Ahead of 2023 polls, women leaders have sent a wake-up call to Nigerian women to forge a common front to compete for socio-political space.
They want their women folks to jettison their “positions in the kitchen or the other room” and assume leadership positions in various areas of human endeavour.
Towards this end, they canvassed a synergy and collaboration.
This was the position of leaders of thought and gender influencers who spoke at the 2020 edition of WOMANIFESTO virtual conference held with over 15 clusters of participants across the country.
The event held from Wednesday, December 9 to Thursday December 10 in Abuja.
The speakers include Prof. Joy Ezeilo, Chairperson of Gender and Constitution Reform Network, the wife of the Ekiti State Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Co-Convener of Bring Back Our Girls and former Minister of Education in Nigeria, Oby Ezekwesili, and the Executive Director of Women Advocate, Research and Development-WARD-C/Convener of WOMANIFESTO, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi.
Urging unity of purpose among women, the speakers suggested a platform for women that would help in the attainment of greater political and socio-economic powers like their male counterparts.
The conference tagged the Covid edition with the theme, “Building Momentum for What Nigerian Women Want: Coalescing of voices and demands”, was attended by over 1,000 women globally.
In her opening remarks, the chairman of the WOMANIFESTO 2020, Prof. Ezeilo urged Nigerian women to come out and speak out against gender-based violence and take a bold steps in getting involved in the socio-political environment of the country.
“The era when it is popularly believed that the place for the women is in kitchen is over and should be made to be over by us. No one can change our situation but us.
“To this end, we have to be resolute and form ourselves into organisations to be able to achieve this,” she said.
Ezeilo, however, cautioned women not to allow themselves to be used by some elements, who could derail the body’s aim and objectives.
Mrs Fayemi, who spoke on gender-based violence, said a new culture orientation was required to groom the next generation of men who will see women as counterparts rather than weaker sex.
According to her, Nigerian women need to build new orientation such as public and corporate, social and civic and academia.
“We have not done very well with public and corporate engagement. It is time for us to properly engage public sector and private on feminism. A lot more need to be done.”
On social/civic, the chairperson of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum Wife revealed that the engagement in this area has been a bit adequate.
“Let us continue to engage the religious leaders, traditional leaders and other stakeholders in the society for proper upbringing of the boy child who would be within the next generation of men.
“For the academia, I want to commend Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi for the fantastic work she has done and continue to do in this direction. The academia has networked well but other levels of engagements need to double up,” Fayemi said.
She disclosed that her pet project was working on getting the Federal Government to approve a month as a national women’s month, adding that April has been proposed.
The keynote speaker, Dharmaraj Krishanti, Executive Director, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership and Convener Feminist Alliance for Rights Herstory and Future of the 16 days of Activism on Ending Violence against Women, said time has come for women to take their destiny in their hands.
“Women must understand what they want and go for it. The era of demand is over we should go for it.
“We should seek to occupy political space, private sector and other sphere of endeavour if we must make the necessary change we desire,” she said, warning that women should do it discreetly.
In her welcome address, the Convener of WOMANIFESTO, Dr. Abiola Afolabi said National Women’s Dialogue 2020, which is in commemoration of the first anniversary of WOMANIFESTO conference is a national conversation proposed for women from different groups to reflect on the gender equality results experienced in Nigeria since November 2019.
“It is to deliberate on using the opportunity of budget preparation to advocate for governments resourcing of women’s aspirations; to strategize for 2023 elections.
“The discussion has to focus on strategies for making Womanifesto: What Women Want to work. Women groups will come up with definite implementation strategy to work in the 36 states across the country to advocate for expansion of budget for women,” Afolabi said.