Do more for women, Aisha Buhari charges leaders

As the world marked International Women’s Day yesterday, the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari called on leaders across the country to do more to free women from biases.

The call as the Federal Government described Nigerian women as the bedrock of society and pledged address actions against them.

While President Muhammadu Buhari praised women for their contributions and reeled out steps taken by his administration to empower them, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in a separate statement, disclosed plans to tackle sexual and gender-based violence by establishing special courts and judicial divisions focused on sexual and gender-based violence.

But as Buhari and Malami list achievements with promises of more action for women, the wife of the President, United Nations (UN) Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), among others lamented the state of women in the country and sought accelerated action.

Noting that the theme of the 2021 celebration: ‘Choose To Challenge,’ is quite apt, the President rejoiced with women and restated his administration’s commitment to addressing multifarious challenges confronting them at various levels of the society.

He listed the appointment of seven female ministers and others in charge of key parastatals and agencies, as evidence of empowering women by his administration.

He condemned all forms of gender-based discrimination, abuse, harassment and violence against women at workplaces, schools, community and national levels.

Malami disclosed govt’s plan while speaking at a virtual session on ‘Special Event on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism’ organised by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) as part of events commemorating the International Women’s Day held at Kyoto, Japan.

In a statement by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the AGF, the minister recalled he inaugurated the Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on Eradication of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence last year to address gender-based crime.

He noted with dismay that terrorist groups had continued to kidnap and commit sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, noting that preventing the crimes and bringing culprits to justice remained a priority of the government.

He said that in partnership with UNODC and the European Union (EU), the Federal Government launched the “Nigeria Training Module on Gender Dimensions in the Criminal Justice: Response to Terrorism.”

The minister added that Nigeria had developed a National Action Plan on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on the Women, Peace and Security agenda, which he said was relevant to efforts to promoting the role of women in efforts to address terrorism.
BUT despite claims of achievement and plans for future actions, wife of the President, Aisha, says government has much more to do.

Aisha’s comment is contained in the goodwill message she sent to Nigerian women to commemorate IWD. The very frank Mrs. Buhari spoke after about five months of silence on national or personal issues. She had been silent since September last year shortly after the wedding of her daughter, Hanan. Even on February 18, she remained silent as felicitations poured in to mark her 50th birthday, fueling speculations about her silence and absence from Aso Rock, the seat of power.

However, the silence ended on Monday when she posted a goodwill message on her Twitter handle, @Aishambuhari. The message, which she signed personally, was titled ‘Message of the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2021.’

She lamented continued abduction of women and girls by insurgents and bandits in the country and called on stakeholders to bring abductions to an end.

The message read: “Today marks the 2021 edition of International Women’s Day. The day offers yet another opportunity for humanity to review and reflect progress made on issues of women and girls.

“This year’s theme: ‘Women In Leadership: Achieving on Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’ is a strong call to appreciate the efforts of women and girls in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”

Observing that women and girls in Nigeria had continued to suffer abductions both in the hands of insurgents and bandits, she said: “As a mother, I share the sorrow and agony of the victims and their families. I am also not unaware of the impact that these abductions could have in reverting many successes we have hitherto achieved, especially in terms of girl-child education and early marriages.

“I call on all stakeholders to continue to exert their different levels of influence and bring these abductions to an end and to assure us that girls are safe anywhere they may find themselves.”

ALSO, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, called on Federal Government to ensure more robust participation of women in politics and in political leadership.

Kallon made the call at a National Policy Dialogue in commemoration of the IWD, held yesterday in Abuja. Kallon observed that the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is borne largely by women and girls forcing many girls out of schools, escalation in gender-based violence and sexual exploitation as well as job losses, among others.

For Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), government should carry out reforms to tackle discrimination against women.

In separate statements yesterday, President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, and National president of NUPENG, Williams Akporeha, asked Nigerians to rise and challenge repressive systems and archaic laws, customs and practices that discriminate against women through gender-based prohibitions and limitations.

Osifo maintained that the reforms, mostly enshrined in national and state laws, are occasionally propagated by societal standards and expectations.

NUPENG boss, Akporeha, said it was high time Nigeria upheld women’s achievements, recognise challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality.

He said: “To do this effect, all hands must be on deck to break down the deep-seated historic, cultural, and socio-economic barriers that prevent women from taking their seat at the decision-making table to make sure that resources and power are more equitably distributed, devoid of prejudice, bias or favouritism.”

MORE messages came from Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), South South Zone F, and the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Edo State chapter.

CMA, in its message, called for accelerated action to close the gender gap and support more women into leadership positions.

President, CMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, in a statement also called for the fast-tracking of actions to eliminate all discriminatory policies against women; enactment of pro-women legislations to criminalise all forms of violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation; as well as the promotion of the reproductive health rights of women and effective vaccination against cervical cancer.

Enabulele, who was former President of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said: “As the world marks the International Women’s Day today, March 8, 2021, the leadership of the Commonwealth Medical Association, rejoices and felicitates with women all over the world, particularly women in the Commonwealth of Nations. The CMA equally celebrates the sense of diligence and professional commitment of medical women and all other female healthcare workers who continue to commendably manage the herculean task of their roles in child upbringing and family upkeep with their sacred duty of patient care.”

In a statement yesterday by the NAWOJ Vice President, South South Zone F, Mrs. Uduakikang Obeten; and Secretary, Eunice Emeyazia, enjoined female journalists in the South South region to focus more on ordinary women, who play extraordinary role in communities and to work towards eliminating biases against women while taking action for equality.

MWAN called for an end to all forms of violence against women and stereotyping of women in the country. Speaking in Benin, MWAN President, Edo State chapter, Dr. Adesuwa Urhoghide Edigin, urged Nigerians to support the campaign to end all forms of bias against women.

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