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Coalition groups urge National Assembly to make women friendly constitution

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A group of more than 180 Civil Society Organisations in Lagos, working on the Spotlight Initiative Project have called on the National Assembly to make “the Constitution that Nigeria Women Want”.

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The CSOs wants a document, which does not only speak to the aspiration of the Nigerian people but includes women.

The participants in one accord called on the country’s lawmakers to ensure that the scheduled public hearing on the 1999 constitution amendment guarantee gender equality and strongly uphold the principle of equity in all sectors of life.

Harnessing participants’ submissions at a briefing in Lagos, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi on behalf of the group made a 10-point demand.

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Among the demands, Akiyode-Afolabi said the language of the current constitution is insensitive to its populace and excludes women.

She, therefore, said going forward women want to see that the new piece of legislation is inclusive in language and representation.

Citing one of the reasons it is harping on language, “In the current constitution, the word “he” is used 235 times while women is referenced only twice.”

WARDC said such masculine languages are gender-biased and undermine women and girls’ rights and participation, thereby hindering inclusive governance in Nigeria.

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“We believe that a legitimate constitution is expected to take due account of the socio-economic and cultural realities of its country, reflect the positive values of its culture in order to guarantee the well-being of its society as a whole and social progress and to safeguard social harmony.

“To be able to achieve this, it is expected that such constitution should guarantee gender equality and strongly uphold the principle of equity in all sectors of life.

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“As we are all aware, since the inception of the civilian regime in 1999, there has been increased dialogue around constitutional reforms as systems that are critical to the political culture and political stability, within the context of this discourse are critical gender questions: To what extent are gender issues considered in the constitutional and electoral processes in Nigeria?

“How broadly are the systems interpreted to accommodate the particular needs of women and other vulnerable groups? How can the constitution open up legitimate spaces to address these gaps that have continued to undermine at least half the population of the country allow for equal participation and voices of women and others to be heard?”

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