Funke Busari, Lagos
A group of more than 180 Civil Society Organisations in Lagos, working on Spotlight Initiative Project is calling on the National Assembly to make a legislation worthy of being called ‘The Constitution that Nigeria Women Want’.
The CSOs wants a document which does not only speak to the aspiration of the Nigerian people but include women.
The participants in one accord called on the country’s lawmakers to ensure that tomorrow’s scheduled public hearing on the 1999 constitution amendment guarantee gender equality and strongly uphold the principle of equity in all sectors of life.
Harnessing participants’ submissions at a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, on behalf of the group made a 10-point demands.
Among the demands, Akiyode-Afolabi said the language of the current constitution is insensitive to its populace and excludes women.
She therefore said going forward women wants to see that the new piece of legislation be inclusive in language and representative.
Citing one of the reasons it is harping on language, “In the current constitution, the word “he” is used 235 times while women is referenced only twice.”
WARDC said such masculine languages are gender biased and undermine women and girls’ rights and participation, thereby hindering inclusive governance in Nigeria.
Other demands are
Conscious provisioning towards attainment of gender equity and equal opportunities –
Section 14 (3) of the constitution provides for the conduct of its affairs to be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria as a way of promoting national unity and national loyalty but failed, to identify gender diversity as a rule of equity. A federal character that failed to include the need of critical citizens – women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups cannot be the hallmark of democracy.
The constitution Nigerian women want must ensure gender diversity to take of the need and aspiration of all citizens.
Social economic rights – The Chapter 2 of the Constitution is critical to national development but cannot be enjoyed as a result of the restrictions on its enforceability by the same 1999 constitution that proposes to contribute to citizens development. The constitution Nigerian women want must affirm socio-economic rights and a fundamental right enjoyable by all without any form of discrimination.
What we want is a constitution that enforces the social economic rights of all Nigerians including women and children.
Citizenship – The Constitution must guarantee equality for both men and women in the area of acquiring citizenship by marriage. Section 26(2) should be amended to confer citizenship by registration to a foreign spouse of a woman just like her male counterpart.
Furthermore, the constitution women want requires that the age of adulthood should comply with regional and national standard of 18 years. So therefore, the section 29 (4b) is a violation of children’s right and should have no place in the constitution Nigerian women want.
Human dignity – The constitution must uphold dignity of all persons particularly women. The current constitutional provision on human dignity failed to take into consideration the dignity of women and girls.
The constitution Nigerian women want must protect women from sexual and gender violence and all forms of harmful traditional practices and preserve women’s bodily integrity.
Right to private and family life – the constitution must recognise right to private and family life as fundamental rights. Men and women must have equal rights in marriage, during marriage and dissolution of marriage.
The constitution women want must recognise the importance of registration for any form of marriage be it traditional, religious or statutory marriage as a way of securing the equal rights of both parties and guarantee the equal treatment of both parties in the marriage.
Section 42 non-discrimination – Currently the legislatures are restricted from passing laws that portends positive discrimination whereas women in Nigeria have suffered historical injustices and would need temporary or special measures to redress the wrongs for the sake of equity and social justice.
Therefore, the constitution women want should enact laws that are reasonably necessary to provide for any and all corrective measures, policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalances in the Nigerian society.
Furthermore, the State shall ensure the attainment of equal opportunities, protection and fair representation of marginalised groups in all facets of life.
Twining in government – The constitution must promote women’s political participation and gender equality in a manner that where there is a male and female in elective and appointive position at all levels.
The constitution Nigerian women want demands that where there is a position being taken a by a particular gender the opposite must be the deputy.
Special measure in all elective and appointive positions in government at all levels – In order to promote women’s participation in governance and gender diversity.
elective and appointive positions at the three tiers of government.
Special seats for women in parliaments – We support the clamour for the creation of additional special seats for women, including women with disabilities, and those who are in other vulnerable groups in the Federal and State Legislative Houses to enable equitable participation and inclusion.
However, a more sustainable measure is the provision of 35% or two third provision in the constitution as a temporary rule as done in other African countries like Rwanda, Eritrea and Kenya.
“It is our sincere belief that if the suggestions offered above on the most cardinal national questions are accepted and implemented through a constitutional amendment, the foundations of the polity will be based on more solid grounds of reinforced concrete rather than on quicksand on which they appear to be based at present. There will be more equity and fairness in the system; more political inclusiveness leading to greater participation, less alienation and more contentment.
We believe the agitation for outright dissolution of Nigeria being made in some quarters is borne out of the sense of marginalisation, injustice, inequitableness and frustration with the present system and once these underlying challenges are substantially addressed, the call for disintegration will evaporate.
