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Women leaders advocate increased budget for Gender Agenda

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By Becky John

Women activists have called for more budgetary allocation to address the gender challenges facing women, children and people with disabilities. The women leaders made the call while addressing the press at an event to mark the 2015 International Women’s Day organized by the Australian High Commission in Abuja on Tuesday. Mrs Nkoyo Toyo, member of the House of Representatives, said increased funding of the Ministry of Women Affairs would make its programmes on gender issues sustainable.

“The women issues are becoming more invisible because the budget on the women’s front is very small and insignificant and there is no sustained support to the ministry on programmes which it traditionally carries.

“However, there are new initiatives, that are a bit more competitive in nature but in addition to the competitive and more demanding initiatives of women, you need the more supportive ones which the ministry traditionally does which goes to constituencies like the vulnerable, persons with disabilities and the like.

“So in effect, the resources are not just there; it is not just a national assembly thing, it’s also the financial crisis in the country and the need for us to cut down on our budget, but even when you compare the budget on the ministry to ministry level the budget for the ministry of women affairs is very miserable.

“We have advocated but we run what we call an envelope system, which means that the Ministry of Finance decides from an envelope perspective what each ministry gets and in the last four years, it has been very unfortunately low for the Ministry of Women Affairs and that has impacted on what it is able to do.“

Toyo, also said that the present administration had achieved its 35 per cent Affirmative Action, adding, however, that more still needed to be done.

She said that addressing the gender agenda in the country would be in line with achieving the United Nations’ Planet 50-50 initiative. Also speaking with newsmen, the Executive Director, Advocacy Nigeria, Mrs Bilikisu Yusuf, reiterated the need for increased funding to provide resources that would facilitate gender programmes in the country.

Yusuf also advocated the need for adequate youth involvement to drive the gender agenda.
She said that youth involvement would facilitate the achievement of the gender goals in line with international standards.

“It is better for young people to talk to other young people; it generates confidence and public confidence is enhanced by access to information.

“If they get the information from an enlightened youth, the work will be half done.

“Inspire them; show them role models who have done it, who didn’t have to rely on too much resources from anybody; provide them with a mentor, who will pull them through; provide peer education so that they can work with their peers.

“If you learn you also carry along your colleague. “

The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador, Jonathan Richardson, said the event was an opportunity for the embassy to raise the issues around the International Women’s Day. Richardson said that the event would enable participants to reflect on the issues raised by the women leaders.

He said, “some very interesting points were raised; one of them is the role of volunteerism and the fact that if you want to get something done in society and in politics, you really have to commit to have an impact and that should be the reward. “

The event organized by the Australian High Commission had the theme “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity’. The 2015 International Women’s Day, which was marked on March 8 had as its theme “Make It Happen“, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women globally.

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