The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) National Women Commission has called on the Federal Government to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 183 on maternity protection for women to ensure decent life and work for working women.
Outgoing Chairperson of the Women's Commission, Ladi Iliya, who made the call at the NLC Women Delegates Conference held recently in Abuja also called for greater participation of women in governance.
She further called on the legislators to consider women issues as priorities in the constitutional amendments. Specifically, she emphasised that the nation's constitution should outlaw all negative and discriminatory policies, cultures and practices that are against women particularly the right to of women to property, inheritance and full employment.
"We believe that Nigeria is overdue for protective legislation regarding women's right. We need strict laws against sexual harassment, rape and violence against women. The Nigerian constitution should outlaw all negative and discriminatory policies, cultures and practices that are against women particularly the right to of women to property, inheritance and full employment," she said.
Speaking further, Iliya said the commission has submitted proposals and various resolutions that would enable the NLC improve the status, welfare and rights of women within the trade union movement and the larger society.
According to her, the commission provides the platform for women to deliberate on wide range of gender and women-specific issues in the labour movement and the larger economic and political sphere.
Given details of the proposal, she explained: "In the economic sphere, especially the informal sector, women earn less in real terms in relation to the diverse responsibilities and needs that are associated with their domestic roles.
"They are generally confined to marginal, tedious and low-income activities largely concentrated in the agrarian and urban informal sector, where they are prone to abuses and exploitation. The implication of all these is that women are getting poorer. The feminisation of poverty is an indictment of the structures of the production and distribution of resources nationally, regionally and internationally".
Also speaking at the conference, the ILO Director for Nigeria and other West African countries, Ms. Sina Chuma-Mkandawire, said lack of awareness of national and international standards has prevented working women from exercising their fundamental rights in workplace.
She explained that there is a wide gap between the rights set out in the labour standards and the real situation of workers, despite the ILO conventions and recommendations that seek to improve the working and living conditions of women and men.
Another reason, she cited, could be that the percentage of women in decision-making positions in trade unions is so small that they have not been able to influence policies that enhance gender equality.
She maintained that the women commission have a lot of work to do in increasing the level of women participation in decision making in NLC, improving the situation of women workers and promoting gender equality in the workplace, labour market and the society.
"We wish to state that the number of women taking up leadership positions should increase significantly. To be able to achieve this, we need strong commitments from trade union members, training programmes to prepare women for leadership position, reporting on progress made policies and measures targeted at enhancing women leadership roles, establishing a standing committee within unions to promote the gender equality and recruitment policy," she said.