By Ayodele Sunday
Efforts by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to get more women involved in the electoral process received a boost recently, when Gender Desk officers of the Commission from 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) met in Lagos between 19th and 24th March to undergo a Bridge Training workshop on how to achieve that goal.
The objectives of the training include: familiarizing the Gender Desk officers with the concept of gender and its importance to elections; acquaint INEC national and state desk officers with National and INEC Gender Policies; ensure increased participation of women in the electoral processes and providing the tools for participants to view elections from a gender perspective, with a view to bridging the gender gaps in the country’s electoral system.
The Project Director of the European Centre for Electoral Systems (ECES), Mr. David Le Notre, in his goodwill message, noted that despite the fact that women constitute the largest chunk of the country’s voting population, they occupy only 5.8 percent of the political offices in the country.
In 2015, only six women were appointed to the federal cabinet. There were seven female senators and six female deputy governors. Only one female contested for the office of president and four for vice president.
Global statistics for gender parity indicates that in 2015 and out of 188 countries, Nigeria was 152nd in the Human Development Index in Gender Inequality and 118th out of 192 countries in 2017.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola observed that as a responsive election management body, the Commission was committed to fostering inclusivity in the democratic system by facilitating a level-playing field for all stakeholders, irrespective of sex, creed and tribe.
Represented by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Oyo State, Barrister Agboke Mutiu, Ogunmola said INEC has also resolved to sustain incremental improvement in women’s participation in the electoral process through strategic interventions outlined in the INEC Gender Policy.
He urged the participants to pay attention to gender equality issues in the discharge of their duties.
Director, Voter Education and Publicity, (VEP), Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi in his welcome remarks, noted that the training was coming at the right time in view of the Commission’s determination to build the capacity of its staff. “We are going to make a difference because INEC wants to ensure that we carry everybody along.”
Mr. Chukwuemeka Ugboaja, Assistant Director, Voter Education and Publicity Department (VEP) spoke on Voter and Civic Education, Gender and Media. Participants were divided into groups to come up with a training design for the media to report on women’s achievements in the electoral process in order to encourage their level of participation.
Guest Speaker, Barrister Adebanke Akinrimisi noted that inclusive democracy, where equality and equity are guaranteed cannot be over-emphasised. She was of the opinion that the constitutional provision on women’s inclusion in the electoral process could, indeed, be put to the test.
Mrs. Nkechi Abuh, who spoke on Sex and Gender Terms, Definition, Advantages and Disadvantages, tasked the participants to find solutions to the obstacles women face in their quest to become members of parliament and the consequences of their not participating in the decision-making process.