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Women have right to participate in politics, says commission

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By Wandoo Sombo

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says participation of women in elective office, and in shaping the political landscape is anchored on their rights as guaranteed in regional and international human rights instruments.

The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said this at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting on the Women Participation in Elections Support Bill 2018, held in Abuja on Friday.

According to Ojukwu, these international human rights instruments assert that women are eligible, without any discrimination, to be elected into all publicly elected bodies established by law on equal terms with men.

Ojukwu discountenanced the argument that the bill was discriminatory, stating that on the contrary, it was a positive legislative action aimed at curbing certain discriminatory practices and tendencies in the country.

The executive secretary said that the meeting was held to strengthen the advocacy for the enactment of the bill into law to ensure an increase of women participation in politics.

“The bill prescribes women quota for elections into the Senate, House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly and Area Councils of the FCT to support and increase women participation and representation in certain elective offices.

“No doubt, Nigeria has, over the years, witnessed an increase in the number of women who have shown interest in politics. However, this number is quite insignificant, compared to other countries.

“Considering the challenges posed to women who contested in the past primaries and elections in Nigeria, there is now need for positive action to avoid extinction of women in politics and elective offices,” he said.

Ms Ingrid Skjolaas, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Norwegian Embassy, one of the supporters of the bill, noted that the issue of equal rights should be fought for and not taken for granted.

She acknowledged that even though there was an increase in the participation of women in politics, it was rather very slow and called for more action to enhance it, particularly by ensuring the passage of the bill.

Mrs Onyinye Ndubuisi of the United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP) one of the partners in support of the bill, said that they picked interest in the bill owing to the large disenfranchisement of women in the primary elections.

“Women were disenfranchised and their mandates stolen away from them and when we got a distress call, we decided to act fast,” she said.

She said it was disheartening to hear lawmakers argue during the second reading of the bill, that women participation in politics had no correlation with economic development.

She said that the UNDP was supporting the commission in ensuring the passage of the bill because such project was laudable and involved the whole country.

“The UNDP also acknowledges that when the bill becomes a law, Nigeria will be lifted to a level where economic, social and health issues will be brought to the table and justly dealt with without any discrimination.

“It is expected that the bill, when passed, will enhance participation of women in political process in Nigeria.

“It will also ensure that gender equality and representation are well entrenched in the manifestos and constitutions of political parties,“ she said.

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