Does the non-representation of women in the Kano State Assembly play a role in delaying the passage of the VAPP and Child Protection Bill? 

By Ruth Okafor

As a good governance and gender advocate, I wonder why a state as large as Kano with a huge population lacks a single female representation in her state assembly. An assembly that carves policies for the betterment of the people and represents various constituencies. It strikes me that a state with a population of over 13 million persons with about 40% of the population being women has no woman present to decide on key challenges facing them as a society. 

It goes to show that for years specific demography may have been relegated to the background, or not considered relevant to hold such positions. It is in line with this that the Ministry of Justice under the leadership of Bar. Lawan Abdullahi Musa is currently pushing for the passage of the harmonized VAPP and Child Protection Bill. These bills provide a legal framework that protects women and children in the society. The Child Protection Bill has been signed by the Executive arm since February 2021 but is yet to be assented by the Legislative arm of the government. 

The Stories surrounding the delay in the passage of these bills have been linked to culture and religion, despite the fact that some Islamic clerics were among those who reviewed and vetted the bills.  It was to this end that some CSOs, in collaboration with the FIDA Kano state chapter, organized a peaceful demonstration calling for the passage of the Child Protection Bill following the death of Hafsat by her schoolteacher, but these efforts were futile.

Connected Development has worked with various stakeholders since 2021 through gender advocates, trained to advocate for the passage of both bills as part of the Canadian High Commission-funded Galvanizing Mass Action Against Gender-Based Violence project in Kano State. Since our first meeting with members of the executive branch and a few legislators, we’ve made significant progress. 

Hence, my detour on why there is a delay in assenting to these bills as it stands to benefit the lovely people of Kano state. For a society to progress,  members of the society must be duly represented on the decision table, this will enable everyone to get perspective and clarity on every matter before a vote is taken. As much as women are not represented on the legislative council of Kano state, we hope that the decisions taken on these bills and others will be holistic, considering every member of society.

According to Vanguard, no fewer than 62 female candidates sought various elective positions in Kano state during the 2019 general elections. This means that women of Kano state are active in politics but what is the hindrance? According to a paper titled “Challenges and Prospects of Women Political Participation in Nigeria” Women’s participation in the electoral process in Nigeria has been constrained by multiple factors including culture, religion, psychology, and of late, social lynching. 

The paper also restated the claim that Islam does not entirely restrict women from aspiring for public roles. Women can seek to serve society in any role they desire except the leadership of prayer and command of the military. If this is so, then women cannot aspire to or contest the office of the President of the Federal Republic as that office comes with the responsibility of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, thus the Muslim woman cannot run for it. However, women can still contest for other positions that do not require military leadership, such as legislative and even state governorships. despite this, women have anyway become leaders in certain Muslim countries: PMs Benezir Bhutto (Pakistan), Sheikha Hasina (Bangladesh), Tansu Ciller (Turkey), and President Atifete Jahjaga (Kosovo).

For societies to embrace change and the needs of all its members, particularly marginalized communities, we must be able to make them part of the decision-making bodies in the governance structures. In conclusion, we must embrace the education of the masses, especially the girl-child and women at large.

Connected Development is an initiative that is passionate about empowering marginalised communities.

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