The NLC created the National Women Commission and state women committees to give women a voice.
The NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, made the call in Abuja at a symposium organised by the National Women Commission, NWC, of the Congress to mark the day. The theme of the celebration was, “The Gender Agenda: Gaining momentum.”
The NLC president said that the theme of the celebration adequately captured the whole essence of the event and added that the time for action to end violence against women was now.
“It is worthy to note that there is a growing international awareness of the problems of violence against women. Women have continued to suffer both in peace times and armed conflicts. This comes in the forms of beating in their homes, rape and incest,” he said.
Mr. Omar named other obstacles to women development as “traditional practices such as genital mutilation, boy-child preference, early marriage, sexual abuse, trafficking and forced prostitution.”
He said that NLC had adopted the Gender Equity Policy since 2003 and amended its constitution to make it gender sensitive and had also created the National Women Commission and state women committees to give women a voice and equal opportunity to participate in the activities of the union at all levels.
He stated that over the years, the International Women’s Day had been recognised as a time to reflect on the progress made and to call for change.
“It is also a time to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. I must commend the UN committee on the Status of Women for laying down programmes that will ensure that problems that are specific to women. It will ensure that the violation of their rights are taken into consideration by UN bodies and are granted greater attention,” he said.
Similarly, the Chairperson of the NWC, Lucy Offiong, said that the growing international women’s movement had helped to make the commemoration a rallying point for women’s rights.
Mrs. Offiong said that violence against women and girls’ manifests in various ways, such as verbal aggression, physical violence, rape, sexual exploitation, genital mutilation, incest, forced labour, slavery and forced abortion. She listed other forms of acts against women as “deprivation of freedom, denial of fundamental human rights, throwing of acids and other forms of attacks, pornography, domestic violence and other forms of violence leading to trauma.”
Mrs. Offiong said it was sad that the issues of impunity in the perpetration of violence against women and girls had continued unchallenged in the society.
“Cases of domestic violence otherwise referred to as spousal violence is on the increase. Our girl-child is exposed to all forms of abuses, including rapes by people who are supposed to protect them,” she said.
Stating that the legal system did not make the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women easy, Mrs. Offiong called for the review of extant laws. She also urged trade unions to rise up and confront the issue in order to promote safe work environments for working women.
She asked NLC to take up cases of sexual harassment as a trade union issue and include it in collective agreement.
Among the activities lined up for the day was a rally which terminated at the Ministry of Women Affairs. The NWC also submitted a letter calling on government to hasten the process of passing the bill on ending all forms of violence against women in Nigeria.