The issue of gender equality and women representation in governance was recently brought to the fore at the recent International Conference of Women in Governance, organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic studies (NILDS). The two-day conference which held on 23rd and 24th August 2023 in Abuja was aimed at fostering empowerment of women and shaping the governance landscape in Nigeria.
While opening the event, the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio pledged the commitment of the Senate on inclusion of more women in governance in the country. He assured Nigerian women that the five gender bills, which was rejected in the 9th Assembly will be revisited by the 10th National Assembly. Akpabio encouraged women, in appointive and elective positions in President Bola Tinubu’s administration to actively engage in the lobbying process to ensure the realisation of the bills.
It would be recalled that the gender bills that sought to promote opportunities for women in political parties, governance and the society, one of which is the Special Seats Bill were rejected by the 9th NASS in March 2022.
Also, the Speaker House of Representatives represented by Hon. Kafilat Ogbara, Chair, House Committee on Women Affairs, pledged the National Assembly’s commitment to work with critical stakeholders including the leadership of political parties to improve women’s active participation in governance.
The commitment by the National Assembly is a signpost that women issues are a priority for the 10th Assembly. However, a big challenge would be for them to exercise the needed political will and take prompt legislative actions to realise this goal. This should include seeking citizens support and ensuring that these bills are presented for discussion on time. Of note is the Special Seats Bill which should be top priority to ensure that there is an appreciable number of women in the legislature to influence substantive policy and legislative outcomes.
Apart from the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) passed in 2015, the National Assembly has not recorded success in terms of legislations aimed at improving the rights and status of women. It is hoped that the 10th National Assembly would do differently in this regard by following through their commitments and leaving an enduring legacy.