The 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme – “I am generation equality: Realising women’s rights” marks 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action. The Beijing Platform set out to remove systemic barriers holding women back from equal participation in both public and private life. Yet in 2020, despite over twenty years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, culture and weak regulation and legislation continue to impede the progress of women in politics. Female representation in the National Assembly has dropped to an all-time low of less than 5%. However, positive rays of hope exist, with more women running for public office than ever before and more women excelling in the entrepreneurship and tech space. In short, the voice of women is getting louder and IWD represents an opportunity to amplify that yet further. As we mark IWD, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) proffers the following approaches as key tools for female empowerment and the achievement of the sustainable development goals:
We acknowledge the concerted efforts in all quarters to increase female enrolment and retention in schools. However, CDD firmly believes, as part of a long term strategy to address gender stereotypes, there is a need to improve gender sensitivity in our education system. Imbibing the positive stereotypes from a young age will help address negative stereotypes from childhood. This can be done through curriculum development, gender-sensitive games and cartoons amongst others.
Support more women into positions of power
To address the systemic barriers plaguing women rights in Nigeria, CDD advocates for a more nuanced approach that tackles all forms of roadblocks women face in getting into political and appointed offices. To increase the dismal number of women in politics CDD advocates for:
- 35% gender quotas in the constitution and manifestoes of political parties as a mutually reinforcing strategy.
- A three-pronged approach, “Identify’, Capacitate and Negotiate” to get more women into power. Identify potential women aspirants, develop their capacity to run for office and negotiate for the space that will allow them to do so.
- Provide financial aid to women running for office to address the perennial challenge of lack of access to finance.
- Ensure media access and positive profiling of women candidates in elections.
- Create and strengthen support networks for women politicians and aspirants to enable them to learn from each other.
Support the aspirations of women and girls
We align ourselves with the UN Women campaign on Intergenerational Mentorship. There is a need to do more in terms of showcasing and expanding opportunities for the girl child and women. There is a need to increase the numbers of ongoing women mentorship programmes as well as support to encourage women to aspire to jobs not-traditionally held by women, both in the formal and informal sectors.
Increase messaging promoting the role of women
CDD calls for more targeted and tailored messaging by the media to promote the key roles and contribution made by women in the country. This should not be limited to politics and economy but include work done, often unpaid, on issues such as peacebuilding.
Address violence against women
Violence against women and girls is a widespread form of human rights violations in Nigeria. From forced and early marriages to the physical, mental or sexual assault on a woman, nearly 3 in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15 (NDHS 2013). Violence against women manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological ways, and are mostly unreported due to an endemic culture of impunity and fear of stigmatisation, and shame. On the occasion of the IWD, we at the CDD call for strict implementation of all existing laws and policies in the country. This can help to tackle the lack of redress for women. It is also essential that more resources are devoted to working aimed at preventing gender-based violence and gathering data on this critical, but underreported theme.
More cohesive efforts
There is a strong need to build synergy amongst groups working to advance women’s rights in Nigeria. These engagements must also involve the girls and women, as well as men. Pooling together skills and resources, both technical and financial, as well as learning from each other and sharing success stories will help achieve the wider objective of enhancing women’s rights.