Nigerian women have always played a visible and competent role in nation building. In addition to their various activities, which sustained communities in pre-colonial times, they also played key roles in the struggles for independence and the political processes that followed. However, these very important roles, whilst widely documented, have not been fully appreciated.
In 1995 the 4th United Nations World Conference on Women took place in Beijing, China. The conference was unprecedented, both in terms of its sheer scale, and in its outcomes. It represented a new dawn in the search for gender justice and equality, and it gave women around the world a serious political, technical and analytical tool with which to demand for accountability from governments and institutions responsible for advancing gender equality globally.
Twenty years after Beijing, women in Nigeria have not fully benefitted from the promises made by governments at the Beijing conference. There is still discrimination against women in public institutions and in the private sphere, and women still lack the same freedoms as men, particularly in the fields of education, economic empowerment and political participation. Nigeria still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and there are now very alarming rates of violence against women and girls. Due to the activities of agents of the Boko Haram insurgency, we have seen hundreds of our daughters and wives kidnapped, killed and displaced.
I am on a mission to restore Nigeria’s fading glory and reposition our great nation on the path to greatness. I am however aware that this will not be possible without addressing the needs and concerns of those who constitute half of the population of this country – women. No nation can prosper without a commitment to the empowerment of women and girls. As the father of a number of beautiful, promising young women, I should know what it means to want the very best for my own daughters. I do not expect any of my daughters to live unfulfilled, with their talents wasted and ignored, suffering discrimination at every turn, and rendered second-class citizens all because they happen to be female.
An APC government, under my leadership, is therefore committed to the following:
a) Ensuring that gender is mainstreamed throughout all the government’s commitments in key areas such as the economy, education, health, security, good governance, power, agriculture and other areas of national development.
b) Implementation of the 2005 National Gender Policy, which serves as a roadmap for the promotion of women’s empowerment and gender equality in Nigeria. So far, there has been no political will to implement this very critical framework.
c) Promotion of anti-discrimination legislations and policies to afford women equality and equity, especially in employment, education, housing and entrepreneurship.
d) We shall commit ourselves to merit based Affirmative Actions to level the playing field for women, and provide them with opportunities to be part of decision-making and governance at all levels.
e) We will include Gender as a component of the Federal Character.
f) There will be strong political will to promote Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality through dedicating the required financial, human and technical resources toward this goal.
g) We will make a concerted effort to empower women in rural areas, who constitute the majority of the Nigerian women.
h) We will insist on legislation to ensure a woman’s right to own and inherit property on an equal basis with men.
i) We will enforce legal protection for the rights of the girl-child in all areas of religious, social and economic life, protecting her right to dignity, shelter and choice.
j) My administration will have zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. We will provide women with greater legal protection from all forms of violence and sexual harassment, and there will be a commitment to the implementation of all existing legislation on violence against women.
k) We will improve and strengthen support for women in all sectors of the economy, through access to capital, training and skills acquisition. We will also ensure that women have better access to capital and credit facilities for their businesses.
This is an abridged presentation of what I have in store for Nigerian women; there are, of course, many other important issues I am sure you would like to see addressed. I believe that the most important commitment I can make to Nigerian women is that they can count on strong political will from my administration, to ensure that women’s rights are safeguarded and protected. We will not be an administration that only empowers a token number of women who are in no way representative of the vast majority of women in this country. Ours will be an administration that will consciously and consistently provide opportunities for as many women as possible, bearing in mind that our nation’s development depends on this strategy. We will promote a culture of peace and a respect for the fundamental human rights of women and girls.
Ours will be an administration that firmly believes that women hold up half the sky.
My vision is for my daughters, and your daughters, to enjoy a world in which discrimination will be a thing of the distant past. It might be a long journey, but with your support and votes, we will be on the right path together. Nigerian women have been promised so much for so long. I stand before you now to make a solemn promise that I will not take you or your votes for granted. After all, it is impossible for me to clap with one hand.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), GCFR
APC Presidential Candidate