Calls for the immediate rescue of the 110 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Dapchi, Yobe State, featured prominently as Nigeria celebrated International Women's Day yesterday.
The President's wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, summed up the pleas with the charge: "Leave our daughters alone! Leave our daughters alone! Leave our daughters alone!"
She noted that "as a mother," she shared the "sorrow and agony of the parents," expressing her earnest desire that efforts by government for the girls' release would yield speedy results.
At the National Centre for Women Development in Abuja, Mrs. Buhari stressed that for Nigeria, the day must reflect the nation's pain and sorrow, following the Chibok abduction, and now Dapchi's.
She therefore unveiled the 'Leave Our Daughters Alone' theme, which she described as a strong call for an end to all abductions, urging the media to spread the message, and governors' wives to do the same in their various states.
Earlier, the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, congratulated women as they marked the day. She, however, regretted that the celebrants in Nigeria were witnessing the worst times.
At another event to commemorate the day, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said: "Such abductions are a blow to the efforts to increase girls' education. And especially for Dapchi, this is an attack on the efforts to ensure more women take on science courses."
Guterres, who was represented by the Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Ronald Kayanja, said the organisation was committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and has mapped out plans to improve reporting and accountability.
Giving credit to women who have stood out in the fight for equality, he said: "The activism and advocacy of generations of women has borne fruit. There are more girls in school than ever before; more women are doing paid work and in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organisations, including the United Nations."
Also, the House of Representatives yesterday reiterated its call for the prompt rescue of both the Dapchi and Chibok girls.
While adopting a motion by Mrs. Stella Ngwu, Speaker Yakubu Dogara expressed the chamber's readiness to partner the executive arm of government to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill.
The lawmakers also resolved to boost support for women in their campaign for gender mainstreaming and parity in the country, and mandated the committee on Women Affairs and Social Development to ensure compliance.
"I am saddened that while some of the abducted Chibok girls are still in captivity, another set of school girls in Dapchi were abducted. Nigeria women have also been the worst victims of violent activities of herdsmen. Many have been killed, raped and widowed, and have lost children and property," Ngwu said.
The Senate on its part said it would give priority attention to the issue of 35 per cent affirmative action, particularly in the appointment of women.
Former Aviation Minister, Senator Stella Oduah, who disclosed this to journalists said a revised version of the bill would be voted upon, passed and sent to State Houses of Assembly.
The bill seeks 35 per cent representation in federal ministerial appointments and 20 per cent at state level.
Last year, the proposal failed at the upper legislative chamber, as it garnered only the votes of 49 senators, instead of the 73 required to ensure the success of the bill.
Oduah, who is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, said: "The President of the Senate has made that promise and all senators are in agreement. They have concurred. It is the right thing to do, and it is way overdue."
According to her, "The United Nations has made it very clear that when progress and empowerment is anchored on women, there would be a more progressive society. Everybody should press for women to emerge, not just politically but in every way. Therefore all activities that have to do with women must be brought to the front burner. That should be everybody's campaign."
In her remarks, the National Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hajiya Mariya Waziri, challenged the President Buhari-led government to demonstrate responsibility and sincerity of purpose by prioritising the rescue of the girls.
She added: "Our plan is to produce an action plan that will not only guarantee the vote and mandate of women for 2019, but also develop their capacity and willingness to foster and support an enduring democratic process in favour of our great party. Our women should take ownership of the global vision of the party and not only be expectant of 'stomach infrastructure' that is not responsive and relevant to achieving enduring political sustainability."
Still on the Women's Day, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) yesterday restated its commitment to promoting gender equality and women empowerment.
At the fourth edition of the NSE International Women's Day symposium, themed: 'Press For Progress', the Chief Executive Officer Oscar Onyema noted: "It is saddening that with over 100 years of devoting a day to celebrating the achievements of women and discussing steps towards achieving gender parity and social justice for women, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its 2017 Gender Gap report averred that our dream of achieving parity across gender requires more than 200 years to become a reality."
He said: "As one of Africa's foremost institutions and member of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative (SSEI), we are deeply committed to leveraging our position to accelerate the achievement of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number Five, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030."
Besides, the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) called on tiers of government, institutions and organisations to remove all vestiges of gender alienation and change leadership recruitment process in the country.
ULC President, Joe Ajaero, noted: "It is unacceptable to say that while we are battling for the release of Chibok girls, there is the kidnap of another set of girls, over a hundred. The chief security officers of some agencies should have resigned from their positions.
There is no explanation to it because if you move to places in Nigeria where there is no war, at every two kilometers, you would see checkpoints, yet an operation that lasted over three hours or more took place.
It is unheard of. If there is a conspiracy in the highest quarters, the chiefs of the army and all the security agencies should tender their resignation."