When I placed my recent posting from UNFPA by Professor Osotimehin advocating complete education, and protection of girls from abuse and early marriage in the world, little did I know that a bill seeking gender equality in Nigeria was before the Senate.
The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill is aimed at promoting equality, development and advancement of all persons in Nigeria as well as promoting women’s freedom of movement, female economic activity and girls’ access to education.
The Bill also seeks appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and prohibitions of violence to women. The debate included the need to protect the widowhood and inheritance rights of women.
The Senate rejected equality between men and women over alleged constitutional violations. Some senators disagreed with parts of the bill along the lines of religion and tradition. Religion and Tradition being used against women? It is disheartening and disappointing that in 2016, we still think men should have certain privileges over women. What rings through my ears are ‘suppression and undue advantage’.
These inequalities affect the literacy and the health of women and as a consequence the health of the nation. Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
There is still a glitter of hope as the Senate President advised Nigerian women to re-introduce the bill after re-drafting it to address these concerns. Why must is be re-introduced by a woman and not by a man? All human beings are equal before the eyes of the Supreme Being who created this world. I live in hope that there will come a time when Nigeria will give all its citizens equal rights, irrespective of sex, tribe, religion, social class etc. Until then, I will continue to respect our mothers, aunties, sisters and daughters.