Political participation is a Human Right. One of the crippling problems facing Nigerian democracy is the elitist nature of its citizen participation.
Our democracy is not an all-inclusive project of a nation state. Majority of our mothers are illiterates and they reside in the rural areas and are excluded from being active players in “government of the people by the people for the people.”
Our democracy has failed to ensure the reliable use of civil and political rights guaranteed by the constitution. It has failed to address economic disparity and social injustice. Though these problems affect every Nigerian, the persistent marginalization of our women in politics and especially in Human Rights left our women swimming naked.
There can be no democracy without women’s equal right to protection against their specific gender vulnerabilities: rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, abduction, and other barbaric acts targeted against women. With the abduction of 300 school girls, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Nigerian women to forge a national women’s movement that will include ALL women to fight in their behalf.
Advanced democracies have rich tradition of Feminist Movements with enduring achievements. Nigeria’s tethering and dithering democracy cannot boast of such movements. Though in the 40s there were sporadic women resistance dictated by occasional grievances. Such rebellion recedes as soon as the women’s demands were met.
What we have today in Nigeria in form of women’s movements are loose associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Even then, most of the women’s NGOs have been infiltrated and infected by the same native tyrants it seek to fight.
Extreme poverty, lack of interest in fighting for gender equality, and bureaucratic hurdles mitigate against women from participating actively and fully in the political process. Some of the hurdles preventing a strong and effective women’s movement in Nigeria include class, ethnicity, religion, culture, education, political beliefs and ideological differences.
When ordinary people joined together they can go far and great change is possible. The whole purpose of human rights is to right wrong. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti crusader and challenger of despotic leaders led Egba women on a protest against taxation.
Margaret Ekpo, a prominent civil rights activist fought for the economic and political rights of women. Gambo Sawaba championed the cause of the oppressed in northern Nigeria. Iyalode Tinubu of Lagos exemplifies the rich participation of women on the economic scene. Moremi offered herself as a woman who saved her people of Ile-Ife.
Today, Nigerian women are missing in action. Where are the Kutis, Ekpos, Sawabas, Tinubus, and the Moremis? Nigerian women have abandoned the Chibok Girls. They have walked away from their motherly duty. They cannot leave the burden and the fight to bring their daughters back to Oby Ezekwesili and few dedicated compatriots.
Nigerian women have failed to unite and present a joint front in fighting the indulgence of wrong desires and gratification of the animal passions of the deranged Boko Haramists. Where are the college and university women graduates? The Chibok tragedy calls for the activation of their feminist raw rage against women oppression and degradation. Their deafening silence shows they are much more concerned as to the dress and adornment of their bodies. They prefer to spend precious time in ruffling and trimming their garments for the next “owa nbe” all night party than to pitch their tent with the sit-out #BringBackOurGirls group in Abuja.
Our educated women are supposed to be the vanguard leading the intellectual and political movement against all the evils visited upon the Chibok Girls by Boko Haramists. The women have violated every moral obligation towards fighting for the rescue of the girls – they have gone AWOL.
Where is their commitment to a cause? Where is their faith? Where is their rage? Talking about crises of faith, Mother Teresa once queried: “Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … How painful is the unknown pain?”
Nigerian women, where is your faith? How painful is the unknown pain that your daughters are going through in the hands of the savages that abducted them over 146 days ago? Where do you stand in your social responsibility? You should be ashamed of yourselves. Instead of being repulsed you have closed your eyes and ears as if you’re immune to gender-based crimes. You’re empty, faithless, loveless, and with no zeal!
The United Nations now recognize violence against women as a basic human rights abuse. Atrocities such as rape committed against women during armed conflict are acknowledged as a “weapon of war” and a gender-based crime. I believe the abduction of the Chibok Girls falls into this category.
The abduction of Chibok Girls is a violence against women with serious health and development impacts and a gross violation of women’s rights. Violence unleashed on the girls by Boko Haramists means: health consequences, incapacity in reproductive age, physical and sexual abuse lie behind unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and complications of pregnancy.
The participation of our women in women’s human rights movement must acquire a new weight, a new vision, and a new visibility. Now is the time for Nigerian women to redeem their usually aloof and impersonal image on political and social responsibilities and use Chibok as their passport to dignity by the doing the following:
- Form an all-inclusive women’s movement that will organize women and advocate women’s rights.
- Educate and enlighten women about their rights and how to fight for them.
- Strengthen the capacity of women at all levels.
- Initiate advocacy campaign for policy reforms against gender-based oppression.
- Initiate and monitor program development and analytical frame work geared towards women’s rights.
- Facilitate strategic thinking among women.
- Demand for change from government and other institutions.
- Hold government and institutions accountable for women’s human rights.
It has been over 146 days since the girls were cart off like cows without shepherds. The girls are paying too much price for their prolonged captivity. Their captivity is a deadly dagger aimed at the very heart of womanhood. It was the most devastating assault on a group of innocent young schools girls the world has ever witnessed. It is a case of immense tragedy and trauma.
All pleas to the Jonathan administration to act decisively, desperately, and swiftly to bring our girls home have fallen on deaf ears. The constitutional political structures have failed to rescue the girls. Nigerian women should come together and present any form of resistance or agitation – sit-out or sit-in. Just do something by putting political pressure and persuasion on the government to honor its legal and moral duties to bring home the Chibok Girls.
Bayo Oluwasanmi can be reached via [email protected]
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