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The time is now! Why Nigeria urgently needs a women’s justice agenda

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Scale of Justice. Photo/Sealchambers

The Women’s Justice Agenda will advance, implement and improve reproductive, economic, political and social justice for all Nigerian women. It would ensure that the Nigerian government will be held accountable and will remain at the forefront of this critical fight to protect women’s rights and ensure fairness for all women living in Nigeria.

On April 28, 2019, Matt Obono, convener of the TAP Initiative, reported that 70 girls were arrested and brought to the Utako police station in Abuja – their offence- partying at a nightclub.

He stated that, “the joint task force who arrested these girls also molested and sexually assaulted them.” To justify their arrests, the women were accused of crimes they did not commit and were publicly shamed, humiliated and paraded by the Nigerian authorities in the media.

This is not the first time that the Nigerian government would impede and violate the rights of Nigerian women. In 2017, Dorothy Njemanze, Edu Ene Okoro, Justina Etim and Amarachi Jessyforth women sued the Nigerian government and were each awarded damages in the sum of N6 million (about USD16,500) after they were abducted and assaulted sexually, physically, verbally and unlawfully detained at different times between January 2011 and March 2013 in the hands of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other government agencies, such as the police and the military.

They were arrested and accused of being prostitutes simply on the grounds that they were found on the streets at night.

Nigeria has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights and attaining gender equality. In 2016, I penned the article, “A Year in Review: What It Means to be a Woman in Nigeria,” since writing the article not much has improved for women in Nigeria, although I must commend the numerous women organizations fighting tirelessly for gender equality and women’s rights. Political nuances, religious and cultural beliefs continue to hinder on our progress.

To date, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill is yet to be passed and has been voted against repeatedly by Nigerian lawmakers majority of whom are men. To date, there remains a lack of visible female leadership in politics, policy and governance and there continues to be an absence of women’s participation in crucial decision-making circles from business to technology.

Here are examples, the first photos are from an appreciation dinner for Lagos State’s Incoming Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, one is only left wondering, where are the women?

The next photos represent the Foundation for Good Governance for Development in Nigeria. Not represented at the event, are women leaders from President Buhari’s team.

In a speech to Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, President Buhari in 2016 made it clear that women only belong to the kitchen and to the bedroom. To date, he is yet to apologise for his comments about women.

Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Reach and popular social media commentator, J.J. Omojuwa writes: “Nigeria is desperate for women in politics and governance as he posts a photograph of Nigeria’s all male leadership team.

What can be done to improve and increase the visibility and participation of women leaders across all sectors? What can we continue to do as active citizens to ensure progress with gender equality and the women’s rights movement? Here are a few recommendations:

. Pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.

. Fund and support women’s organisations and initiatives, as these organisations help to strengthen the links between leaders and the women in the communities they represent.

. Encourage and implement women’s employment participation goals in leadership
roles at the local, state and federal levels of government.

. Establish a sex-offenders’ registry and database; despite an overwhelming reported cases of sexual assaults, Nigeria has recorded only
18 rape convictions in its legal history in a country of 190 million people.

. Protect women and girls in Nigeria through new laws and policies; this will help Nigeria achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda on Women and Girls.

Indeed, Nigeria has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights as political, religious and cultural nuances continue to shape and can restrict the visibility, the participation and the leadership roles available to Nigerian women.

However, we can start by implementing some of these recommendations and ensure that the Women’s Justice Agenda is created and is a priority at the local, state and federal levels of government.


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