Rise Up for Girls Project

Advocacy for the Passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity (GEO) Bill by the National Assembly Project, funded by Rise Up for Girls Nigeria, commenced in September 2018 by Vaccine Network for Disease Control, along with the Gender Technical Unit and National Coalition on Affirmative Action Initiative for Women.

The purpose of the Gender and Equal Opportunity bill is to give effect to Chapter II and IV of the Nigerian Constitution as well as other international treaties which Nigeria has been a signatory to, but is yet to domesticate hence such cannot be enforced in the court of law. Some of the treaties are Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa amongst other covenants.

The GEO bill has been considered for passage in Nigeria a number of times. On 15th March 2016, the bill was rejected by the 8th Senate due to policymakers’ criticism that provisions of the bill were unnecessary and went against Nigeria’s cultural values and beliefs. On 9th December 2017, the public hearing for the bill was postponed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Right and Legal Matters (of the National Assembly). A public hearing of the GEO bill was scheduled on 15th February 2018, but was postponed until further notice. In this context, Vaccine Network, along with stakeholders and civil society organizations (CSOs) working in the gender equity space have a drive to collectively advocate for a public hearing and passage of the GEO bill into law by the National Assembly. This is to protect and promote girls’ and women’s rights. Our drive is based on the social, economic, political and cultural gender gaps that exist among girls and women in Nigeria. These gender gaps have left girls and women in the minority when it comes to school enrollment and retention, decision-making positions in public and private sectors, as well as representation and inclusion in the political sphere. This gender inequality even lies at the roots of broader issues such as gender-based poverty and gender-based violence.

Vaccine Network is leveraging on existing work that the Gender Technical Unit and the National Coalition on Affirmative Action Initiative for Women, as well as other stakeholders, have carried out by collaborating with them in our push to move the GEO bill along in the National Assembly. Progress is being made as the bill has been revised for an increased chance of a public hearing taking place. Throughout the life cycle of the project, we plan to convene advocacy visits to key stakeholders for their support of the bill.

We will also engage religious and cultural leaders, the media and other stakeholders across the six geopolitical zones by obtaining their buy-in and participation in advocating for the bill. We have started series of sensitization, one of which is a Tweetchat on social media that elaborated on and explained the bill. Our strategic engagements are intended to create awareness and call for action of the GEO bill amongst key stakeholders as well as the general public.

After the anticipated public hearing and passage of the GEO bill, we will persist in our advocacy for adoption and domestication of the bill in at least 20 out of the 36 states. Our hope is that beyond the project, conversations on gender and the GEO bill will continue among national- and state-level actors to close the gender gaps in Nigeria.