By Nathaniel Gana and Dominic James
23rd May, 2018.
The ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFPA) has appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to support its campaign for increased women’s participation in electoral processes across the West African sub-region.
According to the association’s first Vice President, Honorable Aisatta Daffe, who led a delegation on an advocacy visit to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on 22nd May, despite the fact that women constitute more than 52 percent of the general population in West Africa, they make up only 14 per cent of the parliamentarians in the sub-region.
Daffe said the association was particularly uncomfortable with the realization that a huge country like Nigeria has only six percent of its women in government. She said even Senegal was more impressive, with women making up 42 percent of its national parliament membership.
She said: “We saw the statistics yesterday for the sub-region. Nigeria, which is such a huge country, has only six percent of women involved in decision making or government. And Senegal has up to 42 percent of its women involved in the parliament.”
She said the situation led to the development of a Gender and Election Strategic Framework and Action Plan, which the association believes would help address the identified challenges.
“So, we are here today,” she said, “to present the document to the INEC Chairman, which we hope can facilitate a better representation of women in the region.”
To be sure, the association wants a 30 percent regional average of women in elective offices across West Africa. She appealed to the Commission to support the quest to make the dream possible.
Daffe also implored the Commission to facilitate the mainstreaming of gender issues into the country’s electoral cycle. She expressed the hope that the document would serve as a guide to Electoral Management Bodies in the Sub-region and other public institutions in integrating gender issues in their processes and activities.
Responding, the INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the Commission was committed to increased women’s participation in the electoral process.
Prof. Yakubu, who is also the President, ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), told the Parliamentarians that INEC was not only at the forefront of gender advocacy in the electoral process, but had also imbibed the principles of fair gender representation in practice.
He said: “It is always a great pleasure to have female parliamentarians from our sub-region visit the Commission. This is very important because for the first time in the history of our sub-region, all the 15 countries are today democracies. Gone are the days when we had one government in the capital and another one in the bush. All the governments are now in their capital cities and are democracies.
“I want to assure the delegation, particularly madam Aishatta, that INEC is a gender-friendly commission. Out of the 11 National Commissioners that we have at the Commission at present, three are women: a Pharmacist, a Lawyer and a Professor. In addition, the Commission’s Secretary is a woman. Also, INEC has a workforce of over 16,000 staff and women constitute 32 percent.”
He continued: “INEC already has a Gender Policy and we have been working with political parties in Nigeria for greater participation of women in politics and in elective offices. It may interest you to know that we have 68 political parties in Nigeria today and five of them have women as Chairmen.”
Prof. Yakubu assured the visitors that the Commission would push for increased women participation in the electoral process, just as he pledged to also extend the advocacy to the West African Sub-region.
He affirmed: “In my role as President of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), I am also going to be your advocate in the sub-region. This advocacy will continue beyond Nigeria.”
The high point of the visit was the presentation of the ECOWAS Gender Election and Strategic Framework to the INEC Chairman by Dr. Sintiki Ugbe, of the ECOWAS Commission, Abuja.