National Press Club Washington, D.C.
December 6, 2004
Saudatu Mahdi, Secretary General, Women’s Rights Advancement & Protection Alternative – Nigeria, was unable to attend the annual Awards Breakfast. She sent these remarks:
Dear Sisters in Ms. Magazine,
On behalf of myself, my family, the Board of Trustees and members of Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), I convey to your organization my heartfelt appreciation for the honour done to me by the recognition and award of the title of Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year 2004.
My absence at the Breakfast Show to formally receive the award is most regrettable. This is due to time constraints and the fact that I am at a critical stage of a sensitive and extremely important project that is proposing legal reforms in the area of Islamic Family Law in Nigeria. On December 7 and 8, I would be engaged in advocacy work and Parliamentary Roundtables related to the project in Sokoto and Zamfara states.
In collaboration with the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and the support of Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington, WRAPA is proposing (on a pilot scale), the codification of Islamic Personal Law in two of the twelve Shari’a implementing states. The initiative was informed by the situation of women, their knowledge of and competence to access and enjoy the rights granted to them under Shari’a.
Codifying Islamic personal law will bring it into focus by defining the laws, rights, duties and obligations of parties. Various juristic opinions and views will be analyzed and the best would be proposed for enactment as the code or practice to be applied. The codes will then be translated and made accessible to those who choose to be bound by them. This will in turn bring the certainty of the law and parties wishing either to protect or enforce their civil rights shall have no problem doing so on account of ignorance or access.
Specifically, codification would achieve among others the following:
1. Ensure that implementation of Personal law is truly Islamic and not an arbitrary hybrid of principles derived from non-authoritative interpretations, traditions and customs, or the whims of individuals.
2. Ensure that women enjoy the rights granted to them by Allah within the framework of Shari’a at all levels and in all instances of family life.
3. Provide standards, consistency and enhance the administration of justice. Judges (especially at the lower courts) will be guided by the well-researched code thereby reducing instances of deficient rulings and other constraints due to scarcity of literature, which even where available is in classical voluminous Arabic texts.
As can be seen this project is important and its success would justify the esteem Ms. Magazine has placed on my person and the work of my organization in Nigeria.
While thanking Ms. Magazine, I would like to assure you of my commitment and energy in the service of women and humanity. It is my hope that my co-awardees and I will continue to be shining icons of the ideals of your esteemed magazine and the principles of its founders.
I want to specially thank those who supported my nomination. I am also grateful and proud of my friends from CEDPA and Georgetown University Law Centre who are at this show in solidarity with me and for being my family and supporters of WRAPA and its programmes.
Thank you and I wish you a successful program.