In the process of effecting the above reforms, we will suggest that the process for constitutional amendment should be transparent, inclusive and participatory to avoid the reprehensible circumstance leading to the emergence of the 1999 Constitution which many believed was foisted on the nation by military fiat. The constitution should have inputs of every shade of public opinion, every segment of the society and every sphere of distinct natural or convectional divides that constitute the eclectic mix of the country. This is because the process of making a constitution is as important as the final product, the constitution itself.
Below is the list of those calling for the reforms above
1. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC)
4. Partnership for Justice
14. Child Protection Network
15. CECE YARA
19. Vision Spring Initiative
20. Aishat Foundation (Foluke Ademokun)
22. Talent Plus Resources Intl
23. Greenspring Dev. Initiative
24. Lascop/Lead in Africa
25. Glowing Splints Development Initiative
26. Enough is Enough
27. JONAPWD (physical disability cluster)
28. JONAPWD (albino cluster)
29. JONAPWD (deaf cluster)
30. JONAPWD (blind cluster)
31. JONAPWD (dwarf cluster)
32. Gabasawa Women and Children Empowerment Initiative
33. Young Women in Politics
34. National Youth Council
35. SCIAN CFWA
36. Project Alert
37. Deaf Women Association of Nigeria
38. Nigeria Ass. Of the Blind
41. Public Health Sustainable Advocacy Initiative (PHSAI)
42. Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP)/ Child Health Organisation
43. Women In Politics Bariga LCDA
45. Health and Sustainable Development Association of Nigeria (HESDAN)
46. SEX WORKERS
47. Iyaniwura Children Care Foundation
49. Women Protection Organisation
50. Child to Child Network
54. LASCOP/DW Centre
59. Youth Empowerment & Reform Initiative
62. Sickle Cell Foundation
63. Association of Women Living with HIV/Aids in Nigeria (Ashwan)
64. Passion for Young Women Health and Betterment Initiative
66. Women Grassroots Organization
67. Ikeja Paralegal
68. Community Life Project
69. Ajegunle Community
70. His Marvellous Grace Support Foundation
71. Young Women in Politics
72. Peculiar Treasure Impact Initiative
73. Gender Care Initiative
74. Orile Agege Paralegal
75. Igando Community
76. Jaymecare WIDOW organization
77. Lagos State Association for the Deaf
78. Likeminds Initiative
80. Abbatoir Market Women Association
81. Sangroose Market Association
82. LASFADAN Oko Oba
83. Ayetoro Grinding Association
84. Trado medical Maternity Home Association
87. Hairdresser Association
88. Bakers Association pf Nigeria
89. Oke Aro Fashion Designer
90. Orile Agege Youth Movement
94. Widow Care Charity Organization
95. Lagos State Tyre and Dye Association
96. Mushin Paralegal
97. Ijaiye Ojokoro Paralegal
98. Ogbonge Women Farmers
99. Agunbiade Market Association
101. Grass Root Women Action
103. Mid Wife Association
104. Ajeromi Widows Association
105. Widows Association Ajeromi
106. Ajeromi Ifelodun Parent Forum
107. Apapa Hairderssing Association
108. Lagos State Mothers Association
109. Media Concern Initiative
111. Lagos Island Paralegal
112. Ikorodu Paralegal
113. Women of Substance
114. Nation Builder
115. Igando Community Monitor
116. Abimbola Street Captain Initiative
117. Youth Accountability Platform
118. Ijegun Community Women Association
120. Community Monitor
121. Light Initiative Network
126. Democracy Vanguard
127. Igbogbo Bayeku Market women Association
128. 24 Market Women Association
129. Selfworth Organisation for women Development
131. Community Bell
132. Ikeja Traditional Birth Attendant Association
133. Education Right Campaign
134. Ifesowapo Fashion Designer group
135. Catholic Women Organization
136. Echoes of Women in w Africa
137. 21st Century
138. Empower my World Foundation
139. Women Protection Organization
140. Amal Safety Foundation
141. Bimbo Odukoya Foundation
142. Health Foundation Orientation and protection
143. Community Health Support and Empowerment Initiative
144. Eagles Wing Development Centre
145. Real Women Foundation
146. Women Wealth Creation
147. Transformation Women Association
148. Advocacy Initiative for Children with Disabilities
149. Women for Women
151. Olaoluwa Tailoring Association
152. CAN Association
154. Ikeja Market Association
157. Integrity Women
160. M and B Initiative
161. Forum for Women Advancement
162. Advocacy Initiative
165. African/Nigeria Initiative for disabilities
166. BEEMBELL Global
172. Ikorodu Paralegal
173. Oke-Ira Hairdresser Association
176. Young women in Politics
178. Hopewell Initiatives for National Development
179. Ansar-u-deen Women Society of Nigeria
180. Campaign for Workers Democratic Rights (CWDR)
182. Grassroot Women Action
184. Vision Spring Initiative