IMO TRANSITION TECHNICAL COMMITTEE : WHY THE EXCLUSION OF WOMEN?
SpringAid International Development (SAID Nigeria) rejoices with His Excellency, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha CON, Govornor-Elect, Imo State on a well-deserved victory on the 9 March 2019 Governorship election. It could be said that this victory is not just a victory for Emeka Ihedioha, family and PDP but a victory for every person of good will in Imo State and the entire Igboland. It is a victory for democracy, human rights, rule of law and deliverance from poor governance and privitization of the instruments of governance by the out-going Governor Rochas Okorocha.
We are also exicted with the concept of the Transition Technical Committee recently constituted and announced by the Governor Elect. Whoever is the architect of this idea is worthy of commendation. The list is signed by the Media Aide to the Govonor- Elect Chibuike Onyeukwu on 1st April 2019. The Cmmittee as we understand was inuagurated on 3rd April 2019.The idea of Transition Technical Committe shows foresight and the readiness of the Governor to hit the ground running immediately after the hand-over in May. There is an aspect of the constitution of the membership of the transition Committee that gives us reason for worry. It is the near marginalization of the role of women in democracy and sustainable development.
The main problem that the constitution of the members of the Transition Technical Committee brings to the fore is the lack of access to representative politics and governance by Women in Nigeria and as this particular case shows in Imo State. When we went through the list of the members of the Committee and the sectoral sub-committes of the Transition Technical Committee, our initial joy at the innovative and prospect of this idea was dampened.
The Transition Technical Committee has 139 members. Out of this, only 15 are women. It is subdivided into 12 sub-committes. The Chairperson is a man and the vice is a woman. This is commendable. While one would have expected that gender equality would then run through all the committees and the sub-committees, what we see is a mere patronization of 12 women. Saddly, none of the sub-committees is chaired by a woman. Many of the sub-committees have no woman member. Out of the 12 sub-committees only 4 have women voice, while 6 of the sub-committess have there shines an unfortunate absence of women in 6 of the sub-committees.
The first three sub-committee have no woman voice. It is first in Sub-committee 4 on Human Capital Development that we have 4 women members of the 19 members of the sub-committee namely: Dr Mrs Uche Moneke, Nneka Davis Ihekweme, Prof Florence Nduka and Dr mrs Cate Osuji. Sub-committee 4 which is on Good Governance has 2 women – Mrs Agatha Ndugbu and Dr Mrs Joy Njemanze, Sub-committee 7 on Job and Wealth Creation has Prof Ndi Okereke Onyiuke, Dr Clair Omatseye, princess Gloria Akobundo, Mrs Chidi Ngoka and Dr Mrs Bibiana Okoroafor of the 13 members and finally 11th sub- committee on Diaspora Initiative has 3 women, Dr Agatha Anosike, Ugoeze Edith Ohanwe and Dr Rita Amakiri. In sub-committee 4, there are 4 women and sub-committee 7, there are 5 women. Where could these women not spread in all the sub-committees at least to have a female voice in each of the sub-committees. This would have been better composition that ensures sustainable development of the state.The composition of the Transition Technical Committee demonstrates a zero percent understanding of gender analysis and gender mainstreaming in governace and development.
It could no longer be reasonably sustained that Imo State lacks competent women in all fields of life who could serve with merit in the different sub-committees. In sub-committee 9 on Talent and Opoortunities where we have Kalu Nwankwo, we have also many women who have excelled in sports. For example, Imo State boasts of the first (coloured) African woman to win an Olympic Gold medal in a field event, Chioma Opara Ajunwa MON (Atlanta 1996) who also happens to be a police Commissioner who we believe has all it takes to serve both in that sub-committee and in the 10th sub-committee on Security. Why do we not remember such women? There are so many other accomplish Imolite women in all sectors of life to reach the 35% benchmark of the Federal government. We have we chosen to marginalize them? We see the almost total marginalization of women and youths in the composition of the Transition Technical Committee. This discrimination continues to create barriers to access and limits opportunities for meaningful participation in public life.
Nevertheless, this is not totally surprising. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Report (2016), only 23% of the 144 countries covered in the report have closed the gender gap in politics. Gender inequality in politics is a violation of human rights which results in underdevelopment. While many African Countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Mozambique, Uganda and Angola are making concrete efforts in closing this gap., Nigeria is lagging. Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zimbabwe have attained 30% female political representation as advised by the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA) (Women in Politics: 2017. Report. Inter- Parliamentary Union, 2017).
