James Emejo in Abuja
First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, wednesday said the integration of gender perspectives in the country’s infrastructure development, particularly the public private partnerships (PPPs) design and implementation would significantly bridge existing gaps in infrastructure delivery, impact on social economic growth and enhance the living conditions of women.
While lamenting the relegation of women in contractual processes, she said the country must promote and imbibe gender-responsive infrastructure that supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Speaking at the opening of the maiden Strengthening Women’s Involvement in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) (SWIP3) conference, which was organised by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mrs. Buhari said change must reflect the various indices of economic progress, adding that it was imperative that government must deliver significant improvement in the living conditions of all Nigerians, especially women.
Represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administration in the Office of the First Lady, Dr. Hajo Sani, the First Lady noted that accommodating women in the contractual system would address the global challenges of poverty, disparity, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity as well as peace and justice.
She, however, disclosed that over 20,000 women had benefited from various skills acquisition programmes which she had personally launched through partnerships for the empowerment of women and youths in the country.
She added that unless the SDGs are aligned to incorporate women, the country may miss the 2030 targets of the programme.
While commending the ICRC for the initiative, Buhari’s wife expressed hope that the conference would enrich the country’s PPP policies and guidelines and improve inclusion and gender parity in the development process.
Also, the Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha (APC-Abia), said the move to include women in PPP projects represented a milestone in the history of the country.
She said an aggressive PPP was needed and remained the best way to address the huge infrastructure challenges currently facing the country amidst dwindling resources.
The lawmaker, however, warned that the parliament would henceforth block PPP arrangements which do not include women as well as ensure that such contracts do not fly
She noted that women had often been sidelined in PPPs even while they were qualified, adding that they would have to take the centre-stage in the present administration’s Next Level agenda.
Meanwhile, ICRC Director General/CEO, Mr. Chidi Izuwah, has declared that several infrastructure projects and programmes in the country had remained gender-blind.
He said there was a collective responsibility to position Nigeria and the African continent on the path of attaining the SDGs, particularly the fifth goal on gender equality and ninth goal, which emphasised industry, innovation and infrastructure.
He said this had necessitated the move for integrative process of incorporating gender perspectives in the country’s PPPs.
According to him, “We must apply gender sensitivity into our infrastructure policy design and delivery. Indeed, we cannot agree less with the school of thought that says infrastructure is not gender neutral, and gaps in access to good infrastructure affects women in our society disproportionately.
“Women need to have a voice in setting priorities in the design and operation of our infrastructure if it is to have the desired development impact.”
Izuwah said going forward, infrastructure and PPPs should be designed to increase women’s economic opportunities, provide appropriate services to them and eliminate discrimination against girls and women among others.