Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, on Thursday challenged Nigerian women to work harder to increase their numerical representation in politics.
On the part of the National Assembly, the Speaker promised that it would use the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to improve on opportunities for participation in politics by women.
However, Tambuwal noted that women would have to convince the electorate to vote for them.
“Women have to do a lot more work; we need to do more sensitisation of our constituents,” he added.
Tambuwal said states like Yobe, Gombe and Niger, known to be “conservative”, had produced lawmakers in both the Senate and the House.
Tambuwal spoke in Abuja when he received a women delegation led by the visiting United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, at the National Assembly.
He informed the delegation that Nigeria and the House in particular had been gender-sensitive by encouraging women to take active part in public offices.
“In this House, we have had a female speaker; our House Leader is a woman.
“There are 24 women in parliament and women are leading very important committees of the House,” the speaker said.
He listed the committees headed by women to include Committee on Aviation, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Diaspora, Committee on Women Affairs, Committee on Women in Parliament, Committee on Human Rights, Committee on Privatisation, Committee on Public Procurement and the Committee on Education (which has a woman as acting chairman).
On how to support the cause of women, Tambuwal assured the delegation that pending bills such as the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, Bill on Violence Against Women and Bill on Discrimination Against Persons with Disability would be given speedy consideration by the House this year.
But, the speaker said what nobody could guarantee was the call for 50-50 representation for men and women in political offices.
“We may not achieve 50-50 representation, but there will be fair representation for women,” he stated.
Bachelet, a former President of Chile, told the Speaker that she was in Nigeria to canvass support for gender equality and promotion of the rights of women and girls in a democracy.
She urged the House to use the ongoing constitution review to remove all “discriminatory practices against women” from the document.
“Democracy should be inclusive. Women have a lot to contribute to nation building and you cannot afford to continue to marginalise women.
“When you marginalise women, you miss all the contributions they can make,” she said.
The UN official argued that the Federal Government’s Vision 20: 20-20 agenda could get a boost from women if more number was given the opportunity to be policy makers and drivers of the political system.
Bachelet called on Nigeria to embrace 50-50 representation for both sexes in governance.