March 8 is always celebrated as the international day of women worldwide. Women are specially meant to be celebrated on that particular day and to further adjudicate for the equal rights of women with regards to their male counterparts in the society as they are a pivotal element in the growth of democracy and in nation building process.
To foster democracy and equality as provided by the constitution of Nigeria, we must allow for equal representation in the political sphere and stop the marginalisation and relegation of women to the rear.
Women are the bedrock of any given society and ought to be the pillar to our democratic growth. The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides in section 42 that no person shall be discriminated against by virtue of her sex or other limitations or inhibitions.
Women sorely deserve equal rights just as men in the society do. It is therefore ludicrous to see that the Nigerian leaders have decided to flagrantly flout the provisions of the constitutions and Nigerians have decided to sleep on their rights.
In some states, political aspirants promise a meager 30% representation in government and the people or the women jump and applaud such promises. It is appalling that this great country of ours has always decided to celebrate mediocrity. It is high time that people of Nigeria stopped wallowing in mediocrity and stood up for their rights. They should also demand what is lawfully theirs by holding the leaders accountable. Women have as much right as men do to the political stool or positions.
CONVENTIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND THE NIGERIAN DISPOSITION
CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW):- This is one of the foremost conventions on the advocacy for the rights of women. This convention came into play by virtue of being adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 34/180 of 18 December 1979 entry into force 3 September 1981, in accordance with article 27(1). CEDAW seeks to advocate for the rights of women and eradicate the discrimination against women among member states. It also aids in Recalling that discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity, is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries, hampers the growth of the prosperity of society and the family and makes more difficult the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity. Article 7 of CEDAW provides that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right:
To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;
To participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country”.
This convention has further aided women in other member states to advocate for their rights with adequate information and proper drive as most member states have adequately domesticated the convention.
BEIJING DECLARATION:- Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by 189 Member States meeting in China, its stature and significance as a roadmap for the achievement of gender equality remains undiminished. This pivotal document continues to guide the global struggle against constraints and obstacles to the empowerment of women around the world. In the face of new forces threatening to curtail the rights of women and girls, we must return to the agenda set by the Platform for Action and renew our commitment to carry it out in full.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains today the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, everywhere.
This landmark text was the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in September 1995. After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, and sharing of experiences, representatives of 189 Governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. More than 30,000 people also participated in the Forum of non-governmental organizations in Huairou, a unique space of advocacy, networking, training and knowledge sharing.
The Platform for Action covers 12 critical areas of concern which are as relevant today as 20 years ago: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child. For each critical area of concern, strategic objectives are identified, as well as a detailed catalogue of related actions to be taken by Governments and other stakeholders, at national, regional and international level. At the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly in June 2000, held to review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Governments agreed on further actions to accelerate implementation of the Platform for Action and to ensure that commitments for gender equality, development and peace were fully realized.
Since 1995, Governments, civil society and other stakeholders have worked to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and achieve equality in all areas of life, in public and in private spaces. Discriminatory legislation is being removed, and violence against women and girls and harmful practices addressed.
There have been significant gains in girls’ school enrolment, and women’s participation in the labour force and the economy is growing in some regions. Women’s representation in national parliaments now exceeds 20 per cent globally. Significant normative advances have been made in the global agenda on women, peace and security. Much has been achieved, but progress has been unacceptably slow and uneven, particularly for the most marginalized women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
Nearly 20 years after the adoption of the Platform for Action, no country has achieved equality for women and girls and significant levels of inequality between women and men persist. Critical areas of insufficient progress include access to decent work and closing the gender pay gap; rebalancing of the care workload; ending violence against women; reducing maternal mortality and realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights; and participation in power and decision-making at all levels.1
Nigeria as a country is a member state and a participant in the signage of the aforestated conventions but in all fairness and sincerity it is disheartening that a country that prides itself on democratic living and virtues has refused to domesticate these conventions.
The glaring fact is that the political sect has failed to recognize that women also have rights and also the sole backing of the constitution to garner the same political support as men. The earlier the Nigerian women held the government responsible for their marginalization, the earnest we will achieve the democracy for all that is being clamored for by all Nigerians.
CUSTOMS AND RELIGIONS RELEGATING THE WOMEN
Religions and customs are a pivotal aspect of a person’s life and it will be fallible to relegate women on these grounds as the holy books seek to tell us to relate with each other equality and to foster equality amongst ourselves regardless of the sex or inhibitory traits.
The dominant religions do not preach discrimination in any form. All human are born equal and it is trite to note that “women rights are human rights”.2 More so, any custom that relegates women or purports to propagate the inferiority of women is archaic, barbaric and repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Let us not forget that the pillars of the holy religions we all practice were set by women. The foundations of all religions would not have been properly set without their efforts.
WOMEN THE PIVOT OF THEIR OWN DOWNFALL
It is of trite importance to state that the problem of most women is in their education and low self esteem. Facts have it that an average Nigerian woman would rather vote for a man other than a woman based on their nether or underslung level of reasoning as to the basis of a woman contesting for a political position while she has a family to cater for. Women are created by God to have the ability to multitask. Therefore, it is demeaning of women to believe that a woman cannot rule this nation adequately.
Looking at the developed nations, it is trite to note that the radical changes that propelled their nation forward happened at a point when a woman was in power. If travelling on a particular destination does not yield the adequate results, it is high time that we set forth on another destination.
A senior colleague once told me that in her quest to vie for a political post, she was downtrodden mostly by women like her who felt she was inferior to her male counterparts.
Nigeria is a country blessed with a vast array of human and natural resources. Leaving out the focal element in Nation building is a cataclysmic disaster waiting to happen. Women have always played a pivotal role in the building of this great nation.
More so, women should be given an equal playing field to enable the fostering of a change that we all desire and deserve.
The Nigerian government should domesticate all signed conventions to further grant women their women rights.
The legislative bodies should enact laws that would proffer stiffer punishments for delineation of women.
Political constituencies should be delimited and proper networking facilities provided for women.
There should be equal playing grounds and equal rights for men and women.
CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
BEIJING DECLARATION PLATFORM FOR ACTION
WOMEN AND ELECTORAL PROCESSES: ISSUES IN CONSTITUENCY DELIMITATION AND NETWORKING.
– Damilola Kolawole