Fresh vista for women emancipation, empowerment
TODAY marks the beginning of another milestone in the affairs of the women folks around the world as the United Nations headquarters in New York, plays host to them for the 59th session on the United Nations Commission on the status of women (CSW) which is the United Nations global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and advancement of women.
As expected, the yearly meeting will focus on issues of global interest to women, appraise and evaluate national and international progress made on women empowerment and gender equality. It will also discuss challenges and barriers faced by women while at the same sets agenda on issues that will further promote gender equality.
Specifically, this years’ session will evaluate, in concrete terms, the impact of the Beijing declaration on women in the last two decades. The much celebrated fourth world conference on women was held in Beijing, China, 20 years ago. At the meeting, governments, the world over, pledged to advance and promote equality, development and peace for all women around the globe. The yearly session of the CSW 59 will also undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and address current challenges that affect the implementation. It will also discuss opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.
The session will also have in attendance the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). This is to ensure that the priorities of 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are included in the agreed conclusions. For about 10 years, the WAGGGS has had a delegation attending the yearly session. This year will provide the selected young women with a platform where they can speak out on issues that affect their lives and engage with their government representatives.
Preparations are in top gear in Nigeria for a full representation at the conference. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, alongside other relevant stakeholders such as United Nations Women, IPAS, Christian aid, action aid, OXFAM, UNFPA, NSRP, are all at their best to ensure that Nigeria records a successful outing at the conference.
In order to achieve this, a one day national stakeholders’ consultative preparatory meeting was held in Abuja recently at the instance of the ministry. The Minister, Hajia Zainab Maina, told stakeholders at the meeting that the days when women of the world came together in solidarity devoid of divisions, not only to celebrate the achievements of women and the strides women had made over time should be rekindled. She said the Beijing Platform for Action has brought back what used to be in existence in the olden days and would remained a revolutionary piece of document charting the way forward and visualizing how women would like to see themselves as well as their societies in the future especially now that this year also marks an end of MDGs which commenced in 2005.
Reeling out how Nigerian women had fared since the Beijing conference held 20 years ago, Maina said Nigeria has witnessed an increased women’s participation, visibility and involvement in politics and governance, in the private sector, in the economy and in the social circle.
Giving credit to women advocates, civil society organizations who had taken it upon themselves to chart the course of women, Maina said noticeable impact has been made, adding that women issues have shifted to the public domain with increased understanding and acknowledgement that women are indeed able to contribute to national growth as much as their male counterparts.
She said: “Since Beijing, we have seen women as combatant soldiers, women police being part of the peace mission operation contingents, women as speakers, as Chief Justice of the Federation, heads of banking institutions and ambassadors. Women have indeed made incredible progress in all fields: in technology, in business, in the private sector and they continue to work for peace, influence policies and governance in different ways.”
While alluding to the global consensus that achieving gender equality is critical to the wellbeing of individual, families, households and societies same way as investment in women and girls is smart economics, Maina said Nigeria has achieved a giant stride in the pattern the country had witnessed the enrolment of more girls in primary and secondary schools as well as tertiary institutions. She said many women and girls have come out of poverty, while maternal mortality has gone down.
She explained that these feats had resulted in the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies particularly at the state level with the judiciary enforcing the principles of non-discrimination in court rulings
She added that women are participating in the economy and in the workforce and have access to essential health service including reproductive health rights services. She noted that efforts was ongoing to prevent, protect and respond to Violence Against Women and ensure women’s rights, gender mainstreaming and gender responsible budgeting are gaining ground especially with the Federal Government’s initiatives of Growing Women and Girls in Nigeria.
Maina expressed optimism that with concerted efforts and assistance, men’s support and leadership from appropriate quarters and especially women, the gender gaps and inequalities can be eradicated.
Maina, however, said women in Nigeria were still faced with a lot of challenges which needed to be surmounted with the passage of time. She explained that violence against women including sexual and domestic violence has continued to rise while majority of the victims are either too afraid to speak out due to cultural restrictions and the claims of such women of their desire to keep their marriages. This she said has not helped in putting a stop to the rise in the manner women are been used in conflicts.
On the political scene, she said women have continue to lose out in leadership positions due to their inability to match their male counterparts financially.
“Women are still poorer, less visible with less access and opportunities than men in all fields.” She said.
With the achievements recorded so far in Nigeria, stakeholders said they recognised the fact that sustainable development, peace and security and human rights would remain elusive without women. They maintained that pervasive discrimination, inequality, violence against women and girls continue to prevent them from acting as agents of change for the well-being of all humanity.
The UN women specifically propounded the ‘SHE’ imperative where they said ‘S’ stands for security of women and girls from all forms of violence, ‘H’ human rights including sexual and reproductive rights, equal pay, recognition of unpaid care, work and also recognition of opportunities and ‘E’ empowered decision making and full leadership and participation. They said the ‘SHE’ imperative cannot be more important to Nigeria than now especially when the 59th CSW is up-coming where review of past instrument and recommendations would be laid on the table.
Nigeria desires to use the various segments during the New York conference to push for a sustainable development, post 2015 agenda, that would include a goal for gender equality with clear gender targets and indicators in all other goals to facilitate continuous prioritization of gender equality; re-commit to the implementation of the existing gaps of the Beijing Platform for Action; ensure elimination of violence against women; ensure sexual violence is treated with priority and seriousness and that an enabling environment is created for women to go to school, to work, to own land, to govern and influence national, regional and global policies and be treated equally with attendant rights.
Maina said: ‘The post 2015 sustainable development goals should be such that would remove member states from commitments to actions, for this lies the future and the future of generations unborn. The future we want is definitely ours to decide’.
Nigeria will also leverage on the coincidence of the conference with the global climate change impact to discuss the way forward in addressing issues of environment, climate change and how to protect the country from its effects. Similarly, issues of security and peace will also be on the front burner as part of the agenda of the conference will address the 15th year review of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which is the women, peace and security commitments within the time frame of 2000 to 2015 as well as Africa’s setting on peace and security, sustainable development and humanitarian action. It is also five years into the Africa Women’s Decade which spans 2010 to 2020. Nigeria women will be able to appraise and assess how the journey had been since 2010 and where they hope to be come 2020. Again all these instruments are components that has contributed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Declaration.