Women Will Hold Buhari Accountable To His Promises – Afolabi-Akiyode | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Women Will Hold Buhari Accountable To His Promises – Afolabi-Akiyode

Posted: Jun 15, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Executive Director, Women Advocates, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode, in this interview with Senior Reporter, Anthonia Soyingbe, speaks on issues relating to women development, President Jonathan’s commitment to upliftment of women among other related issues.

Afolabi Akiyode

Afolabi Akiyode

How would you rate President Jonathan’s administration as regards promoting gender equality?

President Jonathan’s administration no doubt performed  better than other governments since 1999 in  addressing gender  gaps  in political appointments and also in making  policy statement aimed at mainstreaming gender in government institutions and programmes.  But the absence of accurate data cannot allow us to make categorical statements about the percentage of political appointments that women actually got in his six year rule. There are speculations that he was able to make at least 35 percent. I am aware of the ministerial positions at a point in time. They made up to about 32 percent. By and large, if we look at where we are coming from, we have marginally improved under his administration. However issues of gender equality is beyond just increase in appointments, quotas. It is also about what form of institutions and mechanisms are on ground to  promote gender equality.

In that regard, we will assess him from a broader perspective beyond politics; we will consider what he has done to improve socio economic lives of women. I think he should have done more in addressing feminisation of poverty, reducing maternal deaths, infant morbidity, and access to justice for women and addressing other major obstacles affecting women and girls in Nigeria. Unfortunately as we speak, Nigeria still records a large number of out of school children. Unfortunately majority are girls. Violence against women law at the national level is still yet to be passed and very few institutions exist to promote gender equality.

You through your organisation promoted active participation in 2015 general elections. Judging by the last election into the parliament, will you say women had an impressive outing?

More women actually showed interest in contesting this year’s elections. However, the major political parties did not provide the enabling environment that will promote political participation in a manner that will bring a transformative change to our political space. The obstacles are still there and culture of violence and armed brutality which hinder effective women’s political participation is still rife.

If we however compare the number of women who emerged as candidates this year to what obtained in 2011, there is an increase though marginal. At least we had a woman presidential candidate from KOWA Party, who got votes in many parts of the country.  Generally the percentage of women candidates for the senate and the House of Representatives also stood at about 16 percent. In the Senate, we had 136 women candidates out of the 747 senatorial candidates i.e. 18.2 percent and 280 women candidates (15.7 %) out of the 1783 House of Representative candidates.  There is no doubt that there is more awareness, we now hear political parties talking about engendering the polity, to get votes from women.   Gen Buhari had promised a lot for the women folk in his campaign, likewise the incumbent. So, our issues are gradually getting to the political table. What is left is for the women to use work for all of us.

What are your expectations from the new government for Nigerian women and the girl-child?

 The Buhari government should prioritise women, adolescent and girl child issues, support efficient national and state gender machinery that can address endemic poverty and violence that women face as a result of inequality in the society and historical neglect. The government should find the root causes that have led to the wide gaps between the male and the female and be committed to chart a course of finding a solution to it.  It is key that safety and retention of girls in schools be a major issue to be tackled. GMB should support gender mainstreaming in budgeting, policy formulation, implementation and monitor implementation of government programme from a gender perspective and ensure gender accountability in all sectors.

The Government should support and promote gender sensitive laws at the National Assembly, ensure that Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill and Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill are passed to demonstrate his commitment to women.   GMB should put in place resources for the implementation of the National Health Law. He should ensure that he put in place strategies that will reduce maternal and infant mortality, address the deplorable health system and promote the general wellbeing of the poor masses through improved access to medical facilities. We hope he will start off a ‘BuhariCARE’, a health insurance package that is a semblance of the ‘Obamacare’ for the poor masses of this country, who are dying daily and support affirmative action for women.

We also hope that he would strengthen mechanism that will fight corruption, because corruption kills, makes women poor and reduces human dignity. Corruption is no doubt linked to the continued oppression of women, you can’t access good road to bring your goods, and you can’t assess good education and health because of the effect of corruption. It is a major challenge that he must address!

Can there be a lasting change for women’s right and equality in our society?

Yes, it is possible, it’s the political will we need to make it happen for women, it is happening in developed and developing countries and we are in a global village, so Nigeria should follow suit. We need a committed government, who work and feel the people.

Will you say Nigerian women are well-represented in 2015 elections?

Well it depends, and the elections have not yet been concluded but statistics from the numbers that were able to emerge as candidates show that women’s representation is still a far cry from the 35 percent, which is the  reasonable level suggested as a basis for pushing towards the attainment of gender equality.