It was on Tuesday March 8, 2022, that the world marked the annual International Women Day with the theme: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” In this interview, Hon. MojisolaOluwa Kehinde Alli-Macaulay believes that it is time to give women more representations in policy making in the country. Alli-Macaulay, representing Amuwo Odofin Constituency 1 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, speaks with Oladipupo Awo jobi. Excerpts…
What is the significance of the International Women Day?
Women are celebrating themselves, how they have been able to sustain themselves, including the girl-child. How they have been able to contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation and the communities around them. We want to celebrate womanhood; it’s not easy for a woman to survive in this world. Imagine how widows are coping. You want to ask me how single mothers or a woman whose husband left and walked out of the marriage without care for the children cope. I would tell you more than a million things. Today is worthy of celebration to give us courage and a pat on the back, especially as it concerns this year’s theme; “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” The United Nations actually earmarks March 8 every year to celebrate women. What we are clamouring for is that women are pivotal to many developments in the world. We are caregivers, solution providers, we provide support for our husbands, we are mothers to our children, we nurture the home, we nurture the family and do everything possible to make the world a better place.
Talking about Nigerian women, what do they have to showcase in the community of women, and what makes them special?
Every woman around the world is special. Cast your mind back to the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, they were there. You can remember Efunsetan Aniwura, Madam Efunroye Tinubu, Queen Amina of Zaria and others. They were part of the people that made Nigeria what it is today. You remember Mary Slessor, who was not a Nigerian but did a lot of things in the country. She abolished the killing of twins in Nigeria. Many of the policies of these people were passed from one generation to another. If you ask many young Nigerians they don’t even know all these people. We just want to urge the government to make some policies made by these women to work so that the younger generations can know them. Nigerian women are very special, and I am one of them. I also blaze the trail in my own capacity. I praise myself if nobody does. I know how many things I combine together. I solve problems for people in my community and I also assist many families, even people I don’t know. Let us come to my own family, my children, my husband, and I pursue my own career. A lot of people wonder how I cope. I just determine that I must succeed. Look at our own Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Onyeka Onwenu, though she is in the entertainment industry, she is contributing her own part. See the song she did for family planning and it is still relevant till today. So many other women did a lot such as Dr. Stella Adadevoh, who laid down her life to prevent the spread of Ebola in the country. You just have to praise Nigerian women. Look at other women running Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), they are also worthy of commendation. They take care of the children of the people they don’t even know. They clothe them, and shelter them. It is someone that is special that takes care of children of other people that they don’t know because you have not even finished taking care of your own. Look at our judges in Lagos State, the one in Ikeja and the other courts, 99% of them are women and they are doing well. I was at the high court recently to watch how they deal with criminal jurisdictions, from morning till night, the judge only had 10 minutes break. She was taking trials upon trials and she was not tired.
But people are saying that instead of fighting for 30 or 35 % slots in government positions, women should go out there and prove their worth…
…It is not easy fighting your battle, when you don’t have somebody doing it for you. It’s like throwing punches in the air. You men make policies that suppress women and you are telling them to go and fight for their rights, what are you talking about. Somebody was telling me to advise men on what they should do, are you saying men don’t know what to do? We are just saying that you should empower the women, they have the energy and the mental balance. The pressure a man can run away from a woman will withstand it. Look at what is happening in Ukraine, many of the men are weeping. I saw women with children still holding them together with hope. When you make policies to suppress women, how do you want them to fight for battles? We are asking for 35% affirmation, you have 65% that is fair enough. 35% for women is not too much. At least accommodate 25% and let’s see what happens instead of the less than 5% that we have. We have been to Kigali in Rwanda and 93% of the members of parliament are women including the Speaker of the House. Most of the people that run their government are women.
What are you doing to ensure that women are empowered through you?
I am a lawmaker, and the bulk of my job stops at making laws. I don’t have any other power than to make laws. However, I supervise the Ministry of Women Affairs, Poverty Alleviation and Job Creation (WAPA). We give women tools to help them survive. We give them digital training because we found out that a lot of men are more ICT compliant than women. We want them to be digitalised on how to run their businesses as the world has gone digital, my committee supervises that. A lot of women have benefitted from many of the action plans of WAPA, we cannot do it all. But if we have more women in policy formations processes in the country, once they are making any policy that suppresses women, they will call the attention of the men to it and then it would be reduced. It is only a woman in the parliament that can talk about issues that affect women just the way I do here. I will always agitate for affairs that affect women because I’m a woman. Nobody remembers to talk about cancer and children, it is only women that talk about them including issues relating to rape, domestic and sexual violence. I worked on the establishment of rape agency bill that the Governor has since signed into law. It is being implemented and people are benefiting from it. A man might not be able to achieve that, it is only a woman that can do it. I am doing it because I am a woman and I am in the parliament. So rape survivors, not victims anymore, can go there for succour. They have medical care for them and they can press charges from there. They don’t have to go to the police station anymore, where they could also be humiliated, subjected to a lot of ridicule and they don’t get justice. They sometimes get raped again, when they go there to report. That is now a thing of the past in Lagos State. We are doing quite a lot, though we are still far from Eldorado because the journey is very long. A woman will always have battles on her way to get things done. She goes through so many mental problems, and hormonal imbalance. I am just lucky to have the type of husband that I have. A w o m a n is usually frustrated most of the time for doing the right thing, especially in Africa. A woman goes through a lot of denigrating situations, defaming situations. She goes through hell on earth to become what she wants to be. When you see a woman sit at the top of a board, go and ask her what she has been through. Go and see what they went through; is it sexual harassment, just name it. Even in politics, they call you name; they call you prostitutes, that you are sleeping with this or that. You hear all sorts of rubbish, and if you don’t have the nerve or determination as a woman to become somebody you will just drop off along the line. The society is not friendly with the women, once you paste poster as a woman that you want to contest for election, somebody is already calling you names. They would create a path that you are not aware of for you. They would imagine it and put your character inside.
But, it’s like women are not supporting themselves at all…
…That is part of the problem and that is what the men have used as a catalyst. But the narrative is changing; you can see a lot of NGOs, women putting voices together. We know all these; as a former councilor, we were just two women and my worst antagonist then was a fellow female councilor. Even during my election into the assembly in 2018/2019, my worst antagonists were women.