Nigerian women have joined forces to request for an inclusive and a gender-sensitive Constitution.
This took place during the submission of memorandum and Zonal Public Hearings on the Proposed Alteration to the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
In a Joint Media Briefing organized in partnership with strategic civil society organizations, and with the support of the UN Women, the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline K. Tallen, OFR, KSG stated that the submissions to the Constitution Amendment Committee by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the civil society organizations were all in conformity with ‘the Constitution Nigeria Women Want’. She said “It is Time for an Inclusive Nigeria’s Constitution: The Constitution Nigerian Women Want.”
The Minister lamented that despite the recommendation of 35% benchmark for women in the 2006 National Gender Policy (NGP) and the various regional and international instruments that the government has signed, the 1999 Constitution failed to improve the level of women’s inclusion at all levels and sectors as the proportion of women in both elective and appointive positions has remained low.
Over the years, Nigerian women and other critical stakeholders have continued to mobilize and strategize to seek interpretations of the 1999 Constitution as amended with the sole objective of getting legal backing for deliberate inclusive governance in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Constitution requires that an international treaty must be domesticated in order for it to apply (section 12 of the 1999 Constitution). But most of the International and Regional Human Rights instruments specifically enacted for the promotion and protection of women’s rights are yet to be domesticated in Nigeria. Some of these include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Dame Paulin Tallen said, a country’s Constitution is the single most important document, particularly as it directs the affairs of the Government and People. Therefore, its processes and procedures should be inclusive and take cognizance of expectations and concerns of all and ensure people-centered legislation.
Nigerians and indeed Women yearn for a Constitution that truly represents the preamble; “We, the People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”
she said, “We the People,” represent all Nigerians and recognizing that gender equality is a human right issue, as emphasized in the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 5.
This implies that women should enjoy the same status as men, so that they can fully realize their human rights and have a meaningful impact on the society. As it stands, the Constitution does not adequately afford women this opportunity.
The Media briefing was a strategic engagement to ensure that the voices of Nigerian Women in the Constitution Review process were clearly articulated.
The civil society groups who attended the briefing include; the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, 100 Women Lobby Group, Centre for Democracy and Development, Coalition of Women in Governance and leadership, Women’s Aid Collective, Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women, Equity Advocates, Women in Politics Forum, Girl child empowerment and Reproductive Health Initiative, WARD-C among others.