Still a Long Way Off

Joe Okei-Odumakin
Joe Okei-Odumakin

Nigeria is not doing enough in the implementation of the United Nations, Beijing Conference resolution on affirmative action on Women

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

BARELY 18 years after the United Nations Beijing conference on affirmative action on women, Nigeria is yet to fully implement the agenda of the conference. One of the major items in the platform for action from the conference was to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision making and leadership. It actually recommended that 30 percent of important positions in government should be reserved for women. The conference set a target date of 2005 for full implementation.

But the overall appraisal has put Nigeria below the target. Though the federal government has tried to meet the target, many states are very far behind the goal. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, 13 ministers made the list of President Goodluck Jonathan’s 40- member cabinet. Apart from the large number, many of them pilot sensitive ministries.

Northern Governors Wife
Northern Governors Wife

They include, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, minister of finance, Ruqquayat Rufai, minister of education,  Diezani Allison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, Sarah Ochekpe, minister of water resources and Ama Pepple minister of land and housing. Other female ministers  are Stella Odua Ogiemwoniyi, minister of aviation, Olajumoke Akinjide, minister of state for Federal Capital Territory, Viola Onwuliri, minister of state for foreign affairs, Omobola Johnson, minister of communication and technology, Hadiza Mailafia, minister in-charge of environment, while Zainab Maina and Zainab Kuchi are minister of women affairs and minister of state for Niger Delta, respectively.  Although there has been a significant improvement in the appointment of women as ministers, only few of them are elected into national and state assemblies. For instance, only nine out 109 senators are women, while 27 are in the House of Representatives out of 360 members. Women are also not adequately represented in federal board appointments.

Comparatively, throughout the two-term tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, only nine women were appointed ministers. Late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, who succeeded Obasanjo, did not do better because he appointed only seven women as ministers.  Alhough some women are occupying the position of deputy governor of some states, many of them have not got their fair share of appointments into sensitive  office in many states.

For example, out of the 25 commissioners appointed by Henry Seriake Dickson, governor of Bayelsa State in 2011, only two were women. His counterpart in Benue State, Gabriel Suswan, appointed only three women as commissioners out 16 member cabinet.

The situation in Lagos State isn’t better as only four women made the list of 24 cabinet members in the state. Niger State came close to achieving the goal when Babangida Aliyu, governor of the state, appointed four women in a list of 15 commissioners.  A similar neglect also exists in almost other states.

This is why some women are not satisfied with the way affirmative action on women is being implemented in Nigeria. Joe Okei-Odumakin, president, Women Arise, said   that the slow implementation of affirmative action has marginalised women in the country. She lamented that for more than 50 years after independence, no woman has emerged as president, vice president and state governor. The only woman that assumed that position was Virgy Etiaba, who became a governor  when Peter Obi was impeached as governor of Anambra State.

“So it is glaring that women are marginalised except for a few appointments by Jonathan. Despite our numerical strength, we are grossly under represented,” Odumakin said and urged both federal and state governments to stop the marginalisation of women because of their numerical strength in the country.

Augustina Anusonwa, coordinator, Charity Mother’s Help Ministry, Owerri, Imo State, wants the government to increase the number of women appointments so that they can be adequately represented in the decision making process.  She lamented that for a long time, women were denied the rightful position despite their numerical position. According to Anusonwa, few women that were appointed into sensitive positions in the past had proved that if given opportunity, they would do better. Some of them were Dora Akunyili, former minister of information, Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, and Okonjo- Iweala, minister of finance who also occupied the same position during the administration of Obasanjo.

 The Northern Governor’s Wives Forum, has also raised its voice in support of women affirmative action. At a meeting held in November last year, it solicited for a constitutional backing for the 30 percent affirmation for women in Nigeria. The United Nations Beijing conference believes that women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women and their contribution to national development.

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