Young Women Demand Stronger Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill

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Abimbola Akosile

A group of young Nigerian women have canvassed for a stronger gender and equal opportunities Bill to enshrine gender equality and eliminate gender based discrimination in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Young Women is a group of women representing various CSOs, interest groups and constituencies who are passionate about the rights of women and girls, pushing for a society where women are able to enjoy their human rights in its entirety. The Gender and Equality Opportunity bill is being considered in both chambers of National Assembly.

According to a release issued recently by the Programmes Coordinator, Advocacy Education as a Vaccine (EVA), Abuja, Miss Izundu Kosi, the group said, “We believe that a clear understanding of women and girls’ contribution to our nation’s political, economic and social development calls for stronger policies, structures and implementation; ultimately, putting an end to the mindset that a woman has no role in public or in her community.

“Since the introduction of these bills, every subsequent version in particular the Senate version has consistently lost important elements. These includes upholding women and girls reproductive rights, citizenship rights, ensuring protection against sexual harassment in education, employment and political domains as well as reaffirming 18 years as the age for marriage for boys and girls.

“We, young women in Nigeria, want a Gender and Equal opportunities bill that ensures: equitable share of spouse’s property in an event of death; women rights to choose whether to have children, the number and timing of children and have access to family planning services; rights of women and girls living with disabilities and in humanitarian setting to be free from all forms of violence in public and private”, the release noted.

The group also seeks a Bill that ensures automatic custody to the surviving parent in case of death of a spouse; that paternity leave is granted to men and women’s right to maternity leave is upheld; 50 per cent affirmative action for women in all public and private leadership positions and other opportunities; women’s rights to having children is not used as a basis for discrimination in employment or exclusion for other benefits; equal rights of parents in matters relating to their children; and the rights of women to confer their citizenship on their children.

“A stronger gender equality bill says clearly that everyone matters and is recognition of globally accepted schools of thought that improving the lives of women and girls have a strong, positive ripple effect on society and secures the wellbeing of future generations. The legislature passing a stronger gender equality bill than the watered down version in the Senate and President Buhari signing it into law will show that everyone matters.

“For a stronger gender equality bill, we call on the Senate to go back and review the contents of the bill to ensure it adequately promotes the wellbeing of the Nigerian woman. Removing things that are critical to wellbeing and of the Nigerian woman is unacceptable.

“We want both chambers to call for a public hearing for the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill so that young women and men in Nigeria can make inputs into the bill. And we call on the House of Representatives to strengthen their version of the bill to include sections on paternity leave and relief for women in conflict and humanitarian situations”, Izundu added.