Stakeholders canvass for women participation in politics , others

By John Okeke

The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, held a virtual media roundtable on gender and electoral reforms in collaboration with Yiaga Africa, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, other EU-SDGN partners, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) on Tuesday, February 10, 2021 at 1.00pm under theme: ‘Dissecting the issues for gender inclusion in electoral reforms’.

Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of IPC gave the opening/welcome remarks, while Mrs. Mufuliat Fijabi, CEO of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (who was represented by Ms. Lois Chinedu) and Mr. Samson Itodo, Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, respectively gave perspectives on the background to the inclusive issues of gender in the ongoing electoral reforms.

Others who made presentations at the roundtable were Mrs. Rhoda Tyoden, National President of FIDA who spoke on sub-theme: ‘Why gender matter matters: Prioritizing the demand for gender-driven electoral reforms’ and Mrs. Ladi Bala, NAWOJ President who addressed the sub-theme: ‘Prioritizing gender inclusion in the electoral process. How the media can storify and amplify the issues’.

Female politicians including two serving States of House of Assembly members (Hon. Adeteju Okuyiga of Ekiti State and Hon. Favour Tamomewo of Ondo State), gender activists, male and female journalists and editors from the broadcast, print and online media – across the six-geo political zone attended the roundtable.

In his remarks, Mr. Lanre Arogundade noted that IPC along with other EU-SDGN partners are interested in ensuring that the on-going electoral reform process leads to the passage of an electoral legislation that would serve as an enabling instrument to promote qualitative female participation in the electoral process while serving as mechanism that enables more women to be elected.

He emphasised the need to have amendments to Section 31 (1) of the Electoral Act to make it mandatory for political parties to include women, persons with disabilities and youths in their list of candidates for elections and Section 87 of the Electoral Act, to make it mandatory for political parties to ensure 50% inclusion of both genders as delegates in their primaries.

He also said that Section 100 of the Electoral Act should be amended to make it mandatory for the media to grant special advert concessions to female candidates, youths and PWDs while Section 104 needs to be amended to ensure that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the political parties are not of the same gender.

Lois Chinedu of NWTF on her part highlighted the three items of concern over women’s limited participation, namely:

She agreed that Section 31 should be amended so that every political party can include women, youths and PWDs as candidates for electoral positions and suggested that Section 87 of the constitution should also be amended to reduce the cost of nomination forms to make them affordable for women. She also called for transparency in the political process by making open and public for 21 days the register of political parties stressing that the only way for women to participate effectively is through their activities in political parties.

In her presentation on ‘Why gender matter matters: Prioritizing the demand for gender-driven electoral reforms’, Rhoda Tyodenlamented the inadequacies of some reforms process including voter education which she noted often took no account of many germane issues. She said, though women were more in terms of population, yet they were lagging behind in the scheme of things.

She expressed concern that despite series of constitutional provisions that prohibit gender inequality including the National gender policy (2000) which she observed is all-encompassing, as well as the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee recommendations and other international treaties to which Nigeria was a signatory, the implementations has always been jettisoned.

Speaking on ‘Prioritizing gender inclusion in the electoral process. How the media can storify and amplify the issues’, Ladi Balalamented that the Nigerian constitution from time immemorial have been gender-blind; that is, gender-inclusivity had been largely evasive. She expressed worries over the ineffectiveness of the National Gender Policy adopted in the year 2000 in addressing issues affecting women political participations. She said it was shameful that, after the Goodluck Jonathan administration that allotted about 32% of political office holders to women, the figure had dropped today to around 7%.

Samson Itodo, speaking on the lacuna created by the constitutional provisions, revealed that politicians have cultivated the habit of citing the constitutional provisions in sections 40-42 which prohibit gender inequality to argue against making needed ammendments to the Electoral Act to promote women participation.
According to him, there was a dilemma as to whether it was the constitution that should be amended before the electoral act reform. He noted that what women were indeed asking for was simply for improvement in women and youth representation in the electoral process. He proposed that there should be mobilization targeting the legislators, female members of the National Assembly and the media to ensure the passage of the amendments that would empower women in the electoral process.

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