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As the global community celebrates the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD), the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chief Tony Ojukwu, SAN, has said that inclusion of more women at decision-making levels in the country is crucial for national development.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria stated this on the eve of the 2022 IWD celebration. He pointed out that “women are the pillars of our future, given the enabling environment and opportunity; women have the potential to turn things around to make the world great and a better place for everyone to live in”.

He said this year’s theme “Gender equality today for sustainable tomorrow” is very apt considering the role that women play in nation-building. According to him, the 21st-century women are more than housewives, they are major players and shareholders in policies and programmes affecting the society and they should be encouraged to do more.

It is in this regard that learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria appealed to our Parliamentarians to reconsider the issue of affirmative action on women participation in governance and elections. It will be unfortunate if the ongoing constitutional reforms did not address the issue of affirmative action for woman. The issue of increasing representation across board should be considered to allay the fears of men who fear they may be displaced by women in the various constituencies. New constituencies to meet up affirmative action can be created. Nigeria can bear the marginal cost in governance and balance this out by reducing the number of personal or special assistants, Technical Assistants and Advisers etc. allowed for political office holders.

Ojukwu said that the Commission has been receiving very high number of complaints of human rights violations from the area of women and children. These complaints are in different forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Female Genital Cutting, denial of inheritance, Domestic violence, non-provision of necessaries and shelter for wife and children and a myriad of other gender based violations.

While commending the National Assembly for the landmark constitutional reforms, he used the opportunity of the International Women’s Day to call once more call on the National Assembly to consider and pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, saying it will reduce gender-based violations as well as give the women a legal backing to address the challenges of inequalities confronting them including other forms of heinous human rights violations suffered only by women.

He said the Commission will continue to strive for the cause of women’s rights in the country. “We have put different mechanisms in place to address the issues relating to violence against women”.

“Today we have a department solely devoted to handling issues of women, considering the quantum of complaints we receive. The idea of creating this department is to give special attention to complaints on women. Complaints on women and children can now be filed online through the “UNSUB”; online platform. It is designed in such a way that people can complain from any part of the country. The platform will link complainants to nearest service provider to their location to address their complaint. With the collaboration of Open Society Initiative for West Africa and the EU- UN Spotlight Initiative, NHRC has established a call center and a helpline (toll-free) number dedicated for victims of SGBV”.

He used the opportunity of the celebration to encourage Nigerian women to continue remaining focused on the struggle to achieve affirmative action. Nigeria is proud of our women who have made it in the global community. “We are proud of Hajiya Aisha Buhari, Ist lady of NIgeria, Dame Paulin Talen, Min of Women Affairs, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Sadiya UMAR Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Justice Mary Peter Odili of the Supreme Court, Our Female Senators and Representatives, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director-General World Trade Organization, Chimamanda Adichie, renown Nigerian Writer and the host of others, etc. “I strongly believe that we have more of such achievers among our women, let us all come together to encourage them to come out more and play their unique role towards national development”.

While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Amendment Bill into Law, Ojukwu urged the electorate to use the opportunity to vote in more women into power, hold our candidates and representatives accountable for their stand on affirmative action, encouraging all stakeholders to ensure that the new law is operated in such a way as to guarantee free and fair elections.