Yesterday, amidst the simultaneous protest of Nigerian women in four states against the decision of lawmakers to reject pro-women policies on the grounds of religion, Nigeria’s lower house of parliament rescinded its rejection of three out of the five bills it discarded in the last constitutional amendment session. And to think that they came to that decision on International Women’s Day, I would say it is symbolic; proof that change is possible when the masses take pragmatic steps to assert their freedom.

Last week, the National Assembly rejected the said bills for no substantial reason, save religion. The bills intended to boost the autonomy of Nigerian women by granting citizenship to their foreign-born husbands, giving women the right to become indigenes of their husband’s state after five years of marriage, assigning 35% of legislative seats to women, reserving 35% of political party leadership for women, granting women affirmative action in party administration and leadership. These bills sought to mitigate the gender imbalance across the legislative arm of governments whilst reducing the under-representation of women in political office.

To think that the bills were dismissed on the grounds of religion begs the question, “What problem does religion have with gender equality?”

Dr Alaa Murabit, a medical doctor and a UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment & Economic Growth who also happens to be a Muslim, on an interview with WomenDeliver answered this question. According to her, her research on the role of women in Islam revealed that women were strong leaders who made significant contributions to their society politically, economically and militarily. So, she concluded that “it was not religion that was restrictive towards women; it was socially constructed cultural notions, veiled as religious dictate as determined by male religious actors with underlying political, social and economic benefits to themselves.”

And I dare say that her findings hold true across the different religions of the world. Religion is just another tool, like culture, being used to keep women relegated to the background.

That explains why there is only about 6% of women in the National Assembly despite 49% voting in the last election; to keep the voice of the Nigerian woman hushed, her gender equality demands checked, and her citizen status second-class.

That explains why Nigeria has never voted a woman governor or president; they give women glorified appointments to fulfil all righteousness but shut them out from the decision-making table.

That explains why women cannot easily access education and equal opportunities; so they cannot even qualify to wield real power.

Yes, the lawmakers have decided to revisit the bills in their next sitting, but who is to tell that the outcome will be in the favour of Nigerian women. This is why Nigerian women, activists and civil societies should not rest on their oars but should continue to press forward until gender equality or at least a semblance of it becomes a reality.

The next national election is around the corner.

What are the stakes for Nigerian women in politics?

Will the ugly narrative continue or are we going to see real change?

Will more women be seen in the Senate?

Are we going to see a female presidential candidate?

Pertinent questions!

I’d love to hear your opinion in the comment section.

Meanwhile, let us continue to “break the bias against women in politics.”


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