Stakeholders and delegates at event on the side line of the on-going United Nation hosted 59thCommission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference in New York have demanded that issues and development demands of women must form the key focus of the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals currently being framed by the global community.
The position of the stakeholders was made known while speaking at the side event with the theme: “The Role of Women Parliamentarians in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa: Lessons from the Millennium Development Goals.”
A new post MDGs agenda is expected to come into force in September at the General Assembly of the UN (UNGAS) and is expected to address the unfinished business of the MDGs, which came into operation almost fifteen years ago.
Various speakers eloquently and succinctly elaborated on the imperative of mainstreaming a gender perspective into the MDGs Successor Agenda through the role of women parliamentarians.
Among the delegates and speakers were Her Excellency, Prof Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Nigeria), Mitchell Toomey, Director, United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Associate Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP, Hon. Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi, President of the Pan African Parliament, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Founder, Women in Parliament Global Forum, AWEPA, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Hon. Anne Semamba Makinda, Speaker, Parliament of Tanzania and President of SADC Parliamentary Forum, Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Rwanda, Hon. Juliana Kantengwa, MP, Fourth Vice-President, Pan African Parliament, Hon. Gladys Kokorwe, Speaker of the National Assembly of Botswana, Hon. Martina Moreira Moniz, First Deputy Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament, Zainab Bangura, Member of the Advisory Board, Women in Parliament & Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President & Minister for Women’s Affairs of Gambia, Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Post 2015 Development Planning, Hon. Loide L. Kasingo, MP, Third Vice-President, Pan African Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia, Hon. Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the National Assembly, South Africa, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Dr. Precious K. Gbeneol, Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the MDGs and Hajiya Zainab Maina, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Nigeria
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on MDGs, Dr Precious Gbeneol, the theme of the event is apt and demonstrates a comprehension of the need to stay the course as the global community adopts a new development paradigm which leaves no one behind. This is especially so, according to her, in view of the bearing of gender on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. “It is thus crucial to unlock the potential latent in women and girls, as this is an indispensable condition necessary to achieve gender equality and inclusive development.”
Gbeneol added that “drawing from lessons learnt from the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria, there is evidence that demonstrates that investing in women matters for poverty eradication. There is consensus that gender is a cross cutting issue and should remain a priority in the final push to achieve the other MDGs in the little time remaining. Nigeria lends her voice to the saying that the MDGs can only be achieved by addressing the disproportionate burden of poverty that affects women, lack of equal access to education and health services as well as lack of productive employment for women. For the avoidance of doubt and at the risk of being repetitive, we use this moment to again reiterate that gender is a determining factor in poverty-environment linkages as gender inequality, environmental deterioration and deepening poverty are mutually self-reinforcing. Improvement in any one of these three enhances livelihoods, improves resilience and reduces vulnerability.”
According to Gbeneol, Nigeria as a signatory to many international conventions targeted at improving gender equality and in accordance with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Addis Ababa Declaration on the Elimination and Prevention of all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls as well as the Millennium Declaration, the country is implementing high impact interventions specifically targeted at women.
She maintains that the “Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes reach thousands of core poor, women-headed households as an incentive that stimulates demand for the uptake of educational services for the girl child and health services for women and children. The Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme has the transfer of agricultural enterprise to women as an exit strategy in order to forestall a culture of dependency. Nigeria’s Conditional Grants Scheme provides interventions such as water and health facilities, classroom blocks and training for different cadres of health workers, amongst others.”
The presidential aide on MDGs however added that though Nigeria under President Goodluck Jonathan has made significant strides by advancing women political empowerment especially into appointive positions, her office continues to strive in order to expand the political space for women so as to make incursion into elective offices which are at the moment dominated by men. Consequently, the Nigerian Women Trust Fund launched by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in 2011 with funding from her office provides resources for women interested in leadership to contest for elective positions. The Fund also provides a mentorship scheme for girls while interfacing with the Nigerian Electoral Commission as well as political parties in order to create space and an enabling environment for women to participate in politics.
The delegates opined that the implementation of the current MDGs framework was limited by the regrettable fact of not accommodating the views and inputs of parliamentarians, whose responsibilities it is to pass legislations and approve budgetary spending for policies at the point of framing the agenda. Thus limited financial resources have remained the bane of the quest of countries to achieve the set goals and targets. This, they said necessitate the need to appropriate and capture the views of the parliamentarians in the consultative process.
The delegates also affirmed that the gender of legislators affects their policy priorities, maintaining that women must be actively engaged in governance and legislation to represent the concerns of women and other marginalized groups. “While it is a given that women parliamentarians often push for legislations that catalyse women economic empowerment, they also enhance participation and equitable representation of women in decision making with attendant effects on issues such as reproductive health, gender budgeting, discrimination and violence against women. Women political participation is thus a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and sustainable development.” The delegates stated.
Continuing, the delegates opined that “to address the disproportionate representation of women in parliaments across the world, we call for the widespread adoption of the gender quota system and other special measures by Member Nations in order to create the needed space for women. This will enhance opportunities for women by improving electoral performance, strengthening participation in political parties with improved representation in parliament.”
The forum which unequivocally declared its support for and on the imperative of including a distinct gender Goal in the MDGs successor agenda, it also insisted that cross-cutting gender-biased metrics be embedded across all the Goals, Targets and Indicators in the successor framework in order to mainstream gender perspectives into all facets of development planning and execution in the Post-MDGs era. This, according to them will foster inclusion and ensure that the drive to improve the lives of girls and women receives the needed impetus.
It was generally agreed that the Post-2015 Development Agenda presents an enormous opportunity to finish the business of the MDGs and entrench inclusive development. As countries prepare to formalise their commitment to a dedicated goal on gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment within the new development paradigm, the delegates stand convinced that standing together, the women and the vulnerable shall not be left behind.