The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, on Thursday appealed to the National Assembly to endorse the Affirmative Action and domesticate appropriate instruments and frameworks on gender and equal opportunities.
Jonathan said this at the opening of a two-day National Conference with the theme “ 100 Years of the Nigerian Woman — Achieving 50/50 by 2020”.
The event was organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the Coordinating Office for the Nigeria Centenary Celebration.
Affirmative action means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education and business from which they have been historically excluded.
Jonathan also appealed to the National Assembly to urgently facilitate appropriate legislation to guarantee opportunities for sound education for the girl-child.
She said that the Jonathan administration had brought women to the limelight and that the success of the administration, therefore, rested on the shoulders of women.
”This is based on the significance of the kind of portfolios women are holding in the administration. We must fight for the success of this administration,” she urged.
The first lady said that it was important that women got more involved in decision making and governance, to enable them to address issues affecting them better.
In her address, the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina, said that all women must cooperate to actualise 50 per cent women representation in government by the year 2020.
”As we mark this year’s International Women’s Day through this event, I wish to remind us that it’s time to stimulate national and international government agencies into re-framing, reviewing, where applicable, policies that will realise gender equity and equality.”
She expressed delight that Nigerian women had been accorded dignity and were occupying strategic positions in governance.
“They have moved from the Kitchen to office.’’
She charged them to make suggestions that would guide women in their quest for development to enable them to have 50 per cent representation in governance by the year 2020.
In a paper, Prof. Funke Adeboye of the Department of History, University of Lagos, noted that western education had equipped Nigerian women with the various skills with which they excelled in various fields of endeavour.
Adeboye listed resilience, industry and hard work as some of the qualities that made Nigerian women to stand out and urged them to work together to sustain their victories and surmount challenges.
She advised older women to encourage younger ones to believe in Nigeria.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Muhktah, who was represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, said Nigerian women had over the years shown abilities to contribute meaningfully to their families’ welfare and national development.
She, however, expressed regret that Nigerian women were faced with many challenges, including harmful traditional practice, which she described as illegal.
The chief justice expressed the hope that solutions to the problems would emerge from the conference to strengthen the future of the Nigerian woman.
Nigeria’s Permanent Representative in the United Nations, Prof. Joy Ogwu, noted that the current administration in Nigeria was gender friendly, adding that it provided an opportunity for the women to prove themselves.
She noted that women participation in governance did not mean that they were competing with men, but that they were complementing their efforts in national development.
She appealed to men to support women’s efforts at national development.
The first female Rear Admiral in Nigeria, Itunu Hotonu, urged women to be determined to excel.
“ Women who want to be up there must work for it. It is not a joke, you must show that you can do it,’’ she said.
She said that a few men would be willing to offer opportunity for women to prove themselves and advised that women should seize such opportunities to write their names in gold through excellent service.
Dignitaries at the occasion included the Wife of the Vice President, Hajia Amina Sambo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, former Minister of Women Affairs, Josephine Anenih, female ministers and legislators.
Various women organisations, including the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Nigeria Army Officers Wives Association, Nigerian Police Officers Wives Association and Women for Change and Development Initiative.