Time to implement national gender policy
It is still strange that twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a progressive roadmap for gender equality, the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) meant to provide an opportunity for the world to take stock of progress and bridge the gaps that remain through bold and decisive actions didn’t show any promise.
The appraisal was meant to break gender stereotypes and discrimination that are damaging to both men and women because they constrain individuals and society as a whole.
The planned review was to assess the current challenges that affect the implementation of the Platform for Action and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and its contribution towards the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many of the programmes lined up to celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD). For instance, the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64), that would have held from 9 to 20 March 2020 at United Nations Headquarters in New York to the review and appraise the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly was cancelled.
The only exception was the informal meeting held March 2 where Member States decided that the CSW64 delegates from different parts of the world should convene on 9 March, at 10.00 a.m., for a procedural meeting that would include opening statements followed by the adoption of the draft Political Declaration and action on any other draft resolutions.
Notwithstanding, the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the significance of IWD remains at the fore; as the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka drawing from the theme for 2020 IWD “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”, in her statement for International Women’s Day (8 March), highlights 2020 as the year for gender equality and calls on everyone to tackle the persistent barriers against gender equality.
The statement of UN Women Executive Director indeed is a wake-up call to individuals and groups to mobilize to end gender-based violence; promote economic justice and rights for all, bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights; and feminist action for climate justice. It is also a call for technology and innovation for gender equality; and feminist leadership.
Essentially, this year’s generation equality campaign is meant to bring together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.
This is in tandem with Nigerian National Gender Policy (NGP) ultimate goal, which is to build a just society devoid of discrimination, harness the full potentials of all social groups regardless of sex or circumstance, promote the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and protect the health, social, economic and political well-being of all citizens to achieve equitable rapid economic growth; evolve an evidence-based planning and governance system where human, social, financial and technological resources are efficiently and effectively deployed for sustainable development.
Furthermore, the NGP recommends 35 per cent affirmative action and seeks for the inclusive representation of women with at least 35 per cent of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.
However, adherence to this policy is yet to be fulfilled. So, the National Gender Policy (NGP) has been a mere beauty on paper, which may account for why the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan recently called for the implementation of National Gender Policy in Nigeria arguing that Nigeria cannot achieve progress without the socio-economic emancipation of women.
Dr. Lawan’s call for the implementation of the NGP is heart-warming, as it will birth equality in political leadership and corporate boardrooms and factory floors. Also, women will have equal say in decisions that affect their lives, their bodies, their policies, and their environment, from villages to cities.
So, it is time for Nigeria to implement the NGP and break stereotypes, reject the binary, mobilise and take action for generation equality for us to have a country where men and women have equal rights and opportunities; where women and girls are not afraid of walking home late at night, going to school, market or farm; where men and boys are not trapped in oppressive masculinities; and where gender equality is the norm.
This way Nigeria can draw on the full range of human resources available and reduce the gender imbalance in various spheres, which by extension improves the chances of meeting adequately the needs of women and girls in policy-making processes.
Besides, implementing NGP will accelerate gender equality in Nigeria and the Nigerian state can make it a reality to realise Nigerian women’s rights for an equal future. It is thus curious that countries such as Rwanda, Zambia, The Gambia have gone ahead of Nigeria in implementing some essentials of what the United Nations has been advocating.
Hence, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development should latch on the steam of the theme of 2020 IWD; and the call by the Senate President to ensure the implementation of NGP using a well co-ordinated multi-sectoral approach, targeted at improving the well-being of women and girls. That will accelerate gender balance in all spheres of human endeavour, aimed at improving women’s social, economic and political status in Nigeria. This is crucial for Nigeria to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms, gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth and gender-balanced sports coverage among others.
For 2020 IWD, which comes on the heels of an unprecedented global movement for realising women’s rights, equality and justice; it is an opportunity to consider how to accelerate globally, the 2030 agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of SDGs N0.5 and N0.4 – ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ and ‘ensure inclusively and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’ respectively.