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UN Women urges Nigeria to eliminate barriers to women’s political involvement

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UN Women has issued a press statement in response to the recent events in Nigeria, which include the failure of the Nigerian legislature to pass some gender-equality bills as part of the amendment of the 1999 constitution. The statement emphasizes the importance of removing barriers to women’s participation in politics.

“Today, more than ever, the experience and expertise of Nigerian women are needed in designing Nigerian laws and policies to make them beneficial to both female and male interests without exclusion or discrimination,” says the UN Women Representative in Nigeria, Comfort Lamptey. “Nigeria has an obligation based on international and regional commitments to adopt legislation that will help remove barriers preventing current and future generations of women from the right to participate in public life and the enjoyment of their human rights as full citizens in a democratic state,” Lamptey notes.

Read the press release below:

UN Women has keenly followed the work of the National Assembly Constitutional Review Committees constituted in February 2020 to propose amendments to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We applaud Senator Ovie Omo-Agege‘s “bold and progressive” decision to invite UN Women to help with the Senate’s constitutional review process by sending a gender and constitutional reform expert to work with the technical team. This expert has been on the team for the past 18 months.

UN Women also thanks all the elected members of Nigeria’s National Assembly who voted in favour of bills that would have helped women’s rights, even though the outcome was not what they wanted.

We salute women in the National Assembly for sponsoring important bills that seek to promote more inclusive and sustainable development in Nigeria. We acknowledge the Senate, in particular, for its passage of bill 36, related to the expansion of the scope of citizenship by registration, and bill 38, related to indigeneship rights. We also hail the House of Representatives for passing the Affirmative Action Bill in the appointment of ministers and commissioners. However, UN Women has noted with disappointment and regret that the bills failed to gather the required votes needed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives for passage and subsequent transmission to the State assemblies.

We salute women’s rights organizations at the grassroots, state, and national levels that continue relentlessly to advocate for equal rights for women in the constitution and legislative framework of Nigeria.

Presently, Nigeria lags behind African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Tunisia, Senegal, Uganda, and Cape Verde, which have adopted constitutions and other national laws that provide for equal rights and opportunities, including the special seats or proportional representation system. In line with its role as a model democracy in Africa, Nigeria should listen to half of its people and voters who want more women in politics and government. It should also take steps to make sure more women are represented and involved in government.

The month of March is globally recognized as Women’s Rights Month. It is therefore disheartening and ironic that bills relating to the progress of women and the Nigerian nation at large were rejected on the first day of March. Importantly.

For Nigeria to meet its deepest aspirations in the race to attain the Sustainable Development Goals targets, investment in women’s leadership is critical. UN Women remains resolute in our commitment to support Nigeria along this path.

As Nigeria heads to the 2023 elections, we will support women’s leadership, including that of young women aspiring for political office, and promote a peaceful and enabling environment for women to fully participate as voters and candidates; and we will continue to support Nigeria in promoting and adopting non-discriminatory and inclusive legislation and policies to build a nation that truly leaves no one behind.

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