Despite women in Nigeria comprising half of the population, there are many obstacles on their way to political participation and governance leading to gross underrepresentation in political leadership positions. Although women in Nigeria have de jure equal status with men, de facto they are still discriminated against, often due to gender stereotypes that are deeply rooted in society and amongst the Nigeria power holders. Most women have little or no access to decision making spaces where policies that impact their lives are made.
Nigerian men have dominated the political process and governance in the elective and appointive positions. While the global average representation of women in Parliament is 19.2%, the same for Sub- Saharan Africa, in Nigeria it is still at an all time low of 5.9% (2015), at the national level and 5.5% at the state level, at the Local Government level, it is less than 1%. This is far below the regional value and the benchmark set by International Declarations on Gender and Development. Nigeria is ranked 122 out of 144 countries in the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report (World Economic Forum, 2018).
Nigeria is signatory to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) which guarantees specific rights to women, establishes obligations of States or responsibilities attached to these rights, The International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa adopted in Mozambique 2003 promotes African Women rights and equality between men and women., The Beijing Platform of Action signed up to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol), The Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and crucially, Women’s Political Rights in Nigeria are contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) Chapter 4 (40) entrenches women political rights.
Having recognized the essence and importance of these global and regional affirmative declarations, the Nigerian government in an attempt to implement them captured them in Nigeria Gender Parity (NGP) launched in 2007. This document is unequivocal in its assertion that “Nigeria is a highly patriarchal society, where men dominate all spheres of life at the expense of women (Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, 2006). All these instruments have brought to the fore, the issues of gender equality and rights, particularly in relation to development. Unfortunately, local implementation of these programmes has remained non-existent or weak.
We know what best practice is today in democracy, governace and development. Prosperous nations are mostly those that have inclusive government, where men and women are equally represented in decision-making and governance. There is no need inventing the wheel. The blue print for effective and successful governance is already present in every prosperous state. This is why short measures can no longer be commended and does not lead to the desired prosperity for the people.
Empowering, involving, and engaging women in political processes and decision-making are fundamental to any democracy. To chart the path for the new Imo and restored Imo State, it is expidient that the government of Governor Emeka Ihedioha is inclusive at all levels.
Gender equality in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance. Under international standards, both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects and at all levels of political processes.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only human rights; they are also imperative for achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Women’s political participation is central to these goals, and political parties are among the most important institutions for promoting and nurturing such participation Clark, (2012: ii).
We worry that what we have seen in the appointment of the members of the Transition Committee is only a reflection of what we will see in the appointment of Commissioners and other government functionaries. Now is the time to get it right. Please build an inclusive government from the beginning. A state that makes use of only 50% of its resources cannot expect to run at its full potential. One -half of Imo state cannot be laying fallow and we expect to have a prosperous Imo State.
We have been promised inclusive government. It not only be done but must be seen to be done. Inclusive government where women and men are equally represented is crucial if we are to stimulate development in all sectors . The achievement of campaign promises will not be possible with leveraging fully the experience and expertise of women in development. While it is said that you have been careful and deliberate in constituting this transition technical Committee, it is sad that it was not informed by any gender analysis and mainstream vital for any achievement of sustainable development. Because this assignment is critical, all the reason it should be inclusive and the voice of women, youth and all other traditionally marginalized people heard in the report. It is not just about the work but also the process that produce it.
To change the negative narrative fostered on the people of Imo State by the government of Rochas Okorocha, inclusive govermnent is critical from the start.
We recommend increasing the number of women in the sub-committees to nothing less that the 35% affirmative action benchmark recommeded by the federal government of Nigeria. This will truly show that the Governor-elect is a tranformational leader who not only have the good will to do the needful for sustainable development, upholding gender equality, true democracy, inclusive government, but also that the governor has the political and moral courage not to allow ‘business as usual’.
It gives us hope that the Governor-elect has also announced that he will be shortly commissioning an Inauguration Planning Committee to plan for the activities leading to the swearing ceremoney on 29th May 2019, this will be another opportunity for the Governor-Elect to show that he truly understands what is required for a prosperous state in the 21st century- gender equality and gender-mainstreaming in all government activities. The rebuilding of Imo state makes inclusive government an imperative. Let Imo state take the lead!
We like to once again congratulate the governor-elect and wish him and all Imolites a hopeful, joyful and prosperous state throughout his tenure in office.
Dr Mrs Beaty Ihens