By Akanimo Sampson
Zeroing in on the International Women’s Day, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says the House under his watch is determined to remove all obstacles militating against the development of women through relevant legislation.
Gbajabiamila was speaking as the Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Natalia Kanem, in a statement said: ‘’All over the world, women lead. They lead peace processes, run businesses, establish hospitals and schools.
‘’They are presidents of countries and corporate boards. They head international and grassroots organisations, faith-based groups and sports teams, labour and environmental movements, often while caring for their families and communities.
‘’On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate all women, and particularly those leading the charge for equality. I encourage women and girls who dream of leadership to take it up. Do not wait. It is your right, and the world needs you now more than ever.
‘’No country has yet attained complete gender parity in leadership. But I believe that we will get there, and that women, collectively, will change our world for the better. Where there is gender equality, societies are more prosperous. Peace is more durable. All of society benefits.
‘’Yet, many obstacles still block women’s path to leadership. One of the most fundamental is the lack of bodily autonomy. Many women cannot make basic decisions about their bodies, such as whether to have sexual relations or not, to use contraceptives or not, or even make their own health-care choices.
‘’No woman should be denied these choices. Yet we see, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, how crises can exacerbate existing barriers that hinder the ability of women to exercise bodily autonomy: sexual and reproductive health services were shuttered or scaled back across the globe, and gender-based violence skyrocketed.
‘’A woman who cannot realize bodily autonomy may face compounding barriers to equality throughout her life, undermining the range of rights and choices required to become a leader. That is why we must ensure women both gain skills and opportunities to lead, and can build on a firm foundation of bodily autonomy.
‘’Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, women have kept entire societies going, sustaining health systems as the majority of front-line workers, and courageously managing extra responsibilities at home in caring for the ill as well as children out of school. They have kept open shelters for survivors of violence against women, and they have scaled mountains, literally, to distribute contraceptives.
‘’In short, women themselves have offered vivid, unforgettable testaments to the value of their leadership. These should be celebrated and replicated, all the way to a world where every woman is able to govern her body and her life, where women lead as equals, as is their right.’’
However, the Speaker’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, in a statement quoted his principal as saying that in addition to collaborating with all critical local and international stakeholders, the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise would be explored to achieve the set goals which was a priority area on the Legislative Agenda of the 9th House.
He was speaking on Monday, while declaring open the commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day, organised by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians at the National Assembly, expressed the determination of the House to holistically address the issue of violence targeted at women.
“I assure you that this 9th House of Representatives will continue to take actions to address the challenges militating against the advancement of women in all spheres of human endeavour.
“I ask all of you here today to support the House in this regard so that together we can make the world a better place for all our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues.
“This is part of our Legislative Agenda, and we must at the end of it be able to tick that box that we said we would; we have this contract with Nigerians and we did”.
“This is a matter of constitutional amendments in many regards, and we will be up and doing. I trust the 9th House to be up to the ultimate task in removing whatever obstacles in the past to make sure that this thing is a thing of the past”, the Speaker said.
Earlier, Chairperson of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, Zainab Gimba, said gender inequality remains one of the greatest threats to Africa’s future, noting that the International Women’s Day is dedicated to celebrating the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements of women and a platform for action to accelerate gender parity.
“To achieve this goal, we must take conscious steps to ensure women’s involvement in every sphere of the decision-making process to usher in an inclusive development,” she said.
Clerk to the National Assembly, Ojo Amos Olatunde, an architect, on his part, tasked women legislators in the National Assembly to rise to the occasion, and drastically reduce domestic violence against women in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila with Chairperson of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian (Africa Region), Zainab Gimba during the commemoration of the 2021 International Women’s Day at the National Assembly on Monday