NECA's Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) in conjunction with a coalition of women associations representing over 1.5 million members Tuesday called on the federal government to increase the number of women participants at the forthcoming national conference.
The women equally called on the government to give a breakdown of the processes in which the N7 billion earmarked for the conference will be expended to enable Nigerians hold the government accountable on the project.
The women, who acknowledged government's initiative to convene the national conference, however, frowned on the abysmally low number of positions specifically reserved for women nominees at the conference.
NNEW's First Vice-President and Head of the Advocacy Committee, Mrs. Fayo Williams, who spoke at a press conference in Lagos, pointed out that the list of delegates submitted by government excluded some critical interest groups where women are significantly represented. She observed that of the 492 delegates, only about 72 positions representing 14.6 per cent have been set aside for women.
Specifically, she said entrepreneurs and the vast majority of women in the rural areas who do not belong to any formal groups but are engaged in various trades and vocations that contribute to enriching the nation's economy.
According to her, with the poor level of women's representation at the conference, if the proposed 75 per cent majority vote as the basis for decision making is sustained, Nigerian women are at great risk of being severely marginalised.
"Being that the national conference is conceived on the strength of popular participation as a means to secure legitimacy and ownership; the women believe that all effort must be made to ensure that the delegates' structure is designed to foster adequate involvement as prescribed by the 1995 African charter for popular participation in development and transformation.
"Since the national conference is geared towards charting a new future for the Nigerian state, and given that women constitute more than half of the country's population, the women demand, among others, equal representation at the conference or at the very least, a guarantee of 35 per cent representation in accordance with the 1995 Beijing Declaration and the 2007 National Gender Policy," Williams stated.
Speaking also, Director, Legal Resource and Development, Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa, who shared similar view, said the women had written to the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, on the need to increase the number of women participating in the conference.
She argued that the country will be better off if the outcome of the conference is subjected to referendum stressing that the referendum must be added to the process of validating the outcome of the national conference.