MINISTER of Women Affairs and Social Development, Zainab Meina, and some civil society groups have reiterated the need to step up campaign for a gender-balanced constitution as efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly intensify.
Meina, who spoke in Lagos at the opening ceremony of the Strategic Dialogue on Memoranda on Gender Issues and the Constitution Review Process, which was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said for any constitution to be truly called people’s constitution, it must reflect the opinions of both men and women in that country.
According to her, “one of the outcome of the national political dialogue organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was that for democracy to thrive in the country, there must be equal participation of men and women in the policy and decision making process.
“That needs to be entrenched in the constitution and backed with appropriate actions. It is our belief that a gender-balanced constitution is the one that has the input of all categories of people.
“It was also agreed that it is imperative for Nigerian women, like their counterparts in Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya, to work together to achieve success in the ongoing constitution amendment process so as to improve the ratio of representation in political offices.”
The minister, who was represented by the Deputy Director in the Ministry, Mrs. Bola Labintan, said that already, the ministry was working with the National Assembly to seek harmonisation of all the memoranda submitted to it.
She said it was also agreed that a lot of awareness campaign would be embarked upon to change entrenched perception about gender issues, especially at the level of political parties.
Earlier in his remark, The UNDP Project Director, Dr. Mourtada Deme, who was represented by a gender rights expert, Anne Ikpene, said the turnout of women in the recent nationwide public hearing exercise of the National Assembly notwithstanding, the campaign for women and gender recognition in the ongoing constitution review process must be sustained.
“We at UNDP believe that it is important to bring together stakeholders, who are passionate about gender issues in Nigeria,” Deme said.
““We don’t have to give up based on the experiences at the recent nationwide public hearing exercise of the National Assembly. If anything, the campaign has to be sustained. The struggle must go on.”