Advocacy for the Passage of Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill

Project of Affirmative Action Initiative for Women (NCAA) / Voices for Change (V4C) Programme of DFID 

The Affirmative Action Initiative for Women (NCAA), an umbrella organisation of over 100 NGOs across Nigeria working on women’s rights came into being on the 23rd of September 2003 at the end of a 2-day International Public Hearing on Affirmative Action for Increasing Women’s Political participation in Nigeria. The public hearing was organised by the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS), and the Women’s Committee of the House of Representatives.

The Public hearing which was held at the House of Representatives Hearing Room created a forum for CSOs, legislators and women’s rights activists to discuss the need to adopt affirmative action as a strategy for increasing women’s political participation in Nigeria. Participants agreed that the domestication of CEDAW was the immediate pressing need as it would provide the legal framework to situate women’s demands for affirmative action.

The Public hearing which was attended by the then President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wagbara, distinguished Senators, Honourable members of the House of Representatives, chairpersons of the various Committees of the House, representatives of NGOs and CBOs, activists, representatives of Ministers of Women Affairs, Internal Affairs, and Information, and Resource Persons from the USA, Brazil, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Nigeria, provided an opportunity to learn from the experiences of women in those countries. The Abuja Declaration was issued at the end of the Public hearing and one of the recommendations was the setting up of a broad based coalition of women’s rights activists to focus efforts on the domestication of CEDAW and the adoption of affirmative action in Nigeria as a strategy for increasing the number of women in decision making.

The NCAA was inaugurated at the Civil Society Roundtable on Affirmative Action organised as part of activities of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments’ Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja, 2003. The Roundtable which was attended by Civil Society Organisations, politicians, Legislators, Judicial officers etc. was held on December 2nd 2003 at the Protea Hotel, Abuja FCT.

The NCAA, which is run by a Coordinating Committee headed by CIRDDOC as the National Coordinator is collaborating with the Women’s Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, Women’s Committees of the State Houses of Assembly, the Federal Ministries of Women Affairs and Justice to advocate for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill at national and state levels. The bill has been passed in Imo, Anambra, Kogi, Ekiti and Plateau states. It is expected that the bill will soon be passed in Edo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Rivers, Taraba, Lagos, Ogun and Kaduna.

NCAA is presently being supported by Voices for Change (V4C) a project of DFID to advocate for the domestication of CEDAW and AU Protocol on Women’s rights through the passage of the GEO Bill at the national level as well as Enugu and Kaduna states. The bill was passed at the House Representatives before the end of the 7th Assembly but was not transmitted to the Senate for concurrence. The bill has been reintroduced in the National Assembly and has passed first and second readings in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively. The bill has been committed to the committee of the whole at the House of Representative for consideration and recommendation for passage.

The bill is at the verge of presentation at the Enugu and Kaduna Houses of Assembly for consideration and passage into law.

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