President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday pledged to work with relevant political stakeholders to ensure that a greater number of women are given the opportunity to vie and occupy elective offices during the 2019 general elections.
Saraki made the promise when the Conference of Nigeria Female Parliamentarians paid him a courtesy visit at the National Assembly.
He said that there is nothing to fear about having more women occupy political offices saying that such a development can only but help to strengthen the nation’s democracy.
He lamented that the present statistics of women in governance in the country is not encouraging and said that going into the 2019 elections, something must be done to change the tide.
Saraki said: “Anybody in this country today will agree that from the statistics you have given out here today, it is clear that definitely, we are not doing enough in the inclusion of women in politics and governance.
“We must change and turn the tide in this direction. We cannot continue with this low level of participation.
“What I want to assure you is that you have my full support and the full support of the National Assembly to see what we can do to ensure that as we go into 2019, it will be a year that we will change the level of participation of women in politics in this country.
“The challenge we have is that such an action is something that must be done collectively. We will champion it but it is something that requires all of us to work very hard for it to happen.
“I believe that what we will do is to make it clear that it must happen. It has to happen and it is in the interest of this country for it to happen.
“We want to reassure those that have fears about it that there is noting to worry about. It will only strengthen our democracy and make our country better.
“I am convinced that your visit is timely that in this 2019, we must make a difference. We must see a real change in this area,” he stated.
He commended the group for their advocacy and commitment to ensure that more women are voted into offices and said it is imperative to support women groups to push for greater political inclusion.
He said: “Political parties are now gearing up for election, this is the right time we must begin to demand from political parties and candidates that they must tell Nigerians what their policy is on gender affirmation.
“You have the votes, at least you have 46 – 48 per cent, let your votes do the work and if your votes do the work, then you will make the work easier for all of us.
“It is time for you to mobilize and work for it because it is important. A lot of us who have had the experience have found out, without any bias, that generally female politicians/parliamentarians are very committed, hardworking and more importantly very consistent and loyal.
“I think when you build a country and you build a political space, what is important is consistency and sometimes loyalty,” he said.
Earlier, the Chairperson of the group, Hon. Elizabeth Uyinmwen Ativie, decried the low level of women participation in the nation’s governance since 1999, in terms of both elective and appointive offices.
Ativie, who is the member representing Uhunmwode Constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly, however commended the President of the Senate for influencing the nomination and election of five women into the Kwara State House of Assembly during the 2015 general elections.
“Nigeria needs to invest in women’s participation in politics by creating an enabling environment for women to thrive and tackle perceived systemic and cultural hinderances to women’s inclusion,” she said.
She sought the support of the President of the Senate for the quick passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, implementation of 35 per cent affirmative action strategy and the abrogation of laws that infringe on citizens’ rights of women, among others.