By Constance Meju
The marginalization women from decision-making ingovernance and exclusion has become more worrisome as the federal governmentcontinues to make effort to address this seriously impacting failure that haskept women away from effectively contributing to the development of thecountry. This fact became more as the Nigerian involvement in the OpenGovernment Initiative, OGP, a body of over 70 international governmentscommitted to promoting good governance through inclusion, transparency andaccountability were unfolded to participants at a town hall meeting in PortHarcourt recently.
Addressing participants at a town hall meeting oncorruption and Open Government Partnership, OGP, organized by Kebetkache WomenDevelopment and Resource Center, Port Harcourt in association with the WomenRights Advancement and Protection Agency, WRAPA, June 18, Dr Sofiri Peterside,a resource person noted that the document which explicitly spells out how theBuhari government which joined the group in 2016, did not at any stage mentionwomen even as eight women were in theteam that drafted the Nigerian Action Plan, mandatory for participation in theOGP. OGP thrives on citizen engagement and the inclusion of diverse voices, aseriously missing factor of the Nigerian governance system.
Because of government failure to domestic andimplement the 35 per cent Affirmative Action on inclusion of women ingovernance, the number of women in decision making has continued to dwindlerather than increase in accordance with the United Nations target for women andin spite of the huge population of women in Nigeria and their huge involvementin the electoral process. This has added to increase in the number of women inthe poverty bracket.
Sofiri said inequality is embedded in societalstruggle for resources and power and makes the struggle for inclusion ingovernance an agitation that requires perseverance and reaching out to get moremen on the side of the women. He noted that it took support from slave tradersto end slavery but called on government to put in place deliberate structuresto help bridge the heavily tilted inequality gap between men and women.
At the end of the town hall meeting, participantscalled on government to revisit the national action plan and include issuesaffecting women, domestic the OGP in states and local governments to engendergood governance in the country and engage effectively, civil society and thecitizens for transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in tandem with thegoals of OGP.
The full text of the communiqué is reproduced below:
COMMUNIQUEISSUED AT THE END OF A TOWN HALLMEETING ON OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIPCONDUCTED BY KEBETKACHE WOMEN DEVELOPMENT AND RESOURCE CENTER, PORT HARCOURT IN ASSOCIATION WITH WRAPAAT ALGATE HOTEL, OBIO-AKPOR, PORT HARCOURT ON TUESDAY, JUNE 18,2019.
Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre on Tuesday June 18, 2019 conducted a Town Hall Meeting for Obio=Akpor at Algate Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt. Aim according to Ms Emem Okon, executive director of the organization, was to amplify the voices of women and issues around them for inclusion in governance. The programme was in conjunction with Women Rights and Protection Agenda, WRAPA. There was a conversation on corruption followed by a presentation on Open Government Partnership by Dr Sofiri Peterside.
*Corruptionis not just about embezzlement but cuts through all sectors of society runningfrom the individual, home to communities, civil service, business sector, civilsociety, schools, health institutions, national, state and local governments.
The effects of corruption are adverse to thewellbeing of the country and eradication of this vice should start from thehomes and individuals to be effective. Platforms like the Human RightsCommission, CLEEN Foundation , Civil liberty Organization, the PoliceAnti-Fraud/Gender/Human Right desks and sister agencies, the RFCC and ICPC, toreport incidents of corrupt practices to check its spread.
*Open Government partnership is an internationalinitiative set up to encourage transparency in government and stop corruption.Over 70 countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico and Norwayand Nigeria signed on in 2016.
*Nigeria opted for the OGP because the huge oilrevenue accruing to the country due to lack of transparency and openness ingovernance, is not yielding correspondent dividend to citizen and OGP if wellimplemented, can make citizens the greatest beneficiaries of democracy.
*In line with OGP requirements, Nigeria has set upstructures to promote openness, transparency and accountability as well as aNational Action Plan.
*Nigeria’s National Action Plan identifyingcommitments most important to the context of the country include, promotingaccountability and the economy, as well as fighting corruption with an agendato expose corruption, punish the corrupt and support victims of corruption.
*Culture and the patriarchal system has continued towork against women and girls despite advancement in other areas and demandedthat government must play a key role through deliberate policies towardsstructures which power gender inequality.
*Inclusiveness and engagement of both civil societyand citizens were identified as key in Open Government Partnership but notedthat Nigeria falls short of expectation in this regard.
*In line with OGP guideline, the federal governmenthas made LG finances free from state control with the direct disbursementpolicy and called on communities and civil society organizations to make it[soperations more effective by adequately monitoring development in that sector.
*With regards to tax transparency, government ismaking effort to prevent corrupt leaders from winning contracts as was the casein the past, through establishment of accessible central databases.
*OGP document did not in any way mention women,reflecting the continued exclusion of Nigerian women’s interests and needs bydecision makers.
Participants called for a review of the NationalAction Plan on OGP to include the interest of women and charged civil societyorganizations to constructively promote activities to bring about paradigmchange in the country.
They charged Government to demonstrate openness andtransparency in the finance sector by streamlining taxes required of the informalsector where most women operate.
In line with the requirements of Open GovernmentPartnership, OGP, government should adopt measures that will expose citizens toinformation on new policies and opportunities so women and girls can accessthem.
Noting efforts by the Rivers State governor to bringwomen into local government decision making, the forum asked for the inclusionof more experienced women in all strata.
They urged governments to respect the right ofcitizens to contribute to budgets and make budgets available for monitoringpurposes as part of inclusion and promotion of openness and accountability.
They called for platforms to mobilize for a morecitizens engagement at all levels.
Women were advised to set up platforms for reachingmore women and mentor the young to build a stronger voice to bring their issueson the front-burner and called for continued education of women and girls.
Government was chargedto continue to adopt use of innovations to stop corruption and respect theseinstruments to avoid the INEC server saga.
Women were advised tocontinue to amplify their voices and reach out to men as they agitate withperseverance for inclusion in decision making and paradigm change on genderdespite current challenges.
The meeting also called for the domestication of theOpen Government Partnership in Rivers State and all local governments topromote good governance.
They thankedFord Foundation for making the enlightening engagement on Open GovernmentPartnership possible.
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ConstanceMeju is publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper and Genderand Human Right Justice advocate