I am delighted to start this year’s 16 Days of Activism by advocating to the participants of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies NILDS, United Nations Development Program UNDP and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women UNWomen Capacity Building Workshop for Female Legislators and Female Politicians on Lawmaking and Lobbying, at Abuja.
It is indeed a very timely initiative, as today, November 25th, marks the start of 16 Days of Activism and activities marked annually, to highlight Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.
As a Pioneer Member and Steering Council Member of the UN Women’s African Women Leaders Network Initiative globally and in Nigeria respectively, I am thrilled that this workshop will inspire new energy and technical skills needed to accelerate working together for Gender Equality, namely:
– Women’s Political Participation
– Women’s Economic Empowerment
– Women Peace And Security and Humanitarian Action
– Ending Violence Against Women
Thus, the enactment of gender-sensitive legislation and domestication of international conventions, statutes and promotion of women’s participation in politics and governance in Nigeria is on the front burner of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls for a just and fair society (a pointer to SDG 5).
Lack of political representation is a major cause of both gender inequality and generation inequality. Of all national parliaments at the beginning of 2019, only 24.3% of the seats were filled by women. As of June 2019, 11 Heads of State were women. Despite progress in this area over the years, women are still grossly underrepresented in government and the political process. This means that certain issues that female politicians tend to bring up- such as parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender equality laws and gender-based violence are often neglected.
Regarding the target of generation equality, the Wellbeing For Women Africa Youth Voices Initiative’s 2020 Wa Wimbi Report found that the political, social and economic dispensation in Africa is highly defined and structured whereby culture defines the socio-economic and political discourse. Furthermore, there are pockets of scenarios where leadership is passed from masculine generation to generation.
Potentially, these situations can lead to conflicts and partisan control of public resources and access to opportunities. While these factors are not solely the causes of strife and conflict – where women suffer the most – they are a catalyst. Through human capital development especially for young people, there are opportunities to initiate and drive socio-economic processes to socially and economically empower young professional women. As a build-up to this action, the WBW Youth Voices Initiative engaged its youth partners to conduct a survey, the primary objective of which was to provide empirical data on probable bottlenecks faced by young women in access to and uptake of leadership and decision-making opportunities across Africa. The survey sought to:
a) Collect and analyse cultural and socio-economic scenarios faced by young women in leadership and decision making spaces;
b) Analyse the current employment market to identify professional opportunity trends where sustained and dignified professional engagements are attained based on merit;
c) Document constraints and barriers faced by young and vulnerable women in the labour market; and,
d) Provide an analytical review of the most viable scenarios that could help young women as beneficiaries.
The study included a total of 239 participants both on and offline, there were 75 online respondents, 19 KII and 145 participants from 15 FGD. The study involved responses from 18 African countries namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Cameroon, DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to this survey on the bottlenecks women face in leadership and governance, on a broad scale, most respondents find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership actions such as influence, merit, capacity and mental willpower to lead, organise and implement.
The study analysis presented in this report confirms that presently, leadership and governance are dominated by men despite the existence of administrative and policy provisions in many organisations seeking to frontload women as equals in merit. Furthermore, the submissions by the survey respondents indicate that whilst there is a general push for women to take up leadership positions, as evidenced in access to leadership spaces (albeit limited), policy provisions and merit over gender among others, there are still overbearing social and cultural norms which seem to continually limit the spaces and counter strides made.
Young women’s leadership is undermined in the civic space despite the advances in youth engagement over the years. The current configuration of youth organisations is not enough to ensure or sustain the effective leadership of young women in international development and any progress within youth spaces is still largely affected by the preferences of young men in power. Within the current global context, women are given promises of equal representation but often find the reins of power in the hands of others.
To improve access to leadership and governance spaces in a demand-driven system in the context of development, it is imperative to involve women in all components of development programming. Institutions must recognise and take up this driving factor as an enabler to achieving equity and ensuring strategic opportunities for all.
One of the core objectives at WBFA is advocating for gender equality with the acknowledgement that the status of women, children and families in Africa require improved resources, support, and advocacy. Our policy goals on women, girls, and gender development span various interventions with a core towards advocating for the right of every woman to leadership and political participation. This is achieved by promoting women’s leadership and participation in all sectors, ensuring that women are accorded equal opportunities and supported to lead and participate in politics either through elections or by appointments.
It is for this very reason that my Wellbeing Foundation Africa is committed to its ongoing leadership of Nigeria Country Mobilisation for the ICPD25 International Conference on Population and Development Commitments towards the 3 zero’s of:
1) Zero Preventable Maternal Deaths,
2) Zero Unmet Need for Family Planning, and
3) Zero Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
While we commend the passage and implementation progress of the VAPP Legislation, tangential to these targets, there is a need to continue to work collectively towards the prevention of sexual violence in conflict (PSVI), and the domestication of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. We must also redouble efforts towards the reintroduction and eventual passage of the Gender Equality and Opportunity Bill into law.
Therefore, it is my hope that the participants at this 2-day event will leverage on knowledge gained to stimulate their interest more in lawmaking and lobbying and equip themselves with the technical capacity on legislations and domestication of international conventions and statutes with the desired outcomes of increasing women in politics and leadership positions to make positive impacts that will continue to make the world a better place.