By Jim Pressman, Freelance Gender Reporter
President Goodluck Jonathan has said that Nigerian women have indeed come a long way, as his administration is working “beyond the oft-repeated 35% Affirmative Action compliance, since it is obvious now Nigerian women, represented by 13 out of the 42 Cabinet positions including the Petroleum and Finance Ministries plus headship of the Economic team,hold about 60 per cent of positions, with the entire Judiciary in their hands today.”
President Jonathan was speaking today in Abuja – Nigeria at the opening of the 7th Summit of the African First Ladies’ Peace Mission. His wife and Nigeria’s First Lady is chief hostess, while wife of Vice-President Mrs. Namadi Sambo is Head of Nigeria’s Delegation.
Reacting to Malawian first female and incumbent President Mrs. Joyce Banda’s suggestion that women be involved in the headship of security and military organizations to boost promotion of peace, before during after conflicts,President Jonathan said Nigeria had started recruiting women into the Nigerian Defence Academy “as direct combatants in training, such that in the near future we should see women become Chief of Army Staff or even Chief of Defence Staff.”
The Malawian President also recommended to women the cultivation of male partners in their quest to further empower women and open up the political space, while enjoining them to fashion out home – grown training of women for advocacy rather depending on foreign partners, who she said should rather provide funds for viable and electable but cash-strapped women candidates. That was the way she said her country got Netherlands to help raise women representation in her country from 11 before their advocacy to 45 at present, and still counting.
Observers say the African First Ladies’ Mission is a potent and useful platform for the promotion of peace and security on the continent, but caution on the need to differentiate between creating the right environment for peace and resolving already-arrived, full-blown conflict.
Some of the requirements for the establishment of peace, they note, are: education for the greatest number possible if not for all, a Free Press but responsible which promotes free flow of information, equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities, reduction thereby of the widening gap between the rich and the poor to re-create the Middle Class, zero tolerance for large-scale or institutionalized corruption, a more effective African Union within which there is further improved relations between neighbours and respect for the rights of others, and this way African can further improve on the progress it has made from a continent prosecuting four full-scale wars in the recent past to none at present.