Chris Steven, Abuja
Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki has appealed to women organizations and other stakeholders to engage in more consultations in order to address controversial issues in the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill so as to facilitate its easy passage.
Saraki made the appeal on Tuesday when members of the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN) and Women in Management Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) that jointly paid him a courtesy in his office in Abuja.
Saraki, however, acknowledged the controversies generated by certain aspects of the bill and challenged women organizations to negotiate with other stakeholders to find a common ground on such issues.
“Yes, the bill has passed through the second reading but there is still lot to be done before it is finally passed. It is only passed in principle, but the contentious details can be resolved at the subsequent stages.”
The Gender and Equal Opportunities bill, which had already scaled through the second reading on the floor of the Senate was referred to Senate committee on Women Affairs for further legislative scrutiny.
Saraki said certain issues in the bill, such as provision for women empowerment, women support programmes and funding for women were major highlights of the bill that received general consensus by all the stakeholders.
According to him: “We in the Senate are mindful of the immense contributions of our women in building a stable economy. To come out of this present recession, we have to be on the same page. We need to educate ourselves on the details of this Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill. A lot of job are required. We have to negotiate.We have to focus more on areas that are important.
“I can assure you, I am on your side, but we all have to engage in confidence building. This is a bill that will improve better access for credit for our women to do business with ease. Our aim is to improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs across the land”, he said.
In their separate remarks, National Coordinators of the Women Groups, Mrs Aisha Hammed and Ms Nkiru Okpala commended Saraki and the entire Senate for the work done so far on the gender bill and the passage of the agricultural credit scheme bill.
The two bills, according to them marked the commitment of the Senate to empower women, and listed lack of adequate infrastracture, natural disasters, lack of government patronage for made in Nigeria goods and lack of access to finance and financial incentives as some of the challenges facing women in business in Nigeria.
To confront the challenges, they said, a National Business Agenda for Nigerian Women in Business had been developed. They also extended an invitation to the Senate President to deliver a keynote address at the official launch of the document slated for November 23, 2016.