five Gender Bills.They signify a commitment to dismantling barriers that have hindered women’s full participation in various facets of life. They represent a vision where every individual, regardless of gender, has equal opportunities to contribute to and benefit from the progress of our nation.
“We need to sustain this support by galvanizing the public to amplify our voices. I want us to remember that change is not an abstract concept; it is a series of intentional, collective actions. I am confident that the discussions and initiatives set in motion today by this launch will contribute significantly to the momentum needed for the reconsideration and passage of the five gender bills by the National Assembly
“The Five Gender Bills are everyone’s business, regardless of your gender. Deliberately ensuring there are special seats for women at the national assembly will automatically address the paucity of female legislators and ensure a well-rounded, comprehensive, and quality legislative process.
On her part the FCT Commissioner for Women Affairs, Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi, explained that the struggle for passage of the gender bills is not for only women but for everyone, assuring to take the 1 million signatures campaign for the passage of the bill across the six area councils in the FCT.
“My target is to drive the target for one million signatures on the passage of the five gender bills in the six area councils of the federal capital territory.
“So it’s an emergence and it’s right on the cause of 16 days activism against gender based violence so its a very auspicious appropriately positioned timeline not just for women but for anyone who is a patriot within the global affirmative space for creating and driving change and creating social economic bubbles and opportunities,” she said.
Earlier, Founder/Executive Director WARDC, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi in her welcome address noted with dismay the low participation of women in leadership roles despite their large number. She restated her continuous commitment to advocate for the gender bill.
Akiyode-Afolabi said, “We will not surrender until gender mainstreaming is effected. We don’t even know wether we are citizens or not, whether we have equal right or not.
“We cannot continue to live in that kind of situation because Nigeria belongs to all of us. We want to maintain the tempo to keep the mandate for the gender bills. We have engaged with several groups and legislatures. The movement is growing, people are getting more informed.We hope that across the country we can get one million signatures so that they can re introduce the gender bill.
On her part, Former Country Director ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) Ene Obi declared that, parliamentarians who vote against the gender bill will be exposed down to their wards and local government for the rural women to know those against them. She lamenting the huge disparity of men to women in the 10th assembly.
Obi said, “we are going to demand the names of anybody who voted against the bills, we will show the people of their constituency down to the local government.
“What we have now is the men assembly, we have 14 houses of parliament where there no women, there will have committee and it will be men that constitute the committee, how do you decide on the issues of women.She decried the poor state of affairs of the country lamenting how the burden rests majorly on the women as mother, wives, aunties in the society.
“The bill we are talking about is not just for women but also for Men, it is about the issue of humanity, human rights and social justice. We are hoping that they will do better.
The Secretary General, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternatives (WRAPA) Sa’adatu Mahdi commended the gender cluster for re-engaging the conversation around the gender bills. Adding that Nigeria is at a disadvantage owing to the neglect of a large number of its populace.
She noted that, “this time we will continue the struggle, but in a different way, the men who are in our midst will be the ones in front. Whatever means we need to use “whether it’s Twitter (X) will use or which ever like we did with the VAPP law.
“Nigeria must come to terms that it is short changing itself by 50% of it’s population. This is not anything new, it is about equity and justice. We do not want to be recipients, we want to be contributors. We are willing to negotiate.