On Friday, March 19, 2021, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari received the National Working Group of the Supporting the Advance of Gender Equality (SAGE) initiative in Nigeria to celebrate International Women’s Day and discuss women’s political representation in Nigeria. Representatives of the National Working Group included Honorable Minister of Women’s Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen; Senator Ken Nnamani; Professor Remi Sonaiya; Hajiya Maryam Inna Ciroma; Innocent Idibia (also known as 2baba); and Alhaji Shehu Chindo Yamusa III Esq, Emir of Keffi. Representatives of the SAGE International Working Group joined virtually, including former President Atifete Jahjaga of the Republic of Kosovo; former President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi; Ambassador Medina Wesseh of the Mano River Union; and Senior Barrister, Alice Nkom of Cameroon.
While presenting the delegation and SAGE initiative, Hon. Dame Pauline Tallen and Senator Ken Nnamani thanked President Buhari for his support for Nigerian women, including his role in nominating and supporting Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be elected the first female and first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). They highlighted the work of Nigerian civil society in advocating for women’s inclusion in politics. They discussed the current state of women’s political representation in Nigeria and shared recommendations to promote opportunities for women to participate in politics. Her Excellency, President Joyce Banda noted in her remarks to President Buhari “Nigeria is a country of achievers. We are particularly watching what Your Excellency is doing, and we know that during your time, we can achieve more. The current constitutional review process provides a unique opportunity for you and the people of Nigeria to enable a 35% gender quota in parliament. I have no doubt whatsoever, Your Excellency, that this should be possible.” The SAGE National and International Working Groups emphasized the importance of Nigeria’s leadership in the region to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
H.E President Buhari expressed gratitude for the group’s leadership in advocating for the advancement of women’s participation in governance and decision-making, and emphasized the value of women’s contributions to national development and advancement. The President noted with dismay, the rise of gender-based violence against women in Nigeria and its impact on women in various sectors, especially their participation in politics. He highlighted his administration’s inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee, and voiced his support for reforms to increase women’s representation in politics, both within the ruling party and for the entire country, explaining “As a leader of the governing party, I will lend my voice to the amendment of the party constitution which is ongoing now and is the entry point for effective and meaningful participation of women in elective offices. Once again thank you for your efforts and support to our women.” To conclude, the President instructed the Ministers of Women’s Affairs and Justice to work with the National Assembly to ensure necessary reforms are passed in the ongoing constitutional and electoral reform processes. The working groups look forward to continued cooperation to advance women’s representation in Nigeria.