Welcome Statement of the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, Esq., at the Media Briefing on Women Participation in Elections Support Bill 2018 Held on 30th January 2019 at Bukhari Bello Auditorium NHRC, Abuja
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to welcome you all to this stakeholders’ meeting on Women Participation in Elections Support Bill 2018 organized by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The right of women to participate in the political process through Election Gender Quotas (EGQs) contributes in good governance and has achieved significant milestone throughout the world. Specifically in Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have taken constitutional and legal measures to increase women’s representation in elective posts for the political progress of these countries.
No doubt countries that provide the much needed setting for women’s participation in politics and encourage them to hold key leadership positions are not only more inclusive and democratic, but, have advanced in both domestic and global affairs.
The participation of women in elective office and indeed in shaping the political landscape is generally grounded in their political rights as recognized in regional as well as international human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a party.
These instruments include section 18 (3) African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Article 9 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in African Sates, Article 7 of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) amongst others.
These international 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. They further affirm the right of women to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination.
It has been argued that the Women Participation in Elections Support Bill 2018 is discriminatory against provisions in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, and that it is discriminatory and insulting to women. Plethora of International instruments including the African Charter which is now a domestic law support positive actions by governments to address inequalities and imbalances of the past.
Nigeria has, over the years, witnessed an increment in the number of women who have shown interest in politics by seeking Parliamentary elective positions and, of course, those who are already actively involved in governance.
Notwithstanding this great stride, however, research has shown that there are quite an insignificant number of women who actively participate in politics in the country compared to women in other climes. It is instructive to note that the path towards the political liberation of women in politics is over grown by weeds of societal prejudices and norms, lack of adequate resources, the dangerous political terrain and the wrong impression of women’s participation in politics. To this extent, to successfully implement Gender Quotas which the bill seeks to entrench in Nigeria, there is the need for a paradigm shift in cultural requirement in regard to the role of women in politics in the country.
Today’s stakeholders’ meeting aims at scaling – up the advocacy for enacting into law the Women Participation in Elective Office Support Bill 2018. The Bill’s second reading started January 2019. This bill will affirm the international standard that the rights of the citizens of our country to participate in politics do not depend on whether they are male or female, enabling for example, political parties in Nigeria to provide for gender equality and representation as integral part of their constitutions and that party resources are equitably distributed among male and female candidates.
Finally, the enactment of the bill into law will lead to the achievement of Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that seeks among other to strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at all levels thereby leaving no one behind in the enjoyment of civil and political rights in Nigeria.
Tony Ojukwu, Esq.
National Human Rights Commission
30TH January, 2019