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As we celebrate the 2024 International Women’s Day…

Today, being the 8th of March, is set aside to celebrate women globally as the International Women’s Day. The day is marked to create awareness…

Today, being the 8th of March, is set aside to celebrate women globally as the International Women’s Day. The day is marked to create awareness about issues affecting women. It is marked to celebrate the achievements of women, their challenges and how to implement strategies to achieve gender inclusion in all sectors. The IWD 2024 theme is; “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”. According to UN Women, “The world is facing many crises ranging from geopolitical conflicts to soaring poverty levels and the escalating impacts of climate change. These challenges can only be addressed by solutions to empower women…”

Indeed, Nigerian women have come a long way and they have recorded a lot of gains, but a lot of work needs to be done to improve the lot of the womenfolk. These days, women face a lot of challenges in our society and they range from political, academic to social exclusion. Sexually-based violence is one battle that the girl-child and women are facing also. This was put in proper perspective when in November last year, Mr Sunday Agbakaba, the Data Manager, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, stated that Nigeria recorded 27,698 cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence between 2020 and 2023. Agbakaba said the ministry recorded 1,145 fatal GBV cases while 393 perpetrators were convicted within the period under review. He also said the GBV dashboard showed 9,636 open cases; 3,432 new cases; 1,741 closed cases and 1,895 follow-up cases.

On the political scene, women usually come out en masse to vote during elections but very few made it to political positions or decision-making positions. Often times, they are not allowed or given equal opportunity with their male counterparts to participate in the political process of their various political parties. In the 2023 general elections, only 48 women out of the 1,109 that contested the election secured positions. Also, 15 of the 36 states assembly in the country have no women representation. In the National Assembly, there are only four women in the Senate, while 14 made it to the lower chamber; the House of Representatives. This under-representation is totally unacceptable in a democracy. It speaks loudly of the lack of gender inclusion, not to talk of equity. And in the country’s polity, women have continued to be edged out without recourse to the affirmation by political parties that 35 per cent of political appointments should be reserved for women. No doubt, this is a reflection of the patriarchal system in the country where men rule and dominate in almost all spheres. But with the assurance given by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Okezie Kalu that the ongoing constitution review exercise by the 10th National Assembly will address the issue of gender imbalance, we believe that they will walk their talk by enacting laws in favour of the womenfolk.

Also, the Secretary-General of the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), Professor Yakubu Ochefu, disclosed that over 720 individuals have held the position of vice chancellor in Nigerian universities since 1960, out of which 38 were women (representing 5.28%). Presently, of the 270 universities in Nigeria, only 13 are headed by women (representing 4.91%). More needs to be done in this regard, as many women who have headed institutions have proven themselves worthy.

However, a report by PwC shows that women account for 41% ownership of micro-businesses in Nigeria, with 23 million women operating in this segment, indicating that the female folk are a major force in the economy, despite the challenges they are facing; from raising a family to financial exclusion among others. This definitely is an indication that if given the right amount of support, they would do more.

This year’s International Women’s Day is coming at a time when the amendment to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is about to commence. We urge members of the National Assembly to reconsider the gender and equal opportunity bill, which was rejected in the 9th Assembly, and pass it into law. Nigeria must join the ranks of countries that give opportunities to women to thrive in government.

At a press briefing to commemorate the International Women’s Day, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uju-Kennedy Ohanenye, called on women to demand for their rights in the society.  “We have the backing of Mr President, let us use the opportunity to fight for our cause in peaceful ways like the mothers that we are, to get things right. Our women must rise up to the current challenges so as to take their proper place in the society”, she said.

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day, 2024, we call on political parties to walk the talk to ensure that the 35 per cent affirmative action in the country’s gender policy is adhered to. We call on the male folk to see women as partners, who should be supported. We believe that together, we can build a great society.

On that note, we join the minister and other stakeholders in celebrating Nigerian women and other women across the world. We wish them a very happy International Women’s Day.

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