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Nigerian women blast National Assembly ‘men’ for killing gender bills

By Terhemba Daka, John Akubo, Msugh Ityokura, Matthew Ogune, Joke Falaju (Abuja) and Ijeoma Thomas-Odia (Lagos)
03 March 2022   |   2:40 am
Groups of Nigerian women, yesterday, vented anger and frustration at some National Assembly “men (who) should be ashamed of what they did.”

Coalition of women civil society groups protesting against the rejection of proposed gender bills by lawmakers, at the main entrance of the National Assembly in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTOS: NAN

Say legislations must be re-presented
• Vow consequences at general elections
• Abaribe promises to convey grievances to leadership

Groups of Nigerian women, yesterday, vented anger and frustration at some National Assembly “men (who) should be ashamed of what they did.”

The over 500 groups, under the auspices of Feminist Womanifesto, staged a protest following the rejection of bills seeking to give women 35 per cent political participation, more appointive positions, and 111 special seats at parliament.

The protesters, who dug in as early as 8:00 a.m., disrupted the free flow of vehicular movement at the gate into the Assembly complex, demanding a word from Senate President Ahmed Lawan or House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on why lawmakers, on Tuesday, voted against the bills.

“I am saying it again that history will not be kind to the people that voted against us. They didn’t vote against the women groups; they voted against their wives, against their mothers and against their daughters. And shamelessly, they will go home and claim to be heads of families when you do not have their interest at heart. It is an embarrassment,” said Ebere Ifendu, president of the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF).

The convener of Feminist Womanifesto and Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the lawmakers have spoken clearly that they do not want progress for society: for mothers, aunties, sisters, wives, and daughters.

She said Nigerian women demand: “All gender bills be reconsidered. Ultimately, our demands will benefit not just women but Nigeria as a whole. More women in governance will only bring progress and respect for Nigeria in the comity of nations. We cannot, in 2022, be negotiating the rights of women and the sanctity of the dignity of girls. We call on the National Assembly to re-present these bills as a matter of urgency and ensure that they are passed.”

REACTING, Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, who addressed newsmen after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, described the rejection as a “show of shame”, threatening to mobilise women to cut their pound of flesh during the 2023 elections.

She also urged all Nigerians to “help us pray for the men that killed this bill.” According to her, “It clearly shows that the men that were against the bill don’t have any respect for women.”

Tallen, however, added that she was not “generalising.”

In her words, “Not all the men in the National Assembly. We have the figures. Seventy-two men in the House of Representatives voted in support of the bill. We are saying that, for those that don’t believe in it, we will continue to intensify advocacy, for them to believe in gender equality and the role women can play when they are on the decision table.

“I want to assure you that all hope is not lost. I have reassured Nigerian women that we should not be daunted; we should remain resilient. And we have already put in place strategies. Last night we all met the key civil society organisations and other women activists. We are strategising with female members in both Houses. Nigeria women will not give up.”

ALSO, Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, expressed disappointment with the actions of her colleagues, saying: “It is laughable that the Speaker, who is the number one sponsor of the bill seeking special seats for women, will allow it to fail when he is the Presiding Officer of the House.”

MEANWHILE, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who walked up to the protesters, explained that the voting process was public. He enjoined the women to request the leadership of the Assembly to release documents on who voted for or against the bills. He also promised to convey the women’s grievances to the leadership.