President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday that his administration would stop at nothing to ensure the economic and political empowerment of Nigerian women.
He promised to empower more women before the expiration of his tenure, to give them even greater access to elective offices and opportunities for wealth creation.
The president was reacting to a commendation by the United Nations under-secretary and executive director of UN Women, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, for appointing women to very important positions in the federal government.
Jonathan said he was determined to take women empowerment a step further by working to ensure that more women contest and win future elections in the country.
"We have done very well in terms of appointments and placement of women in positions of authority and we are still working on achieving a greater representation of women in elective offices. Let me assure you that we are committed to facilitating more successes by women in our next elections," Jonathan told Bachelet who was on an official visit to Nigeria.
He also assured Bachelet, who was the first female president of Chile, that the federal government remained fully committed to taking Nigeria as far as is possible towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Reaffirming his personal commitment to the accelerated reduction of maternal and infant mortality, the president said that he has directed that a comprehensive status report on Nigeria's current standing on the achievement of the MDGs be produced with a view to identifying urgent actions that need to be taken to move the country rapidly towards their attainment.
Bachelet, who was accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Nigeria's permanent representative to the United Nations, Prof. Joy Ogwu, recommended and endorsed the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund by Nigeria, saying that, from her personal experience as president of her country, she had learnt that savings and investments made under such funds were very important for countries which rely on extractive industries.
She praised President Jonathan for having already done a lot to fulfil his campaign promises on the empowerment of Nigerian women, including the appointment of the first female chief justice and female ministers for very important ministries such as finance, petroleum, communications technology, education, water resources, housing, environment, power and defence.
The United Nations executive director thanked Nigeria for being one of the strongest political and financial supporters of her agency in Africa.
She also applauded President Jonathan's efforts as co-chair of the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, and called for Nigeria's support for the UN's new initiative for the prevention of violence against women.
N49b Spent On Women In Last Four Years - FG
Meanwhile, as part of its efforts to bridge the gender gap and uplift the economic status of Nigerian women, the federal government has spent about N49 billion to provide education, health and economic empowerment services for Nigerian women in the last four years.
Minister of state for foreign affairs I, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, made this known in Abuja yesterday when she received the under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, Ms. Michelle Bachelet.
Onwuliri pointed out that key positions in the cabinet and national polity were being held by women who had distinguished themselves and proven themselves worthy of their appointments.
She also expressed the readiness of the government to sustain the fight to eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against women, adding that the current administration of President Jonathan was committed to gender equity.
Bachelet, who was president of Chile between 2006 and 2010, applauded the efforts of the Nigerian government. She however called for intensified efforts to encourage women to enter politics for elective posts especially at the state and national levels.
She pledged the support of the UN for any initiative that would assist women into political offices because developmental efforts directed at gender issues would yield fruits faster in the quest for national development.
"When women are economically empowered, they use their resources in education, health and other necessary sectors which would benefit the home and the community," she said.
Bachelet also harped on the necessity of Nigeria to lead the African group on conventions and international instruments that seek to protect women globally from violence and discrimination of all sorts.
"We all know what the issues are; we know what women go through and experience every day and we must work together to ensure that women live free of violence and discrimination on account of their gender," she said.