Abbas Pledges Support to Gender Bills, Urges Early Advocacy


The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tujudeen Abbas,  has promised to support the gender bills expected to improve political opportunities for women and equally increase their number in the legislature.


Abbas made the commitment at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between his office and the United Nations (UN) Women to ultimately increase women participation in politics, Wednesday evening in Abuja.


Represented by the deputy speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, Speaker Abbas however called for early lobbying and advocacy on the bills to get the buy-in of not only the lawmakers in the parliament but all other stakeholders and concerned parties even in the rural communities.


He said: “I’m also happy to express my satisfaction and that of the Speaker with the signing of the MoU that will take place today for joint advocacy efforts on the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill and women’s parliamentary seats. I have always advocated that women, if you want to push this, you need to start early to advocate, set up the structure. And I’m happy that things like this are coming on board.


“Many of them will come on board, which will be used as tools towards lobbying the men, lobbying the constituents, who are the ones who have sent their Representatives here, because these Representatives don’t make decision on their own. The day they will vote, they are not voting on their own, they are voting based on what their constituents have asked them to do.


“So, the advocacy should not only be within the people’s parliament, it should go beyond that and go into the rural areas, the constituents. Let them know why we want to do this, let them see the comparative analysis between our country and other countries, let them see what we are missing by not going this route all this while, and let them see what we are going to gain if we go this route.


“These are key things that the advocacy should be able to highlight. And I am sure that the MoU will go beyond the Bill, the gender Equality Opportunity Bill, and it will go into capacity development and youth legislative mentorship initiatives.


“Let me mention that I am in the forefront of the sponsorship of this bill. I’m carrying it on my head and my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone. These people who are seated here must have a buy in, but I won’t be the one convincing them alone. You have a lot of work to do. Each wife talks to fellow wife. Each fellow wife talks to each husband. Each husband talks to each son. And together, from home, we can chorus acceptance and increase the space for the participation of these women in parliament.


“I want to also promise you that we are going to be committed to the details of the MoU, to upholding the provisions of the MoU, the one on our part. But it’s not a document we are going to sign and just go and sleep. Some of us are lawyers who understand the importance of document like this. We are assuring you that the parliament will do our part.


“Women parliamentary seats will increase. How we are going to structure it, no matter how, let’s start from somewhere. We may not get to the end point, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. And this is one of the good steps. An organization like UN participating means a lot.”


Earlier in her remarks, the UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ms. Beatrice Eyong said that they were in the national assembly to seek the support of the speaker and the deputy speaker of the House with regards to giving the women leadership opportunities to contribute their quota to the rapid growth and development of Nigeria.


“UN women works with parliaments in different countries, because parliaments represent the people. UN Women works for the people. Parliaments enact laws. UN Women is looking for favorable legal frameworks that will allow women and girls to use their full potentials.


“When we look at the rating in Africa, or let me say in ECOWAS, Nigeria seems to be going maybe the lowest. But this is not what we are here to talk about. We are here to talk about the desire of the parliament to bring about sustainable development.


“And sustainable development science has shown that we need at least 30% of each sex sitting to plan, implement follow up programs of development. If we have a disequilibrium between women and men, then the development cannot be sustainable.


“And so that’s why we are here today, because we find in the leadership of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker that understand these issues and that believe that if our women are given the opportunity, Nigeria is going to develop rapidly more than if we leave them outside.


“So, we are here today to sign an MoU which has been shared by the two institutions to put our forces together so that we can change the narrative of this wonderful, strong, beautiful country. We are here to sign this MoU that will enable us meet our shared objectives”, she said.

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