Eliminating Discrimination Against Women

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Promoting gender equality and women empowerment has continued to be the central theme in global treaties, covenants and declarations because it is now recognised as major instrument for national development with the aim of improving the standards of living, and promote good governance.

It has also lent equal voice to men and women in decision making,  policy implementation, attainment of millennium development goals (MDGs) and other global/regional targets.

Nigeria as a member of United Nations signed and ratified the various relevant international instruments, treaties and convention without reservation.

These instruments stipulate that member nations domesticate all necessary mechanisms needed to eliminate Gender discriminations, and ensure equality of human dignity to all, particularly the women.

In spite of these, discrimination against women continues in our national and states policies  in our customary and religious laws as well as sexual stereotyping of social roles, cultural prejudice has continued to militate against full participation of women in Nigeria.

With the intervention of National Gender Policies which supersede and replace the erstwhile National Policy there is hope to redress or eliminate in its entirety all such barriers that hinder women from participating equally with their male counterparts in societal issues.  The practices of discrimination against women in Nigeria has become incompatible with human dignity and constitutes an obstacle to the full realization of the potentialities  of women, therefore  the right of Nigerian women to share equally on condition, was also adopted by the United National Gender Assembly on 18th December 1979 (resolution 43/180) and entered into force on 3rd September 1981, the text annexed to the resolution, is as follows.

That the universal declaration of Human Rights affirms the principle of inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and freedom to live therein without distinction of any kind including such based on sex.

That, the UN reaffirms faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of human persons and in the equal right of men and women.

That the states parties to the international covenants on human rights have the obligation to ensure the equal right of men and women to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political  rights, etc.

Sadly, despite these various instruments, discrimination against women have continued to exist in our society on daily bases.

My worry is that, in the just concluded April general elections in Nigeria women were not found in the scheme of things apart from Mrs Sarah Jibril.  The question is were the women intimidated by their husbands, were they shy, uneducated or deliberately schemed out by political party leaders?,   with the much national campaign for women for change initiative, a brain child of the first lady Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan.

To cushion these lapses, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed some women to his cabinet to participate in governance.

Women, apart from domestics activities have proven to the world their competence in Nation building and such ladies in Nigeria inlcude:

Late  Magret Ekpo, Mrs Okonjo Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Mrs Inna Maryiam Ciroma, Mrs Ama Pepple just to mention but few.

If this country must move forward and attain the height of development it deserves, the women should not be relegated to the background but rather be inculcated into the business of governance.

I therefore, call on our male counterparts, government, as well as stakeholders in the society to eliminate all forms of women discrimination and encourage or support women to take their rightful place in governance as they are nation builders by birth,

The women ought to brace up and live up to the responsibility of good governance, accountability, probity and transparency to make the nation move forward.

Jennifer Okonkwo