By Kazeem Ugbodaga

Stakeholders at the just concluded 18th Regular meeting of the National Council on Women Affairs and Social Development, held in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria have drummed support for more women to participate in politics at all levels at the forth coming democratic electoral process in 2019.

The Meeting was chaired by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan. The theme of the 18th Regular Council was “Peace, Security and Social Inclusion: Key Building Blocks for Achieving Economic Growth and Sustainable Development in Nigeria”.

The Council was attended by delegates from 34 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with representatives from the National Centre for Women Development, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Commissioners led by the Dean of the College of Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, Directors of various Departments in the sector, the Lagos State Police Command, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, British Council, UNICEF, World Bank and representatives from Civil Society Organizations.

Communique issued at the end of the meeting said there was the need to encourage more women to take part in elective positions in the 2019 general elections.

The stakeholders said there should be continuous and sustained high level advocacy by the Minister/Commissioners of Women Affairs and Social Development, and their teams on the identified issues to various levels of governments and relevant stakeholders to fast track implementation, as well as creation of Gender Desks in all MDAs at all levels and mainstream gender issues in budgeting.

They also agreed for the establishment, rehabilitation and reopening of the Nigeria Farm Craft Centre for the Blind, with each student paying N120,000 as annual fees with effect from 2018, while the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was to write to all States to take over the Skill Acquisition Centres.

The stakeholders called for the establishment of National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) Nodal Desk in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT and the involvement of State Ministries of Women Affairs (SMWA) and State Ministries of Education(SMoE) as critical stakeholders in tracking the impact of the Home Grown School Feeding Programme in the promotion of the rights of the Child to Education.

The communique wanted advocacy on Violence Against Children (VAC) and Child Rights Act (CRA) to be intensified by all stakeholders; institutionalization of Menstrual Hygiene Management, as well as Sanitation programme at the Federal and State Ministries; expansion of the age limit of the children to be sensitized on the campaign on health and reproductive rights of women from 05 to 19 years with age appropriate messages and the need for States in the South East to implement and enforce the Supreme Court Judicial Decision on the Rights of inheritance of female.

The stakeholders also said there was need for States to strengthen Women Cooperative groups through provision of grants for the empowerment of women entrepreneurs; reduce unemployment index among PWDs who have attained basic educational requirements in line with the Presidential pronouncement as the minimum standard; need for States to establish Recreational Centres for the aged; establishment of Child Trust Fund in all States; establishment of Data Bank in all States and submission of quarterly reports from all States on the status of implementation of Council decisions.