Press Release on the Abuja Women’s March,
For Immediate Release.
17th January 2018,
Abuja Women’s March for Gender Equality
Today, 17th January 2019, women and men, both young and old will take part in the Abuja Women’s March as part of the Global Women’s March 2019. In Nigeria, the Women’s March Abuja serve as a platform for activists and rights-based organisations to push for the rights of women and girls as well as intensify efforts to ensure gender equality in Nigeria.
The Women’s March Global was started to bring together a passionate, diverse global community of women and allies who seek to create a future of equality, justice, and compassion for all. And we marching in support of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO Bill) and for an environment that upholds the rights of women and girls, in alliance with the other marches across the globe.
In Nigeria, girls and young women, just like their counterparts, around the world, face discrimination and barriers that limit their opportunities to develop to their full potential on the basis of their gender. The Nigerian society is patriarchal, both in the socio-economic and political settings. This is a result of rigid gender stereotypes reinforced by religious/traditional practices and societal structures.
Nigeria has legal apparatuses which recognize and guarantee some but not all of the rights of girls and young women in the country, including the Nigeria constitution. The country is also a signatory to several regional and international protocols, charters and convention which recognize and guarantee the rights of girls and young women in the country. Despite existing laws and policies, Nigerian women, especially girls and young women face injustices and human rights violations daily.
We march for women and girls who have suffered discrimination and violence on the basis of their gender. The Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill sponsored by Senator Abiodun Olujimi presented an opportunity to provide a comprehensive legal framework that will rectify the historical and present imbalances that privilege men over women and boys over girls in Nigeria. However, the bill has suffered unprecedented setbacks. On two occasions, the Nigerian Senate had given excuses to frustrate the passage of the GEO Bill, by cancelling the public hearings. This shows how issues affecting women and girls do not matter to the Nigerian Senate. Early drafts of the bill were progressive, as it included key issues such as: reproductive rights, which include Nigerian abortion laws to include cases of rape and incest, as well as guaranteeing access to contraceptives for family planning; affirmative action in education, workplace and political arena; challenging child, early and forced marriage by reaffirming the age of marriage for all persons (male and female) at 18 years amongst others. Unfortunately, subsequent versions of the bill have been watered down and faced backlash due to cultural and religious grounds. Hence, the need to promote our advocacy to eliminate injustices and inequality against girls and young women.
Nigerian girls and women, rights organization, men and boys want a change demonstrated by a bill that guarantees and protects the rights of all persons. No society can reach its full potential if half its population is systematically prevented from full participation. We demand immediate consideration for a strong GEO Bill that protects adolescent girls’ and young women’s rights as well as puts more women in power who can speak and stand up for girls and other women with the confidence to end all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence.
It is illegal not to give someone a job on the grounds that they may have children in the future. We need the GEO Bill that ensures that women’s right to having children is not used as a basis for discrimination in employment. Equality of opportunity and treatment between men and women is key! We demand that a minimum of 35% of all offices, positions, facilities or appointments should be reserved for women in political and public spheres. We must stop taking issues surrounding girls and women for granted and start setting it amongst the top priorities of the government. The National Assembly should prioritise girls and women and Pass the GEO Bill into law.
60% of out of school children in Nigeria are girls. Today, we march to affirm equality of men and women in the application of the same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies; and equal opportunities to benefit from scholarships, bursaries and other study grants as well as protect the rights of women with disabilities and suffering from physical or emotional abuse in private or public places.
Today, we march for a stronger Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill that is inclusive of all the women’s rights deficient in Nigeria and obtain commitments from policy-makers to utilize their platforms to finalize, pass into law and implement the GEO Bill.
(The march was led by Education as a Vaccine with support from National Coalition on Affirmative Action, Vaccine Network for Disease Control, The She Tank, Gender Technical Unit, Girls Voices, Gender and Affirmative Action, and Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women)
Bayo Olanrewaju Ewuola
Education as a Vaccine