Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Abuja, recently played host to over 1,000 women at the National Women’s Dialogue 2019, with the theme: “The Nigeria We Want: Nigerian Women-A National Conversation.”
Tagged WOMANIFESTO ‘19, for those three days, women from all works of life gathered (First Ladies, Ministers, Senators, MDs, CEOs, Entrepreneurs, market women, people with disabilities) to deliberate on issues affecting them with special focus on five issues, violence against women, women political participation, women peace and security, sexual and reproductive right, women and poverty.
One of the prominent issues discussed was the killing of Mrs. Salome Abuh, Woman Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Wada/ Aro campaign council, at the November 16th gubernatorial election in Kogi State. The side event was put together by Emerge Women together with Amazons for Change and Igala Noble Women Union and featured four of late Mrs. Abuh’s children, who gave a heart wrenching description how their mother died.”
Before the commencement of the event proper, prominent women, including the First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi took to the social media under the hashtag “What Nigeria Women Want to talk about the Nigeria they want.
Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Deputy a Chief Whip, Federal House of Representatives, said: “I want a Nigeria where women are not labeled and disrespected for contesting an election. A Nigeria, where a woman doesn’t get roasted because of her political stance! A Nigeria that provides a safe space for women and girls and ensures our sons are not used as thugs. One that provides equal access to all citizens, regardless of tribe, religion or gender.”
Iheoma Obibi, Executive Director, Alliances for Africa on her part said: “Women want a Nigeria where we can exercise our agency and voice in deciding how many children we want. With better access to reproductive health services and facilities in safety.”
Bukky Shobibare, Founder, Girl Child Africa, said: “I want a Nigeria where women can dream, live, thrive, and be all they have the innate capacity to be without any limitation or inhibition.”
Ebere Ifendu, Convener, Women in Politics Forum, wants a: “Nigeria where women are afforded full and equal socio-economic and political rights and those rights are respected and enforced. A Nigeria where a woman is free to support any political party of her choice.”
Dr. Laila St. Matthew-Daniel, Executive Director, ACTS Generation GBV, wants a Nigeria where: “The woman’s voice is crucial to the leadership growth and development of a Nation. Marginalizing her keeps a nation in a state of under-development.”
Mrs. Fayemi said when she sought to know the Nigeria women want on her Facebook wall just before the dialogue, she got the following response: ‘I want a Nigeria safe for all women and girls. A country that nurtures the girl child to a meaningful future’.
‘A Nigeria where cancer will be understood as not an attack from witches.’
‘A Nigeria where women and girls will be able to reach their full potential.’
‘A Nigeria where ladies will be given employment without ‘trade by barter’
‘A Nigeria where our women and girls will not be discriminated against in the corridors of power.’
She told the audience: Our locations are different. Our experiences are different. Our platforms are different. Our understanding of the issues might be different. Yet, there is one thing we all have in common. We are tired. We are tired of saying the same thing over and over again.
“We are tired of singing, dancing and clapping for political leaders only to end up with nothing to show for it.
“We are tired of not being able to go to our farms for fear of being raped. We are tired of being tortured and dispossessed when our husbands die.
“We are tired of watching our sisters die while giving birth.
We are tired of living in such poverty and desperation that we resort to the only tools we have to survive.
“We are tired of being harassed, intimidated and even burnt alive because we dared to raise our voices.
“We are tired of sex for grades, sex for jobs, sex for food, sex for appointments.
“We are tired of seeing the driver, gateman, Teacher, Policeman, Politician, Bank Manager, University Lecturer, Pastor, Imam, Traditional ruler all go scot-free when they rape us or our children.
“We come together with our various identities as grassroots, middle-class, elite, ruling-class women, irrespective of age, education, religion, ethnicity, marital status or physical ability,” Mrs. Fayemi.
At the end of the dialogue, the women came up with a charter of demand.
Dr Abiola Akinyode – Afolabi, one of the convener of the conference explained, “The Womanifesto is a charter of demands of Nigerian women. It took us about three days to come up with it. Over a thousand women from different works of life, from north east, south east, south west, south south. We have come up with a lot of demands from different thematic areas. On all these issues we have discussed extensively to ensure we do not leave anyone behind in our conversations.
“We have people with disability and those from the minority group, to gather together to say it is enough, the Nigerian woman cannot continue to suffer the kind of violence that we suffer on a daily basis.
“Presenting the charter of demand is a phase and the beginning of the journey, we also hope in every state they will duplicate the Womanifesto, we are using it to build the women’s movement.
“One of the reasons why women have not been able to achieve is because we are not strong in terms of collectivity. Within the political space, if we have a strong women’s movement, we would have been able to achieve what we want. So today, we are starting the process of building a movement that is effective, that can validate some of the issues that affect our lives, we want to be able to define our aspirations from this country, define our destiny, decide who will represent us.
“There are several demands in there, and we also have methodology of how we can achieve it.
We have the smart, minimum and long term demands.
“Our first demand is for government to increase the budget of the Ministry of Women affairs, for it to be able to work effectively. The second demand is for the government to declare a state of emergency on violence against women in Nigeria. Thirdly, we want the government to strengthen her efforts to address the situation of the IDPS so the women can have their lives back. Fourthly, on women political participation we all know where we are but we have to move further.”
Receiving the demands which are in five pages, Minister for Women Affairs, Hon Paulen Tallen, said: I want to state clearly Mr. President’s full commitment to the five issues contained in the Womanifesto.
“On the issue of our sister Salome that was killed brutally in Kogi State few days back, Mr. President has issued a statement condemning it, he is fully committed to making sure that justice is done on these issues.
“The five demands of the Womanifesto that was presented to me, I want to assure you that I will address it and follow it up. I know Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, the Wife of the President are all fully committed to women issues, we all condemn violence against women in totality.
“On these five demands, I want to assure that Mr. President has given the nod, we will do everything to stem the tide.
“On behalf of Mr. President I sympathize with the family of Madame Salome and pray we will not witness such incidence again.”