The clamor for more women on the Cabinet list is growing.

A new topic of discussion has emerged as Nigerians await President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ministerial list: the need for more women to be represented in high government positions.

There has been intense lobbying at the highest levels of government and widespread speculation and fear among the populace as a result of the delay in disclosing the cabinet list. The list is an important step toward establishing federal priorities and policies.

However, the long wait has given other groups time to express their displeasure with the lack of diversity in prior administrations.

The world over, governments are enacting policies to remedy long-standing discrimination against women by taking “affirmative action.” In contrast to the UN Charter’s call for a minimum of 30% female representation, Nigeria’s National Gender Policy mandates 35% female representation.

However, no administration has reached the 35% affirmative action criterion for women since the NGP was drafted in 2006.

To remedy gender disparities in leadership positions, many nations have adopted affirmative action policies. Rwanda has one of the highest proportions of women in parliament, while numerous European countries have instituted gender quotas for political appointments. These examples motivate and instruct the Nigerian government as it works to increase women’s representation in positions of power.

Women’s rights groups and activists have been pushing for more women to hold political and leadership positions for decades. They claim that the lack of women in leadership positions undermines efforts toward gender parity and prevents smart, capable women from getting their voices heard.

KURYALOADED Recalls that in 2020, a coalition of nine women’s organizations sued the ex-President of Nigeria. These included the Nigeria Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA), Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa), Women Advocacy Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Vision Spring Initiative (VSI), Yiaga Africa, 100 Women Lobby Group, and the International Federation of Women Lawyers

And on April 6th, 2022, the women’s coalition’s lawsuit against the government was ultimately successful. Justice Donatus Okorowo issued a historic ruling in which the court acknowledged that the failure to implement the NGP’s 35% Affirmative Action on the nomination of women to political offices violated the constitutional rights of women.

After the Federal High Court’s ruling, women’s rights activists across the country celebrated enthusiastically. However, their celebrations were cut short when the country’s attorney general, Justice Abubakar Malami, appealed the decision.

However, the matter has still not been heard at the Appeal Court a year later, as reported by KURYALOADED

Calls for the implementation of 35% Affirmative Action have been revived in light of President Tinubu’s new administration and the anticipation of his ministerial list.

According to KURYALOADED’s reporting, during his campaign President Tinubu pledged to give women up to 40% of political appointments. However, only two of his special advisers are women, or 25%, and only three of his twenty assistants are women, or roughly 15%.

Many stakeholders are beginning to question President Tinubu’s commitment to enacting affirmative action in light of the very small number of female appointees to far. Still, as the unveiling of the ministerial list approaches, there is anticipation and hope.

While some prefer to wait for the list to be released, KURYALOADED has learned from sources that women’s organisations are already making plans to send delegations to meet with President Tinubu to discuss the ministerial list.

According to the KURYALOADED, a recent symposium on affirmative action and gender equality gave women a platform from which to call on the government of President Tinubu to take decisive action.

“So far, I am not happy with women’s representation,” Adewunmi Ononuga, Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, remarked at the conference.

Since not all scheduled visits have been completed, however, I will not yet say that women have been discriminated against. And many organizations have been having hallway conversations with the President and First Lady to express their concern that our expectations not be shattered.

Lobbying is an ongoing process that we cannot begin too soon. We need to put on our shoes and skirts and lobby hard to reach the 35% affirmative action target. Instead of seeking to coerce the FG, she suggested instead that lobbying be pursued.

CEO of one of the civil society organizations that sued the government, Mufuliat Fijabi, said that President Tinubu’s appointment has done nothing to encourage women to take leadership roles.

I am quite alarmed by President Tinubu’s initial cabinet picks. Women’s advocacy in previous governments was unsuccessful in securing the 35% target. It’s not only lip service to call for women’s inclusion.

It concerns the administration of Nigeria. Having development progress in the proper direction and taking deliberate steps to preserve gender parity and balance are equally crucial.

So, I’m very worried, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this government will be different and will both keep its campaign promise and maintain the Federal High Court’s ruling on the NGP.

Former attorney general Abubakar Malami’s attitude on the April 6th judgement was also criticized by Amina Agbaje, the national president of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).

She questioned the motivations of those who would oppose women’s rights in Nigeria and asked President Tinubu to follow the ruling rather than support the appeals being filed by the outgoing government.

We must engage the First Lady in the fight for the implementation of national gender policy, especially the 35% Affirmative Action for women in appointments. In order to brief the president on the impending appeal, we must move swiftly as a coalition of women and request an audience with the First Lady, who will then bring us to the president.

Since the subject of female solidarity is so crucial, women need to be able to speak with one voice. Right now is not the time for us to be singing such discordant tunes. We have faith in Mr. President’s ability and political will to help us reach the 35% goal we’ve set for ourselves as women. We know this because, as governor of Lagos, he strongly advocated for his wife and other women,” Agbaje explained.

Former Deputy Director of the National Human Rights Commission and staunch supporter of women’s rights, Mr. Saka Azimazi, argues that women should have the right to affirmative action regardless of whether or not it is debated.

We aren’t asking for anything; rather, we’re demanding that the principles of fairness and justice be taken into account when selecting leaders. One can enter government either by election or appointment. Even while women did poorly in the polls, he noted that they still had opportunities to rise to leadership positions through government appointments.

Azimazi claimed that if Nigeria continues to ignore the need for affirmative action, the country stands to lose a lot.

If you look at the distribution of the population in Nigeria, you’ll see that men and women are evenly distributed throughout the country. This means that excluding women from specific economic or decision-making sectors means losing half of the potential labor, intellectual property, and authority. We cannot tolerate this.

Therefore, he argued, “it is crucial that women have strong representation,” because women bring a unique perspective to the table during moments of decisive action.

Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) Programme Director Zainab Abdulrasheed stated that all hands are needed.

She argued that a government where the issues of the marginalized and excluded voices are brought up would result from enforcing the 35% affirmative act.

We live in a patriarchal culture in which discrimination based on different social norms and beliefs has had an impact on the way power is distributed over time. Affirmative action would be a huge step forward for women if it were enacted.

“In some other developing nations, like Rwanda, up to 51.25 percent of government officials are women. This should present a challenge for Nigeria, which should not be content with being known as “the giant of Africa” in name alone. Good governance is what we should be able to model for other African nations.

You can see the brain drain happening in different parts of the country, but there are plenty of skilled women working in all sectors who can make significant contributions in very critical and crucial sectors like education, which is crucial to the sustainability of our nation.

We need to consider local and state initiatives in addition to federal ones when considering the efficacy of Affirmative Action. It’s crucial that everyone’s opinions be heard.

What we need is leadership that is diverse on all fronts: socially, economically, and politically. Abdulrasheed remarked that if this were in place, it would signal a “holistic and sustainable leadership process” in the country.

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