Nigeria could not afford to be left behind in the global trend to protect and defend the rights of women, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said.
The Speaker stated that on the part of the 9th House, it had already made the protection of women and promoting gender-based issues, an important item on its Legislative Agenda.
He spoke at the National Assembly when he received a delegation from a development partner, OXFAM International, on a courtesy visit to his office in Abuja on Thursday.
Gbajabiamila assured the team that the House would do everything within its limits to protect and defend the rights of women, though he clarified that the ultimate goal would be to achieve gender equality by addressing the interests of both women and men.
“We can’t be left behind in the 21st Century where the world is a global place. We can’t be left behind as a country in terms of how women are protected”, Gbajabiamila stated.
However, in pursuing gender issues, the Speaker stressed that the Legislature, in collaboration with other stakeholders, must interrogate why attempts to promote matters affecting women often faced hiccups.
He noted that some of the factors could be “sentiments” and interests of various dimensions, which needed to be tackled so that gender-based issues could have a smooth sail in Parliament.
Speaking specifically on the Gender Equal Opportunity Bill, which had failed passage several times at the National Assembly, Gbajabiamila promised that the House would reintroduce it, while at the same time partnering with stakeholders to attend to the factors working against the bill.
The Speaker said, “That bill has been with the National Assembly for six to seven years, I guess. It failed a couple of times. When a bill fails like that, clearly there must be a reason. It is that reason that we need to interrogate. If you keep presenting a bill over and over again, thinking okay, we will wear these people down, the reasons why it failed remain.
“What we need to do is to interrogate the issues, the sentiments. Why did the bill fail? When we find out, there are two ways to approach it: either you share education by sensitising/lobbying people who may be against the bill for that reason, or to recouch the bill and achieve the same result.”
Gbajabiamila added, “It is our desire in the House to push the bill through, but we need to work hard and find out why the bill has had challenges. It’s a good bill that we need to look at and push through.”
The Country Director of OXFAM in Nigeria, Mr Constant Tchona, while speaking earlier, informed Gbajabiamila how since the 1960s, the organisation had been supporting the three tiers of government to become “more agile and responsive to issues of social protection, human rights, people-oriented policy making and implementation.”
Tchona, who praised the Speaker for his gender and social development initiatives, seized the opportunity of the visit to canvass the passage of the Gender Equal Opportunity Bill by the Legislature.
He said this would “go a long way to redefine inclusive social and economic development in Nigeria.”
The organisation embraced most of the social development initiatives of the Speaker, offering to partner with the Speaker’s Office to execute and bring them to fruition.
Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria