Ms Mary Beth Leonard, United States Ambassador to Nigeria, has pedged support to strengthen the capacity of Nigerian women to advocate laws and policies to close gender gaps and provide better protection for women.
Leonard made the commitment at a Gender and Inclusion Summit organised by the Policy Innovation Center (PIC), an initiative of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Abuja.
According to her, Nigeria’s representation of women in state and national government accounts only for four per cent in elective offices and 16 per cent in appointive positions, which exclude them from decision making process.
She said the upcoming 2023 elections present an opportunity for gender inclusion and for women to demand candidates prioritise policies and legislations for women and girls.
“During the elections, we would be working with local NGOs in specifically reducing violence against women in politics and during elections.
“We will work to strengthen the capacity of women groups to advocate for laws and policies that provide better protection for women.
“Election also provides opportunity for individuals not just to participate in the government processes of the country but to hold officials accountability for their actions and inactions.
“Challenging candidates to have issue-based campaigns is one way to hold them accountable.
“United States is committed to promoting women’s empowerment; we will continue to support Nigerian women in their efforts to have great productivity, economic diversification and interim quality.
“We will continue to push for the enforcement of laws and policies enacted,” she said.
She said the US prioritises gender activity and equality, hence contributes $200 billion toward programming gender activities and equality globally.
Similarly, Ms Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, stressed the need to deal with social norms of religion and behaviours to execute the desired gender equality progress.
“There are social norms, religious norms, behavioural norms which are used as excuses for not making progress on gender equality. We must stand up and challenge these norms.
“Gender rights are basic human rights and everyone is entitled to them. So, we must really safeguard progress and make sure we don’t backslide.”
Laing noted that the UK had three areas focusing on gender, which include, educating girls, empowering women and ending violence against women and girls.
On her part, the Deputy Director, Policy Innovation Centre, Dr. Osasuyi Dirisu, said the PIC works to improve governments policies and programs using lessons from social and behavioural policies.
“A lot of money is invested in implementing programmes that design the needs and understanding of the context,” she stated.
She explained that the PIC worked in several policy areas which include financial and digital Inclusion, health, human capital, gender and social policy, accountability and transparency.
“We do a lot around strategies, programmes, regulatory and policy design. Being here is ensuring that the policy process is participatory, and then we present solutions and evaluate, get lessons to learn so that we can scale.
“We are here at the summit and hope to institutionalise and have an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to have real conversation about gender and advance course to improving gender equality in Nigeria,” she added.
Ms Cybill Chidiac, Senior Program Officer, Gender Equality Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S., stressed the need to reduce gender inequality to achieve national development.
Also, the Chairman of NESG, Mr. Niyi Yusuf, said the summit would set the stage for future engagements on closing gender gaps and creating an inclusive society. (NAN)