Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal on Monday assured of his commitment to protecting the rights of women to promote gender equality.
Tambuwal gave the assurance on Monday in Abuja in a speech he delivered at the opening ceremony of a two-day Women in Parliament Summit, organised by Democracy for Good Governance project.
The summit with the theme, “Advancing the gender agenda in Nigeria: The role of law makers”. is co-organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Women in Parliament.
According to him, issues concerning the rights of women should continue to be on the front burner of national discourse.
“Gender equality is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, which clearly states that no one must be discriminated on the basis of sex, ethnicity, religious or political affiliation.
“The unequal treatment of people on the basis of their gender is therefore illegal.
“Besides, there is growing evidence that gender inequality and discrimination contributes to the increase in poverty.
“It does not only deny a large part of our citizens their rights to achieve their potentials, but it also denies the nation the benefits of the contribution of these people.
“There are many ways in which these inequalities occur, ranging from denying the girl-child an education, to discriminating against women in work places.
“This discrimination not only worsens the poverty level of our women, but denies them the ability to own their means of livelihood or even to fully participate in business or politics.
“There have been several attempts to remedy this situation, including the Millennium Development Goals five, which focuses on maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health.
“However, these efforts are not far reaching enough and it is now clear, that lawmakers can make the difference, through laws that will take care of the gender gap.
“The legislature, which represents the interest of every Nigerian, has a duty to defend anyone against discrimination.
“We are determined to make sure that there are no second class citizens in this country and we shall do everything possible, to protect the rights of women,” Tambuwal maintained.
He stressed the need for proper sensitisation of the public to the need to continue to fight issues that promoted gender inequality.
“The more people learn about this issue, the more chances there are to eliminate it altogether.”
Tambuwal said that plans were underway by the legislature to employ tougher punitive measures against people who targeted women during violent crashes.
In a keynote address, Dr Abiola Kiyode-Afolabi, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, said that the summit was to reaffirm the commitment towards ensuring gender balance.
She spoke of the need for stakeholders to work together on gender-related matters to strengthen the fight against gender discrimination.
“In advancing gender agenda in the country; for law makers to meaningfully contribute to the gender equality and women empowerment, nationally and globally, the following precondition must be met.
“It is important for all law makers to understand basic gender concepts, principles and framework.
“For example, notice that gender equality is a key element in the development process, without the participation of women, there cannot be development.
“Gender equality does not ignore the biological differences, between men and women, especially in reproductive roles; rather it helps to appreciate the uniqueness of each gender group.
“And the importance of bringing the different needs and priorities of both women and men into the development agenda, so as to achieve gender equality and social justice,” she said.
She expressed the hope that gender equality could be promoted through partnerships with civil society organisations, the academia, and the media.
Also speaking, Chairman, House Committee on Women in Parliament, Hon Binta Bello, said that democracy thrived more when men and women were evenly represented during national legislation.
According to her, the low level of women representation in the national parliament contributes to promoting gender inequality in the country.
She, therefore, called for the voting of more women to elective positions as a way of redressing gender inequality.
“It has therefore become imperative to ensure an equitable representation of women in Nigerian parliament, to accurately reflect the composition of the society. As well as, guarantee that the diverse interests of women are taken into consideration.”